by Edie Horstman
Understanding the Endocannabinoid System
After an energizing spin class or challenging HIIT circuit, exercise-induced euphoria is commonplace. Known as the “runner’s high,” this post-workout phenomenon of exhilarating vibes is worth the effort and the sweat. Up until the early 2000s, though, endorphins stole the spotlight. It was understood that endorphins—the body’s home-brewed opiates—were the reason behind feeling joyful after an endurance workout. However, an emerging field of neuroscience suggests something different. An entirely separate neurochemical system, known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS), may be more responsible for those feelings.
Named after the cannabis plant, the ECS is involved in regulating a variety of physiological and cognitive processes. The plasma concentration of certain endocannabinoids rises during physical activity. And since endocannabinoids can effectively penetrate the blood–brain barrier, it is now known that anandamide (an endocannabinoid), along with other euphoriant neurochemicals, contribute to the development of that exercise-induced delight. In other words, it’s possible that because of the ECS, your heart-pumping, sweat-inducing workout leaves you feeling better than you did before.
CBD and Exercise
Similar in structure to some endocannabinoids, cannabidiol promises a variety of health benefits. Whether it be relief from stress, pain, digestive upset, protecting the body from neurodegenerative diseases or improving workout recovery time, CBD is a supercharged compound. It may deliver both mental and physical advantages.
From professional athletes and routine lifters to newbie gym-goers, CBD can be an integral and important part of any holistic health and wellness routine. For example, CBD helps reduce stress and anxiety. After all, too much stress can lead to a sluggish metabolism, and a slow metabolism makes it increasingly difficult to perform optimally in the gym. In fact, CBD is known to impact workouts in a variety of favorable ways. Regardless of the fitness regimen preferred, muscle development and recovery play key roles in overall well-being.
1. Metabolism Boost
Research shows that stress has significant impacts on cortisol levels, and acute (or chronic) spikes in cortisol can induce unwanted weight gain and a sluggish metabolism. In other words, stress is one of the biggest impediments to a healthy metabolism. Because CBD oil can help maintain a healthy cortisol balance, however, and can bring the body into homeostasis, it can indirectly regulate metabolic balance.
2. Stamina Increase
With better-regulated hunger cues, exercise will become less about burning calories and more about reducing stress, building strength, etc. CBD has been shown to increase the body’s ability to burn calories and decrease fat cell generation. Additionally, because CBD oils have a natural stimulative effect, taking a tincture or capsule before a workout can provide energy-boosting benefits without the jitters. After all, stamina is key for a successful workout. By inhaling CBD, the compounds enter your lungs and diffuse directly into your bloodstream minutes before your workout. The second fastest way to deliver CBD to your bloodstream is the sublingual method, absorbing CBD under your tongue. You can also do this shortly before exercise.
3. Recovery Improvement
Not only can CBD provide improved stamina and energy levels, but its anti-inflammatory properties minimize muscular aches and pains. In fact, CBD creams and salves can assist in muscle recovery. By decreasing inflammation and providing pain relief, using CBD can be an effective way to strengthen muscles, minimize muscle spasms and more.
When muscle fibers break down during exercise, inflammation naturally occurs. This muscle damage due to exercise cannot fully heal until inflammation decreases. And CBD oil can play a role in reducing inflammation, making it an ideal supplement to include as part of an active lifestyle. Its various healthful components support muscle strengthening while simultaneously improving sleep–which is the peak time for muscle recovery.
4. Muscle Gain
Catabolic hormones cause a breakdown of muscle tissue. For those looking to increase muscle mass and improve muscle tone, reducing the levels of catabolic hormones—such as cortisol—is imperative. Basically, cortisol reduces protein synthesis and actively prevents tissue growth. Excessive cortisol levels can hinder you from achieving the muscle building goals you expect from rigorous fitness routines. Coupled with appropriate nutrition and strengthening exercises, a significant benefit of CBD is its ability to lower cortisol levels and thereby help build muscle.
5. Mental Clarity
Not only can CBD lower anxiety, but it also helps reduce the symptoms associated with a wide range of psychological conditions. In other words, CBD may be an effective treatment for stress, anxiety and more, making it easier to focus on the task at hand: an energizing, stimulating workout. Plus, this mental clarity may lead to a refreshed perspective while working out, and to a more creative routine.
Edie Horstman is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, wellness blogger, and freelance writer. She works with health-focused brands, co-creating content in the digital marketing space. She lives in Denver, Colorado.