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10 Best CBD Products for Athletes

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CBD products have become increasingly popular among athletes due to their potential benefits in managing pain, inflammation, and anxiety. There is a range of products to choose from, including edibles, energy drinks, bath bombs, and muscle rubs.

CBD products are generally taken orally for their mood-altering and anti-inflammatory effects, but topicals offer notable benefits too. Athletes looking for ways to speed recovery may want to try a selection of products to find out which works best for them. Many recommend using full-spectrum CBD products to take advantage of a wider cannabinoid and terpene profile. Others may prefer to avoid the chances of a product containing THC, instead opting for a broad-spectrum or CBD isolate product.

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Potential Benefits of CBD for Athletes

Research on the use of CBD for athletes is still in its early stages. Still, the body of evidence for its beneficial effects is growing. Some of the benefits that current research supports include the following:

  • Pain relief: Pain is a fact of life for athletes. Many turn to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen for help managing chronic and acute pain. However, these options have potentially serious — but rare — side effects, such as kidney and liver damage. CBD may provide pain relief without the potentially harmful side effects of NSAIDs.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects: Some research has found that cannabinoids have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce swelling, muscle soreness, and joint pain.
  • Reduced anxiety: A 2020 literature review concluded that CBD could reduce anxiety in stressful situations, which could help with pre-competition performance anxiety.
  • Improved sleep: CBD can be more energizing than sedating at low doses. Still, some case reports have found that CBD can help improve sleep quality, likely due to its ability to relieve pain and anxiety. Such properties make CBD beneficial for post-workout recovery.
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10 Best CBD Products for Athletes

1. Full- and Broad-Spectrum CBD Oils

What they are:Full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD oils are some of the most popular forms of CBD. Full-spectrum CBD oils include THC (less than 0.3%) and hundreds of other compounds (cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids) from the cannabis plant. These compounds may work together to increase the effectiveness of CBD (known as the “entourage effect“). Nevertheless, the THC content in these products could potentially trigger a failed drug test.

Broad-spectrum CBD oils include most of these compounds but have no THC. THC is a banned substance in many professional sporting organizations, so broad-spectrum CBD is an ideal option for professional athletes subjected to drug testing.

How to use them: CBD oils can be taken by dropping the oil under the tongue or adding it to food and drinks. Some research has found that CBD is best absorbed when taken sublingually (under the tongue).

What they’re best for: Pain, stress, inflammation, and sleep problems.

Top picks: These full- and broad-spectrum oils are free of pesticides and heavy metals and are third-party lab-tested:

2. CBD Isolate Oils

What they are: CBD isolate oils are pure forms of CBD free from other plant compounds, including THC. They’re suitable for athletes looking for a high-potency product without the fear of failing a drug test.

How to use them: Like full- and broad-spectrum CBD oils, CBD isolates should be taken under the tongue for best absorption. These products can also be mixed with food or beverages for those who dislike the flavor.

What they’re best for: Isolate CBD oils don’t provide the plant’s full spectrum of healing compounds, but they’re a good choice for athletes during competition since the products won’t appear on drug tests.

Top picks: These CBD isolate oils are lab-tested and guaranteed to be THC-free:

3. CBD Gummies

What they are: CBD gummies are a fun, flavorful way to consume CBD. They’re not as fast-acting as CBD oil taken sublingually, but they may be useful for athletes who need a convenient daily supplement.

How to use them: Gummies are simple to chew and swallow. They can be taken first thing in the morning for all-day symptom management or in the evening for calming sleep benefits. The serving size will vary depending on the product, and it’s always best to follow the dosage instructions on the package.

What they’re best for: CBD gummies can provide the same pain and stress-relieving benefits as CBD oils but in a more pleasant-tasting form. Gummies are also easy to pack and take on the road, making them a convenient choice for athletes who travel frequently.

Top picks: These gummies are made with natural ingredients, high-quality CBD, and added vitamins for extra nutritional support:

4. CBD Vapes

What they are: CBD vapes contain CBD mixed with a carrier oil. CBD vapes can be purchased in disposable vape pens, pre-filled cartridges, Juul pods, or refillable vape pens.

How to use them: CBD vapes can be used as needed to manage symptoms quickly. When vaped, CBD is absorbed from the lungs into the bloodstream directly without traveling through the digestive system. Most recommend starting with small puffs and waiting 5-10 minutes to assess whether more is needed.

What they’re best for: Vaping may seem counterintuitive for athletes who need to keep their lung capacity in peak condition. However, research indicates that CBD is especially well-absorbed by vaping, so it can be helpful for athletes who need a fast way to manage anxiety or breakthrough pain.

Keep in mind: Some vape juice contains harmful additives such as nicotine or thinning agents, so consumers should check labels carefully. Ingredients like vegetable glycerin, fractionated coconut oil (MCT oil), or propylene glycol may also cause lung damage.

Top picks: These vape pens and cartridges are lab tested and reportedly contain no thinning agents, harmful carrier oils, or nicotine:

5. CBD Capsules

What they are: CBD capsules contain CBD oil in a gelatin capsule. They are available in full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and pure CBD forms.

How to use them: Capsules are taken orally like any other medication. The number of capsules to take per day will depend on the CBD content in the specific product, along with individual factors like body mass and health condition. A standard starting dosage is 20 to 40 mg per day.

What they’re best for: Capsules provide all the benefits of CBD oil, such as support for healthy sleep, pain and inflammation relief, and anxiety relief. They are ideal for athletes who want to manage symptoms discreetly, especially when traveling.

