Why Athletes Are Starting To Use CBD Instead Of NSAIDs

marathon runner

There are many reasons why an athlete would reach for some sort of pain reliever before or after a workout. Irritation and discomfort are a part of any athletes life especially for those who push themselves to the limit. Athletes are choosing to use CBD instead of NSAIDs and for good reason.

The Road To Success Is Difficult and Painful

Pain is a big part of life for people who compete in sports such as mixed martial arts, Jiu-Jitsu, boxing, and other combative disciplines that allow the athlete to get punched, kicked, or choked on a regular basis. Bumps and bruises are also commonplace for skateboarders, ice hockey players, football and soccer players and more.

Even the average gym enthusiast or someone who only goes to yoga class occasionally will feel the effects of a good workout, but in order for your muscles to grow, they need to be used to the point where micro tears occur. When these micro tears heal muscles get stronger, and even though this process is normal, it’s easy to overdo it. Even if we are careful and don’t overdo it, it can still be a bit uncomfortable and it is normal to want to rid ourselves of that discomfort.

So What Are NSAIDs?

There are a large number of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories ( NSAIDs ) that can be purchased over the counter and are a common household item such as:

• Aspirin
• Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
• Naproxen (Aleve)
• Celebrex
• Piroxicam
• Ketoprofen
• Toradol

NSAIDs work because they interact with prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are a group of chemicals that our bodies naturally produce in order to promote inflammation, which is necessary for healing. However, inflammation from prostaglandins often results in pain and fever but also supports blood clotting functions and protects the stomach lining.

Prostaglandins are produced by the cyclooxygenase (COX) enzyme. NSAIDs block this enzyme and therefore block both the healing, protecting and pain-inducing properties of prostaglandins. NSAIDs are easy to get and as a rule, act quickly to reduce inflammation and this is why NSAIDs are so popular with athletes seeking fast relief or wanting to stay in the game a little longer.

More often than not, doctors will prescribe NSAIDS as a safer alternative to addictive opioid medications that also help to reduce physical discomfort. Although generally non-addictive, athletes have been known to develop NSAID dependancies, which could lead to complications.

Several surveys revealed that 70 – 75% of endurance runners take NSAIDs before, during, and after competition and training.

Some Side Effects From Prolonged Use

One of the more concerning issues with NSAID use is the effect they have on the gastrointestinal system. Prostaglandins act as a protector of the gut wall and the lining is already compromised for athletes during exercise. When your body exerts prolonged energy blood is diverted to where it’s needed most, this means that digestion is not a priority during exercise and blood that would normally exist in the small intestines is used somewhere else, therefore weakening the lining of the intestine.

stomach ulcer diagram

Prolonged NSAID use can cause stomach ulcers which are a rather serious condition and one that an athlete just simply can’t work through. Stomach ulcers are painful sores in the stomachs lining, and the two main causes of this condition are NSAID use and bacterial infections.

Can NSAIDS Increase Performance?

For decades athletes have taken and relied on NSAIDs. One high profile case involving Manny Pacquiao’s 2015 fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr., Pacquiao was denied permission to take an NSAID the night of the fight. Pacquiao failed to disclose the fact that he tore his rotator cuff, but was relying on the NSAID to dull the pain during the fight.

Throughout his training, Pacquiao was also suffering from leg cramps and using a $1,800 anti-inflammatory cream, but Pacquiao lost the fight via unanimous decision. NSAIDs do have the ability to mask pain in the short term, but how much did they actually help Pacquiao during training camp, hard to say. But several studies have shown that NSAID use might actually slow post-workout recovery.

Some Interesting Study Results

• The Stanford University Department of Microbiology studied the effects of prostaglandins on muscle tissue recovery and found that they stimulate stem cells to regrow tissue. In cases where an NSAID was used, there were fewer stem cells to promote recovery.

• A study conducted on ultra-marathoners competing in the Western States 100 Miler found that there was no difference in performance between participants consuming or not consuming NSAIDs prior to and during the competition. NSAID users did have higher levels of inflammation in the week after the race.

Athletes And CBD

Many athletes are now looking closely at how cannabidiol ( CBD ) can help them cope with the aches and pains of training and competing. CBD is actually patented by the U.S. government as an antioxidant and neuroprotectant, these two qualities have the ability to make a big difference in an athletes performance and recovery.

Antioxidants Mean Better Recovery

Inflammation, as strange as it may seem, serves as the body’s natural healing response to stress, injury, and illness. Free radicals are molecules that both cause inflammation and result in inflammation. Inflammation can appear in a number of ways, all of which make life a bit more challenging for athletes.

Inflammation Can Cause:

• Swelling

• Soreness

• Fatigue

• Itchy Skin

• Redness/Warmth

• Diarrhea

The most effective way to reduce inflammation is to stop the cycle of free radicals, this can be done by introducing antioxidants like CBD. Dealing with inflammation by using antioxidants means more than just masking the discomfort. CBD oil actually addresses the cause while at the same time serving as a coping mechanism.

Finding Your Body’s Balance With Homeostasis

Homeostasis is our body’s natural mechanism that helps restore balance internally in response to external factors. This includes important functions like:

• Body Temperature

• Respiratory Rate

• Heart Rate

• Blood Pressure

• Sleep Cycle

• Body Fluid Levels

Peak performance requires that all of these systems are functioning the best they can. The antioxidants present in CBD helps athletes to restore and maintain this balance naturally, through interaction with the endocannabinoid system.

Reducing Discomfort

One of the main reasons athletes use NSAIDs is to mask the feeling of discomfort, which can be caused by injury or prolonged use. Inside the human body, there are naturally occurring endocannabinoids, one of these neurotransmitters is called “anandamide” which is also referred to as the “bliss molecule”.

Anandamide serves many purposes and one of them is to block pain receptors. CBD interacts with cannabinoid receptors to inhibit production of the enzyme that breaks down anandamide. An increase in anandamide leads to a natural decrease in discomfort.

Your Brain Can Benefit Too

brain health

A study conducted by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that 52% of retired NFL players used opioids during their careers, while 71% of them reported some kind of painkiller abuse.

Not only is the addictiveness of some painkillers an issue for athletes, but there is also concern over the amount of trauma athletes are taking to the head. Football, Soccer, MMA, ice hockey, boxing, and many other sports have contact components that increase the risk of brain jiggle, which is now known to have long-term effects. This is where CBD’s neuroprotective properties come into play and can make a difference in the longevity of careers and quality of life.

CBD, The Safer Alternative

In 2017, the World Health Organization found no side effects for CBD use and that it is safe for both humans and animals. The report also stated that CBD is non-addictive.

Athletes Can Now Legally Use CBD Oil At All Levels

In January 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from their list of banned substances now allowing CBD for athletes in and out of competition. The WADA is the regulatory testing body for all Olympic athletes, CBD’s cousin THC however, remains on the banned list. The agency also oversees a number of other professional and amateur sports such as mixed martial arts, boxing, competitive cheerleading, dance, and bodybuilding.

Why Athletes Are Opting For CBD And Not NSAIDs

CBD is an amazing all-natural, non-addictive solution to help athletes and everyone else cope with discomfort and maintain a high level of performance. CBD oil is an all-natural extract from hemp with no known side effects and is something definitely worth checking out!

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