Is CBD Oil The Supplement That Your Workout Is Missing?

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
CBD, a chemical compound found in weed known as a cannabinoid, has come to be seen as a sort of cure-all among wellness enthusiasts. People use it to chill out, fall asleep, ease their anxiety — to do just about everything but actually get high. But CBD oil isn't just popular for home use. Some believe that it could give them a leg up at the gym, too.
Despite anecdotal evidence that CBD oil might help with athletic performance and recovery, there actually haven't been any clinical trials examining those effects, says Brook Henry, PhD, an assistant research scientist at the University of California, San Diego's Center for Medical Cannabis Research and department of psychiatry. But that doesn't mean there's no connection whatsoever.
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In addition to cannabinoids, which are found in weed, there are endocannabinoids, which occur naturally in our bodies. Endocannabinoids were named for their resemblance to cannabinoids (the medical community was actually aware of cannabinoids first). And these compounds work with receptors (the same ones that interact with weed when we get high) to regulate energy balance, brain function, appetite, and inflammation (among other bodily functions).
Dr. Henry explains that physical activity, like running on a treadmill, has been found to raise the level of a certain type of endocannabinoid called anandamide (AEA) — presumably in order to reduce pain and inflammation. Taking CBD is also known to increase AEA, because doing so prevents it from being metabolized. So, "there is a plausible biological pathway that might explain how CBD administration could potentially reduce discomfort associated with exercise," Dr. Henry says. In other words, taking CBD oil might help promote the pain-regulating, anti-inflammation compounds that are already in our bodies — which could help with athletic recovery.
However, not all weed use is created equal when it comes to working out. Dr. Henry says a few studies have looked at the effect of THC (another type of compound found in weed) on exercise, and one of them found that smoking THC cigarettes actually reduced runners' endurance. It's possible that CBD might not have the same effect, since some studies suggest that it doesn't change user's heart rate or blood pressure, but, Dr. Henry says, its effect on endurance has yet to be tested.
While more research needs to be done, there is reason to believe that CBD oil is more than just a fad workout supplement. If nothing else, you now know to think twice before smoking a J and then going for a jog.
Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity and would like to remind its readers that marijuana usage continues to be an offense under Federal Law, regardless of state marijuana laws.
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