Top picks: These capsules offer both full- and broad-spectrum options and are available in a variety of dosages:

6. CBD Roll-Ons and Sticks

What they are: CBD roll-ons and sticks contain CBD oil blended with skin-friendly ingredients like beeswax, shea butter, aloe, vitamin E, and many others. They are formulated to absorb quickly via the skin. Roll-ons and sticks are easy to apply, so the product is concentrated precisely where needed.

How to use them: CBD roll-ons and sticks can be applied directly to any affected area for quick relief. They can be used as often as needed, typically before or after a workout or competition.

What they’re best for: CBD topicals are perfect for athletes who suffer from localized pain and soreness. Some research has found that topical CBD helps reduce swelling, especially around joints.

Top picks: For athletes on the go, these roll-ons and sticks may be more convenient to apply than a cream or gel:

7. CBD-Infused Sports Drinks

What they are: Sports drinks infused with CBD can help athletes stay hydrated and manage their symptoms simultaneously. CBD beverages are available in various concentrations, from as little as 10 mg per serving up to 35 mg or more.

How to use them: CBD sports drinks are a good choice for pre- or post-workout boosts. They may also include active ingredients like electrolytes and amino acids to help with recovery and energy.

What they’re best for: CBD sports drinks don’t typically contain high quantities of CBD, so they aren’t likely to provide significant long-term symptom relief. However, they can give extra support to athletes who notice discomfort or tiredness later in the day when their morning CBD oil wears off.

Top picks: These beverages offer at least 25 mg of hemp-derived CBD in each serving, without added sugar or artificial flavors:

8. CBD Bath Bombs and Salts

What they are: CBD bath products incorporate CBD oil with Epsom salts, baking soda, citric acid, and various essential oils and essences to create a relaxing spa-like experience at home.

How to use them: Add a bath bomb or scoop of bath salts to a bath or foot soak, then simply relax and enjoy. A typical bath product includes 20-100 mg of CBD per serving. CBD bath bombs can be used as often as desired.

What they’re best for: A hot bath with a CBD bath product can help soothe soreness after a workout or competition. Ingredients like Epsom salts can also help to relieve swelling and inflammation.

Top picks: These bath salts, soaks, and bath bombs include high-quality CBD and other beneficial ingredients like arnica and calendula:

9. CBD Pain Relief Creams

What they are: CBD pain relief creams contain substantial concentrations of CBD and other ingredients with pain-relieving, numbing, and cooling properties. CBD pain relief creams are considered topicals.

How to use them: CBD pain relief creams can be applied directly to an affected area in a thin layer to relieve pain and soreness rapidly. Skin cells contain numerous cannabinoid receptors, so the topical application may allow CBD to work quickly where needed.

What they’re best for: CBD pain creams may be helpful for athletes suffering from chronic joint pain or simple muscle soreness following a strenuous workout.

Top picks: These high-strength formulations also include botanical ingredients like menthol, willow extract, and eucalyptus:

10. CBD Muscle Rubs and Massage Oils

What they are: CBD muscle rubs (sometimes called CBD balms) and massage oils mix CBD with other soothing ingredients like aloe, arnica, lidocaine, and menthol. They may include full- or broad-spectrum CBD or pure CBD isolate. CBD muscle rubs and massage oils are also considered topical products.

How to use them: These formulations can be used like any other massage oil or rub. Warm a small amount in the hands, then work into the skin wherever needed to relieve pain or inflammation.

What they’re best for: Massage is helpful for post-competition recovery by increasing blood flow and stretching muscle tissue. Using a CBD-infused muscle rub can be even more effective for relieving acute and chronic pain, soreness, and inflammation in the muscles and joints. Some athletes apply muscle rubs before a workout as an injury or inflammation prevention measure. CBD topicals are also less likely to produce a false positive on a drug test (like the ones carried out by the World Anti-Doping Agency) as the CBD is not ingested or vaped, so those who are worried about THC may use CBD topicals with a little less worry.

Top picks: Here are several options containing high-potency CBD along with therapeutic ingredients like tea tree oil, arnica, and turmeric:

The Bottom Line

Athletes reportedly use CBD to help reduce anxiety and ease pain and inflammation. The best CBD for athletes depends on their therapeutic needs and delivery method preferences. Oral products help athletes feel calmer and more balanced. Still, edible products with added vitamins and nutrients could be a good source of pre-game energy, and topicals can be helpful for targeted pain relief and muscle recovery.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does CBD affect gym performance?

While peer-reviewed research is limited, some people report feeling more relaxed and less anxious when taking CBD, which could lead to improved performance in the gym. With that said, a high dose of CBD may induce relaxation and sedation in some and inhibit performance, so be careful if you use high doses before workouts.

Will CBD show up on a drug test?

CBD itself will not show up on a drug test. Drug tests screen for THC, not CBD. However, if a CBD product contains more THC than the label claims or the athlete takes the supplement frequently, they could fail a drug test.

Is it OK to work out on CBD?

There’s no evidence that it’s unsafe to work out while taking CBD. In fact, CBD could help athletes with their focus, energy, mood, and post-workout recovery. Low doses of CBD may increase focus and energy in some, whereas high doses may be more sedating.

How much CBD do athletes need?

There’s no research specifically on CBD doses for athletes. The appropriate amount of CBD will vary depending on individual needs and symptoms. Most experts recommend starting with a low dose and gradually increasing it as needed. You may also prefer different amounts of CBD during different times of the day.

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