Is CBD The Next Performance Enhancer?

For decades, the stereotype that accompanied consumers of cannabis was that of Saul Silver, from Seth Rogens 'Pineapple Express.'


Saul Silver, the happy-go-lucky drug dealer in 'Pineapple Express' played by James Franco



Unkempt, unemployed and unambitious, the 'lazy stoner' has been the defining image of cannabis since Cheech and Chong films came out in the 70's.

And while there is some truth to the stereotype, the recent legislative easing on cannabis and the subsequent rise in CBD based products has shown that cannabis isn't just for those who want to chill out.

In fact, cannabis use has found another home at the opposite end of the aisle: Sports.

Athletes are beginning to not only promote CBD based products, but also create their own products and CBD lines because of how passionate they are about CBD and the effects it has on their ability to perform.



Weed Rather Netflix and Chill: How does CBD help athletes?

The fact that cannabis can be of use to athletes may come as a surprise to some.

To those with their finger on the pulse however, this is old news.

For thousands of years cannabis has been used as a medicine, beginning as early as 2900 BC in China by the Chinese Emperor Fu His.

While the reasons behind the Emperor's support of cannabis remain quite vague, accounts say that Fu His believed that the plant possessed both "yin and yang."

Fast forward to today and it seems strange the plant hadn't been used more frequently.

As the research pours out of the woodworks, we're learning of all the benefits that cannabis-derived products can have on the human body, as well as the different contexts in which those benefits can be used.

CBD, or cannabidiol is one of the 120 compounds found within the cannabis plant.

When ingested, CBD interacts with our endogenous cannabinoid system, or ECS for short, stimulating and inhibiting certain receptors.

It's important to note that CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it doesn't have the effect of getting users "high."

The phenomenon of getting high is caused by THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which remains largely prohibited in sports.

CBD on the other hand, is receiving an increasing amount of recognition for it's potential to assist athletes.

In fact, in early 2018 the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from the list of prohibited substances, even within competition.

While the threshold for THC use also increased to 150 milligrams, this is still too low for THC ingestion anywhere near competition time.

Because of this recent boom in CBD-based fitness products, we decided to take a dive into the athletic benefits that CBD provides and find some of the athletes riding on the green train.

If you want to learn more about CBD, check out our comprehensive post below. Otherwise, read on.


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Pain Reduction

As you can imagine, being an athlete requires constant exercise and muscle use, which can place stress upon tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bone and one's overall wellbeing.

This stress can lead to inflammation, which can cause tendinitis, which can eventually put an athlete out of work.

It's a balancing act because pushing your body will almost always lead to pain, and yet if they don't push themselves, athletes will quickly fall behind in their sport.

Typically athletes have turned to NSAIDs for their pain relief – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen.

Though as time goes on we're learning that NSAIDs aren't exactly perfect.

In England, NSAIDs are responsible for 30% of hospital admissions for adverse drug reactions, primarily due to bleeding, heart attack, stroke, and renal damage.

While studies of CBD are largely still in infancy, we have yet to see examples of risks involved in the use of CBD – and it looks unlikely those risks will come close to those accompanying NSAIDs.

Rather, studies have shown that CBD is a great tool for pain reduction & management, so much so that they've exhibited considerable therapeutic benefit for those suffering with arthritis.

In these studies, CBD gel significantly reduced joint swelling as well as limb posture scores as a rating of spontaneous pain.




Anyone can attest to the damage that a poor night's rest will do to your body. Couple that with rigorous exercise during the day and you've got a recipe for pain.

While the need for studies may seem redundant in proving the role that sleep plays in athletic performance, we've found them anyway.

Using collegiate basketball players as the subjects, one study showed that when the athletes achieved optimal sleep, they ran faster and were more accurate in their free throws.

Conversely, when receiving poor sleep, athletes reported poorer performance. On top of this, studies show a bad nights rest can actually lead to increased inflammation.

A lack of sleep isn't uncommon among athletes either, as performing at a high level in any sport involves a lot of travelling, a lot of practice, interviews, and many other physical and mental stressors.

These factors combined with pre-game anxiety may leave athletes wanting more when it comes to sleep.

Luckily for them, CBD products have shown the ability to drastically improve sleep within a month of use.



More Kushin' for the Pushin' – Which Athletes are on board?

The list of athletes who use CBD to further their athleticism is growing by the day, and so too is awareness around the compound. More publications are writing about CBD, more companies are incorporating CBD into their products, and we believe this will all snowball.

Here's a short list of athletes who use CBD to further their craft, though it is far from comprehensive. By the time we've finished writing this sentence there's probably another handful of sports stars that have emerged in support of CBD.




Nate Diaz

Fighting may be the last thing associated with Cannabis use. That doesn't mean it can't help.

Professional MMA Fighter Nate Diaz had one of the most viewed UFC fights in human history when he squared up against Conor McGregor.

After losing to McGregor, the Californian-born cage-fighter whipped out his vape pen and blew a plume of smoke – amid the post-fight news conference.



When asked about his use of CBD, Diaz remarked "It's CBD. It helps with the healing process, the inflammation. Do this before and after a fight, during training, it will make your life a better place."



Matt Miller

This San-Franciscan skateboarder not only uses CBD to heal after a long day of skateboarding, but also owns his own CBD company called MillerHealer.

Selling CBD-based gummies, tinctures, oils and salves, it's clear Matt Miller has a lot of faith in the healing powers of cannabis.

Matt told the Green Fund that his previous post-skate therapy was ice baths. Once a family friend told him about the powers of CBD, he had to test them for himself.

Evidently, he never looked back.


 "Ever since I've been using CBD it's been a whole new world for me. As I get older, it takes more and more time to recover from having a good old battle with the concrete. Now I can stay on top of recovery and feel better all around."

-Matt Miller, Professional Skateboarder




Ricky Williams

Former running back in the NFL for 12 seasons, Ricky Williams has been vocal about his support of cannabis.

When asked by CNBC about what led the former footballer towards the cannabinoid compound, Williams responded " With my unique background as a football player, having to deal with a lot of pain and a lot of stress [and] anxiety has put me in a unique position where I have a niche, an expertise to offer the world."

While in the NFL, Williams was frequently suspended for cannabis use. Despite this, Williams maintained the benefits he received from use of the substance, stating to Cannabis Aficionado  "One of the most important things I've done in my advocacy is being honest about my experiences. As more people come out and be honest the stigma will naturally start to erode."

Since leaving the NFL, Williams has begun his own venture in the CBD space, called 'Real Wellness.'

On Real Wellness you can find vape cartridges, tonics, creams and oils, all of which are CBD based.

More and more athletes are turning to CBD to achieve their maximum performance, which means that the CBD industry will continue to find a home in the fitness aisle.

And while CBD may not technically be a 'performance enhancer,' the clinical and anecdotal evidence seems to be piling up when it comes to the benefits of the compound.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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