There’s been a lot of chatter within the fitness world lately about the potential benefits of CBD oil. It’s a topic that we’ve been paying close attention to here at M2 Performance Nutrition, and we thought we’d give you our opinion on whether CBD might be right for you.
Full disclosure: We like the stuff and have partnered with Pure Spectrum to provide M2 clients with a 10-20% discount code (M2PN). Why Pure Specturm? 1) Its really pure… no THC at all. This is important for athletes getting drug tested 2) It doesn’t taste like dog-poop. Many CBD oils smell like a frat house on Sunday morning and I don't need that in my life 3) Price is pretty legit for the quality of product. We fully recognize that this partnership will cause some bias on the topic, but we have tried to present a full picture and not cherry-pick the data.
What is CBD?
CBD stands for Cannabidiol, a naturally occurring compound that can be derived from both cannabis and hemp based products, originally discovered in the 1940s. Interestingly scientists originally thought it was pretty much biologically inactive but over time we’ve discovered that it can have a number of therapeutic benefits. As time progressed, we learned that the body has a complex neurotransmitter system that is based around compounds that are similar in structure to CBD. Researchers are still learning how to exploit this system, but a significant amount of progress has been made. Of interest, there are several prescription based medicines that are essentially pure CBD. Sativex is prescribed to patients with Mulitple Sclerosis for pain management, while Epidiolex is approved for the treatment of several forms of epilepsy. We’ll dive more into this, but pain management, anxiety and neurological conditions are all targets for CBD therapy.
While CBD has a number of effects on the body, it does not make you feel “stoned” in any sense of the word. Its cousin, THC, is fully responsible for those affects. So, if you’re looking for a nice high… you’ve come to the wrong place.
Nowadays, you can find CBD in oils, creams, gummies and vape pens. Personally, I’ve been testing out oil tincture that goes under the tongue and a cream/salve that I put onto a chronically inflamed elbow.
Let’s dive down into some of the ways that people are exploring CBD for therapeutic benefits.
CBD for the treatment of muscle and joint pain
There are a dozen different reasons that a body part can be painful, and while CBD has not been shown to be effective for all of them, there certainly is evidence that creams and oral consumption can help with body pain. In athletes, most of the time, pain is caused by over-use causing micro-tears in the tissue. This results in the immune system being locally activated and a feedback loop of chronic inflammation begins. Of course, rest or some corrective exercises can typically solve this problem, but let’s be honest with ourselves… you’re not gonna do that now are you? No, you’re most likely looking for some way to continue to train and minimize discomfort.
Can CBD help you in this quest is the big question. CBD does appear to be able to provide therapeutic benefit for inflamed joints in these situations. The exact mechanism that this happens is a little unclear, but the receptors for CBD are expressed on white blood cells, indicating the potential for both direct and indirect effects. Additionally, as we’re about to talk about, there are receptors expressed on neuronal cells that CBD appears able to modulate as well. So… whether be either breaking the feedback loop, or just minimizing your sensation of pain, there does appear to be some benefit. Full honesty, I think more research is needed… Personally, I’ve been using a CBD balm on my elbow and can notice a reduction in localized pain about 15-20 minutes after application. I also have some fairly serious inflammation deep in my knee. The balm does not really touch this sadly, but I think the oral tincture has helped.
CBD for anxiety
Anxiety is something that we all deal with on some level, but for people diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, it can be totally debilitating. Current medical treatment can involve benzodiazepines, anti-depressants, beta blockers and serotonin reuptake inhibitors… all pretty serious meds with a litany of side effects.
Of late, people have been studying how CBD can play a similar role as these meds using a “natural” compound. So while it’s not exactly an encyclopedia, there’s a solid amount of scientific literature supporting the idea that CBD can help manage anxiety based symptoms. Probably one of the better studies was done in 2017, which showed that CBD had a significant benefit in individuals with social phobia and anxiety. Not to get all geeky, but several receptors expressed highly in the brain (GPR55, the serotonin 5-HT receptor and several opioid receptors) have shown the ability to interact with CBD indicating the potential mechanism of action.
There are a few other decent studies, but it’d be great to see more research on CBD on anxiety type conditions. One impediment to getting more research done is that until recently, CBD was a banned substance because of its association with THC. Luckily though, its moved fully off the USADA and WADA banned substance list, opening the door to more and more research. Talking with a few friends in the medical community, it does seem like the use of CBD could allow for the dose of other medications to be reduced at minimum. However, each said that simply replacing prescription meds with CBD, or going “cold turkey” would be a really bad idea.
CBD for neurological issues
There’s probably more sound data on this topic than any of the others. Its rather difficult to get a drug approved by the FDA, and like I said Epidiolex is approved for the treatment of several forms of epilepsy. On top of that there’s some sketchy evidence around symptom relief for Huntingon’s, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. To be clear, not cures… just in theory helping with some of the symptoms.
The exciting research for me though is with the effects on concussions. Considering that about 1 million people are diagnosed with concussions every year, anything that can help with the effects is worth checking out. There was some motivating evidence that showed CBD consumption was correlated with reduced brain cell death after a concussion. Sure enough, some research indicates that CBD somehow activates receptors that trigger a cellular repair mechanism. Researchers at the University of Miami have begun to conduct a thorough 5-year study to see what affect CBD really does have a larger level. You can read more about the biology and the study here. Can’t wait to see the results here.
Potential side effects
So this review nicely summarizes the known literature and says that up to 1500 mg/day of CBD are well tolerated in humans. Having worked in this field for years, when they run clinical trials (like they did for Epidiolex) anything they see even once is reported as a possible side effect. In this case it mentions the potential metabolism of other drugs through the cytochrome P450 enzyme (sorry, geeking out hard right now), dry mouth, and in rare cases some symptoms associated with low blood pressure. At the end of the day, it’s a pretty small list compared to what else you’d find for something like Aspirin. For reference, grape fruit juice ALSO impacts the P450 pathway… but of course we don’t really list it as a “side effect” since its just fruit, right?
Needless to say, take some personal responsibility and the first time you try ANYTHING, pay attention to any unwanted effects. I’ve not heard of much from clients using it, but you should always make up your own mind about things like this.
Personal use and experience
So at the end of the day, I’ve been doing two things with CBD. The first I already mentioned, which was the cream on some minor chronic inflamed sites I’ve been trying to resolve.
The second is that I’ve brought CBD oil into my bedtime routine and have had some really nice results. Here’s what I’m currently doing:
I take this adrenal supplement every morning with breakfast, every single day of the week. It’s basically a mixture of adaptogenic herbs that help spike the appropriate morning response of cortisol production.
In the evening, I do a few things as well
1) 30 minutes of NO screen time (usually…).
2) I take 1 tsp of Natural Calm which is a magnesium supplement. Magnesium has been shown to help calm the nervous system. Fun side fact: Most Americans are deficient in magnesium so… win win.
3) I take ~ 500 mg of CBD oil, again using the Pure Spectrum brand. Again, I chose this one because of the absurdly high quality and lack of shitty taste.
4) I run COLD water over my hands and face for 60 seconds to drop my core body temp a little and (in theory) improve HRV as well.
If you have any questions, hit us up in the Contact Us tab and we’ll get back to you.