CBD and Sports


What does research say about CBD’s potential role in sports recovery, and how do sports regulatory bodies view its use?

Photo © AdobeStock.com/Drobot Dean

Sean Cope

Sean Cope

Athletes and competitors continually push their bodies. But, in order to get best results, their bodies also need to recover properly. Regardless of whether the athlete is a regular gym goer, a weekend warrior, or a pro athlete, recovery is crucial to avoid injuries and ensure maximum performance.

As a result, many athletes are looking for solutions that can help improve their post-workout recovery. One interesting option for athletes is CBD. In this post, we will highlight the use of CBD as a sports recovery tool and the research supporting it. By the end of this article, you will understand why many athletes are adding CBD to their workout recovery routine.


Understanding How CBD Can Help Athletes

CBD, also called cannabidiol, is a natural chemical found in cannabis plants (hemp or marijuana). But, CBD will not get you high. The high that is often associated with marijuana actually comes from a different chemical in the cannabis plant: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The World Health Organization recognizes that CBD is non-toxic, non-addicting, and generally safe.

The evidence for the benefits of using CBD is still in the early stages but is starting to stack up with over 11,000 published medical and scientific studies. How can CBD help athletes during their workout and for competitive performance?



A study published in the journal Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry1 shows that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties and plays a role in helping with pain management. This can be beneficial after an intense workout. The pain or soreness that athletes feel when their muscles are fatigued is often a result of microscopic muscle tears and inflammation. This micro-tearing is an important part of muscle growth as it allows the body to increase strength by increasing the size of muscles. CBD may help reduce this inflammation and better prepare the body for another workout.

In addition, when a muscle becomes sore, it can signal that the body needs to restrict muscle contraction as a defense mechanism to prevent muscle damage. Although this response is natural and normally healthy, it can be detrimental to athletic performance. By helping moderate the signals sent through the body, CBD oil can manage the body’s reactions for muscle contraction, muscle tightness, and cramps.2



A good night’s sleep and ample rest are vital for sports recovery and good performance. Sleep gives the body a chance to regenerate and repair damaged muscle fibers. Research studies on CBD also demonstrate that it helps moderate sleep routines for improved sleep quality and duration.3


Mental Health

The importance of focus and attention while playing a sport is a no-brainer. Some people take pre-workout supplements with high amounts of caffeine to help improve focus. But, CBD can also help increase focus by reducing stress/anxiety.

CBD has been shown to have anti-anxiety properties that moderate the body’s reaction to stress.4 This is important because the body can perceive intense muscle exertion during a workout as a sign of stress. This can trigger the stress hormone, cortisol, which signals the body to reduce protein synthesis. Thankfully, according to a 2016 study, CBD can increase the presence of chemicals such as serotonin to help manage the body’s reactions to stress.5


Is CBD a Banned Substance for Sports?

With these great benefits, an important question arises for competitive athletes. Is it classified as a performance enhancer by major sports regulatory bodies?

In January 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) released its updated list of prohibited substances. The


removed CBD from this list, setting the pace for some other regulatory bodies to do the same. However, it’s important to note that other cannabinoids, such as THC and synthetic cannabinoids, remain prohibited. If you are a drug-tested athlete competing at a high or professional level, it is best to check the official regulations of your competition just to be safe. In sport settings where cannabinoids are permissible, this change has enabled many athletes to switch to using CBD for swelling and inflammation rather than other options like ibuprofen because they may experience less adverse side effects with CBD.6


Are Professional Athletes Taking CBD?

Until recently, there has been a stigma in sports surrounding the use of CBD. However, this is changing as top athletes publicly talk about their use of CBD products and the improvements they see in their recovery and performance. Below are some of the major athletes who are endorsing the benefits of CBD:

Bubba Watson (PGA Tour Golfer - Current)
Terrell Davis (NFL - Retired)
Ryan VandenBussche (NHL – Retired)
Nate Diaz (MMA Fighter - Current)
Gina Mazany (UFC Fighter – Current)


Final Thoughts on CBD for Athletes

CBD can be useful for improved physical or athletic performance. There is early evidence to support that CBD may help with better and easier recovery after intense physical exertion by reducing inflammation, managing pain, aiding in sleep, and reducing stress. Athletes looking to improve their workout recovery and athletic performance may find it worth considering taking CBD.


Sean Cope is focused on educating people about the benefits of CBD through writing articles that are supported by scientific evidence. He is the director of marketing for Daddy Burt Hemp Co., a leader in the CBD industry that sells CBD oil, CBD gummies, and more. Daddy Burt’s products are among only 20 companies that have been certified by the certification body the U.S Hemp Authority. Daddy Burt Hemp Co. is the rekindling of a family legacy in Kentucky hemp farming that dates back over 100 years.


Editor's note: 9/18/19 11:30 AM PST: This story was amended to note that other cannabinoids, such as THC and synthetic cannabinoids, remain prohibited by sports regulatory bodies.




  1. Burstein S. “Cannabidiol (CBD) and its analogs: a review of their effects on inflammation.” Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry, vol. 23, no. 7 (April 1, 2015): 1377–1385. doi:10.1016/j.bmc.2015.01.059.
  2. Barnes MP. “Sativex: clinical efficacy and tolerability in the treatment of symptoms of multiple sclerosis and neuropathic pain.” Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy, vol. 7, no. 5 (April 2006): 607–615. doi:10.1517/14656566.7.5.607.
  3. Pava MJ et al. “Endocannabinoid signaling regulates sleep stability.” PLoS One. Published online March 31, 2016. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0152473.
  4. Crippa JA et al. “Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report.” Journal of Psychopharmacology, vol. 25, no. 1 (January 2011): 121–130. doi:10.1177/0269881110379283.
  5. Blessing EM et al. “Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders.” Neurotherapeutics, vol. 12, no. 4 (October 2015): 825–836. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1.
  6. Zurier RB et al. “Cannabinoids, inflammation, and fibrosis.” The FASEB Journal, vol. 30, no. 11 (November 2016): 3682–3689. doi:10.1096/fj.201600646r.

Additional Sources

  1. World Health Organization. “Cannabidiol (CBD) Critical Review Report. Expert Committee on Drug Dependence Fortieth Meeting.” Geneva. June 4-7, 2018. Accessed at: https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf
  2. PubMed search “CBD”. Accessed at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/?term=CBD
  3. World Anti-Doping Agency website. Prohibited in Competition: Cannabinoids topic page. Accessed at: https://www.wada-ama.org/en/content/what-is-prohibited/prohibited-in-competition/cannabinoids
  4. World Anti-Doping Agency. “The World Anti-Doping Code International Standard Prohibited List.” January 2019. Accessed at:
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