Cannabidiol (CBD), when used at appropriate dosages and frequencies, has the potential to be the closest thing to a panacea in the modern world. Why does CBD have such an extensive list of therapeutic applications? It has a lot to do with how expansive and critical your endocannabinoid system (ECS) is throughout the body and brain.

The ECS is a complex system of cells and chemical messengers responsible for regulating cognitive processes, pain-sensation, and mood. It is also critical for maintaining homeostasis (i.e. keeping balance in the body, like maintaining a 98.6-degree body temperature) and regulating stress. It is nearly impossible to conjure up a human activity that does not depend on the ECS. CBD impacts the ECS in a number of ways, assisting with homeostasis, especially when the body is stressed and out-of-alignment. As any good runner knows, balance is paramount. As such, it would behoove runners to increase their knowledge of CBD and find creative ways to incorporate this important cannabinoid into their practice.

This article highlights the various ways in CBD can help runners get prepared, perform, and recover. For those worried about performance-enhancing drugs, don’t worry; CBD is legal for athletes.

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1) CBD is Non-Psychoactive

When considering supplements capable of complementing their workout, most athletes are wise to try and avoid ingesting anything that can cause them to falter. Indeed, many athletes have shied away from consuming cannabis during their workouts due to its ability to decrease reaction times (although it has been shown to help with endurance). However, athletes can rejoice upon learning that CBD is not psychoactive in a way THC is. Simply put, this means that CBD will not get you “high” the same way its sister cannabinoid, THC, would. CBD is referred to as non-psychoactive or non-psychotropic because it doesn’t have an effect on your mental state. However, that’s not exactly accurate. Given its marked ability to help reduce anxiety, CBD can certainly affect your mental state.

2) CBD Can Help to Decrease Anxiety

Anxiety takes many forms. As most runners know, confidence is half the battle and one of its most resilient enemies is the performance anxiety. Identifying effective ways to qualm anxiety before trying to break your next Strava segment record or starting your first (or 100th) event would certainly give a savvy runner an advantage that could make all the difference in the world. As such, a runner’s pre-event repertoire would be incomplete without the anxiety-reducing properties of CBD. Indeed, one of CBD’s most lauded effects is as an anxiolytic. There exist a plethora of preclinical evidence supporting CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. Here is a guide to help you evaluate the factors as well as dosage while considering CBD for anxiety relief.

Fun fact: CBD can also mitigate the anxiety caused by THC.

3) CBD Can Help Prolong “Runner’s High”

The ECS is crucial for attaining a “runner’s high”. Cannabinoid receptors mediate acute anxiolysis and analgesia after running. Given that the endocannabinoid Anandamide is responsible for the runner’s high and Anandamide is attenuated by CBD, it stands to reason that CBD could prevent the body from adjusting to the increases in Anandamide, allowing the coveted runner’s high to remain in effect longer than normal.

4) CBD Can Increase Endurance

CBD increases brain adenosine levels . Increased adenosine is associated with increased endurance, neuroprotection and decreased inflammation after brain trauma. CBD is also known to exert vascular effects, producing vasodilation that allows for muscles to receive a more regular and efficient blood supply, discouraging the buildup of lactic acid.

5) CBD Topicals Can Provide Analgesic Effects

A crucial component of the ECS is the transient receptor potential cation channel vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) which is responsible for relaying sensations of pain throughout the body. Ingesting cannabis overflows the TRPV1 receptors, causing a desensitization. Once a TRPV1 receptor is temporarily worn out, the cell internalizes it, or sucks it inside and removes it from operation to recondition it. When this happens to billions of receptors as a result of flooding the system with cannabinoids, there are significantly fewer TRPV1 receptors in operation, meaning significantly less inflammation and pain. TRPV1 is also a molecular target of CBD, meaning you won’t need to ingest THC in order to get the effect. Runners can learn about also combining CBD with capsaicin to maximize this TRPV1-mediated pain-reduction technique. Users can also make their own analgesic CBD topicals. Either way, if your legs are sore after a run, it would be prudent to consider a CBD topical in combination with a CBD edible as part of your recovery routine.

6) CBD is Anti-Inflammatory

Preclinical and clinical studies have contributed to our understanding of the therapeutic potential of CBD for many diseases, including diseases associated with oxidative stress. Whenever the human body is unable to neutralize the oxidants present in it, due to too many free radicals, it results in oxidative stress, which can result in tissue damage. Indeed, oxidative stress is a key element of the immune system’s response to combat pathogens and initiates tissue repair. CBD functions as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which helps to neutralize the free radicals.

CBD also affects CB2 receptors, a part of the ECS that assists with an inflammatory response, by essentially modifying them so that the chemicals that typically activate them are not as potent. As such, it’s simple to see why CBD has been so useful in combating conditions that are marked by an overactive immune system (e.g. Arthritis); by essentially throttling the inflammatory response that is triggered via the endocannabinoid system. All this considered, runners constantly making micro-tears in their muscles in the pursuit of strengthening them would be prudent to incorporate anti-inflammatories like CBD into their regime.

7) CBD Dosage Matters

All of the above is a moot point unless you get your CBD dosage right. If you are not taking enough CBD, you will not be able to notice its purported effects. Critical factors like gender, weight, CBD consumption frequency, and planned consumption method all play a role in determining  Leveraging a CBD dosage calculator that takes all of this into account is prudent for runners and other athletes alike before beginning a CBD regimen.


Nicco Reggente, PhD

Nicco earned his PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from UCLA, where he focused on using machine learning to determine optimal, personalized treatment plans for individuals. Nicco is passionate about personalized medicine, especially as applied to the cannabis industry. He is the co-founder and CEO of Strain Genie—a cannabis DNA test that helps match users to the right cannabinoids and terpenes for their body.