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CBD for Fitness

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

There are many athletes, both professional and recreational, who are using CBD both pre and post workout. You have probably seen many people posting pictures of droppers, or CBD lotions and salves and speaking about how they use CBD to make workouts more comfortable or aid in recovery. It has become as common as protein and carbs as part of the post-workout recovery regimen. We have many clients who tell us it has helped them control muscle and joint soreness and improve the speed of workout recovery.

CBD works best when you use it with a plan and consistently. There are many methods, including CBD topicals, CBD tinctures, gummies, and even inhalable options. There are more research articles everyday about says about CBD and muscle recovery.  This article presents some of the highlights for using CBD for fitness.

CBD for Fitness


CBD (or Cannabidiol) is a chemical compound found in all Cannabis sativa plants. The exact same atoms that make tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) combine differently to make up CBD. While THC is psychoactive (intoxicating), CBD is not. The short version is that THC products cause the user to feel “high,” whereas CBD does not. It does, however, have many benefits for the body. CBD is primarily anti-inflammatory.  Consumers use it for three primary reasons.  These are chronic discomfort, help with sleep, and to calm anxious feelings.

Manufacturers make CBD oils, edibles and topicals by extracting all the plant compounds from cannabis. High CBD / low THC cannabis is known as hemp.  The industry commonly refers to this type of hemp as “phytocannabinoid rich” hemp rather than “industrial hemp.” The latter more commonly refers to the tall fibrous plants used for textile production. The extract from hemp is combined with carriers, infused into edibles and capsules, or added to lotions and salves to make the finished products.

CBD for Fitness


Many factors create muscle soreness after working out. Increases in intensity, more reps, longer workouts, and muscle building sets can all have an impact. Working out inflicts microscopic damage to your muscles, which is the goal as the repair process leaves the muscle stronger and larger. However, the damage leaves you sore and stiff. The pain may make you hesitant to exercise again for several days.

DOMS or delayed-onset muscle soreness can be mitigated both before and after your workout. A good warm-up routine and doing some low-intensity cardio can help. Stretching and preparing the muscles for working out is always beneficial. We also know now that CBD can have a positive impact on the duration and intensity of muscle soreness as well. 

Researchers have rarely explored the link between CBD and DOMS, but there is a study that shows possible benefits. The International Journal of Physical Education, Sports and Health showed that trained athletes who used ingestible CBD after their workout recovered more quickly. They also felt far less muscle soreness at 24, 48, 72, and 96 hours after working out.  The researchers’ conclusion was that “CBD appears to have a significant influence on muscle soreness associated with EIMD [exercise-induced muscle damage] DOMS when consumed immediately after strenuous exercise.”

CBD also has been shown to improve sleep quality. This applies to everyone, whether you work out or not. There are many studies that show CBD has a positive impact on muscle recovery. Likewise, too little sleep can have negative impact. See our article on CBD for sleep for full details.


Now that you know CBD can be helpful with workout recovery, the next question is what to use and how much. 

Many manufacturers have varying suggested doses for CBD, which can be confusing. The best approach is usually to “start low and go slow” until you find an effective dose. CBD can be used prior to your workout and post workout. It can also be taken once or twice a day on a regular basis for constant inflammation control. See our dosing guidelines for tips on regular use of CBD oil. The same principles apply to gummies and capsules, it is just not as easy to fine-tune your dose. However, if you use an oil and determine your effective dose is 25mg, you can easily convert to edibles.

Some athletes use CBD only when working out, which others take a consistent dose daily and an extra or double dose for workouts. Capsules can be taken an hour or two before heading to the gym. Water soluble powder can be added to your protein shake post-workout. The wide array of options makes it easy to customize what works best for you.

CBD oil should be placed under the tongue 45-60 minutes before your workout. Allow the oil to sit as long as you can (about 30 seconds), because the mucous membranes in the mouth start the absorption. There is a dense network of capillaries in the mouth, which allows the CBD to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream.

Topicals like salves, lotions, and roll-on products are perfect for applying to sore muscles and joints post-workout. Apply them just like any other lotion – massage in small circular motions. Human skin contains ample receptors that interact with CBD. Note that topicals are only effective where they are applied and have limited penetration. For systemic relief, CBD must be ingested.

CBD for Fitness


CBD is considered safe, but there are a few things to think about before using it.  CBD has a very low side effect profile, but there can be mild effects. These can include short term changes in digestive function, sleepiness, dry mouth, and increased appetite. Most consumers find any side effects to be mild and short lived.

If drug testing is a concern, be aware that full-spectrum products DO contain a small amount of THC. Most research shows that very high doses have to be consumed on a regular basis (1000mg+ per day) in order to fail a drug test.  However, regular use or high doses increase the odds.  If your job, scholarship, or sponsorship is in jeopardy if you fail a drug test, you should stick with THC free options or forgo using it.  CBD is legal in the United States.  Also, it has been removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned substance list. But because THC is still illegal, make sure you choose the right product for your situation.


Always purchase your CBD products from a reputable retailer that requires third-party lab testing for all products. This will help you be confident in the potency, safety, and purity of your CBD.

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