Research suggests CBD can help us recover faster between workouts & may prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) pain after exercise. This article was produced in partnership with Paradigm Media By now, you’ve probably heard there are a handful ailments that science and athletes say CBD
CBD for Muscle Soreness Recovery: Benefits of Hemp Oil After a Work Out
Can CBD be used to support the recovery process between workouts?
What about to speed healing after an injury?
Here’s what the research says about it.
Why are high-level athletes in the NFL, NHL, NBA, and UFC using cannabidiol (CBD) supplements?
Athletes use CBD to help them recover faster between workouts and after an event. Faster recovery means they’re back into the gym sooner to continue training.
In this article, we explore what makes CBD popular for post-workout recovery, as well as recuperation after an injury. We’ll cover what the research says about the anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and muscle relaxant effects of the compound in more detail.
Here’s everything you need to know about using CBD to support muscle recovery.
MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY
Updated on March 04, 2022
Table of Contents
- How Can CBD Help With Muscle Recovery After A Workout?
- What Makes Your Muscles Sore After a Workout?
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How Can CBD Help With Muscle Recovery After A Workout?
- CBD relaxes the muscles
- CBD prevents delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
- CBD alleviates inflammation
- CBD improves sleep quality & recovery
- CBD may enhance satellite cell differentiation in the muscles
- CBD may support protein synthesis in the muscles
1. Alleviates Muscle Tension
One of the characteristic symptoms of DOMS is muscle tension.
When it comes to injuries, tension in the muscles surrounding the affected area can make the pain much worse — which is why muscle relaxants are so popular for alleviating pain during recovery from exercise or injuries.
Some forms of prescription muscle relaxants used for treatment-resistant muscle tension are benzodiazepine drugs like Valium. These medications work through the GABA receptors — which are a key regulator of muscle relaxation [5,18].
Benzodiazepines are powerful drugs and come with a significant risk of side-effects like sedation, depression, confusion, dizziness, and trembling — all of which are not conducive to optimal athletic function.
CBD and other cannabinoids have similar effects on GABA as benzodiazepines — only without the risk of severe side-effects [6,7].
Some research even suggests the use of cannabis as a supportive agent for benzodiazepine addiction due to the overlap of effects between the two . This is dangerous and requires monitoring by a doctor, of course. You should never attempt this on your own.
Therefore, CBD may be a useful muscle relaxant for easing muscle tension and pain following an injury or rigorous workout.
2. Alleviates Muscle Pain
CBD is suggested to be a powerful pain-killer — as evidenced by both anecdotal and scientific research. This effect may allow CBD to offer symptomatic support for muscle injuries or post-exercise recovery. With less pain, you’ll find it easier to get yourself back into action faster, and feel more comfortable between exercise.
3. Reduces Inflammation
Perhaps the most important role CBD plays in the process of muscle recovery is in reducing inflammation. The most common method of reducing inflammation after an injury or post-workout is to apply ice to the area.
There’s some debate around whether or not putting icing is helpful for muscle recovery or not, and research is inconclusive — some studies suggest icing the muscles improves recovery times , while other studies have found that icing offers no benefit for shortening recovery time .
The controversy revolves around what role inflammation plays during the recovery process.
The inflammation process is designed to help damaged muscle fibers recover — it brings in blood flow to the area and delivers essential nutrients and oxygen along with it.
Additionally, the increased blood flow helps to clear out cellular debris, damaged proteins, and byproducts of muscle contraction like lactic acid from the area.
Inflammation also stimulates stem cells (called satellite cells) in the muscle to turn into new muscle fibers.
Inflammatory markers like IL-10, TGF-β, TNF-α, and NF-κB are all thought to stimulate the satellite cells of the muscles after an injury  — leading to faster recovery and a return of strength to the muscles.
On the other hand, post-workout muscle damage, or injuries to the muscles often involve specific regions of muscle — yet the inflammatory process affects larger groups of muscles and joints that haven’t been affected. The inflammatory response can cause collateral damage to these regions of muscle and joints — leading to a slower recovery process.
This is the main reason athletes use anti-inflammatories or ice after a workout or injury. Reducing inflammation limits the damage caused to nearby muscle and joint tissue.
Athletes often use ice immediately following a workout, and NSAID medications like Aspirin or Ibuprofen to limit inflammation for the remainder of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS symptoms for the next few days.
CBD offers something even better — and may be able to reduce most of the unhelpful inflammation without compromising its benefits towards the recovery process.
CBD has been shown to inhibit a wide range of inflammatory molecules but has little effect on reducing TGF-β and IL-10. In some studies, CBD even caused an increase in IL-10 .
This could explain how CBD may alleviate inflammation in the muscle tissue without compromising recovery times. The important role of IL-10 in the activation of new muscle cell differentiation could have a big impact on our ability to recover from muscle damage.
4. Improves The Quality & Duration of Sleep
A few of the most important aspects of muscle recovery happen while we sleep. This is when most of our recovery processes become active .
Some of the important processes that take place while we sleep include:
- Restoring damaged proteins like troponin, actin, and myosin
- Removing cellular debris from damaged areas
- Converting lactic acid to glucose in the liver
- Stimulating the differentiation of stem cells into new muscle fibers
Sleep deprivation can pose negative effects on recovery in a few key areas :
- May lead to a reduction in insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) — which we already pointed out as being one of the main triggers for differentiation of the muscle stem cells (satellite cells).
- May increase cortisol levels — which has a negative impact on protein synthesis.
- May cause a reduction in testosterone — which is heavily involved in the process of muscle recovery for both men and women.
A combination of CBD and THC in a pharmaceutical preparation of 1 part CBD to 1 part THC known as Sativex® has been tested repeatedly on its effect on sleep. Research has consistently shown Sativex® offers improvements on the quality of sleep, as well as the duration .
Other studies have found similar results using only CBD on rats . Researchers in this study found that CBD was able to increase the total sleep time, as well as improve the ability of rats to fall asleep.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the active ingredients in the cannabis plant. It’s a close relative to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — which is what makes marijuana psychoactive.
CBD and THC are both cannabinoids — organic compounds found alongside over a hundred other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant.
Don’t worry, CBD is completely non-psychoactive — meaning it won’t make you high.
Most companies selling CBD will source it from a specific form of selectively-bred cannabis called hemp — which is the same species as marijuana (Cannabis sativa) but won’t produce more than trace amounts (>0.3%) of the psychoactive ingredient, THC.
CBD supplements made from hemp are completely non-psychoactive due to the lack of THC. As a result, government regulators around the world don’t consider CBD a drug in the same way as marijuana. Most countries regulate CBD as a nutritional supplement instead — however, laws governing cannabis products change frequently, so be sure to check your local laws before placing an order.
CBD has a lot of suggested benefits — many of which have been backed up by scientific and anecdotal evidence. Supplements and pharmaceutical preparations containing CBD are being used by cancer patients to reduce side-effects of chemotherapy (such as nausea), by children with rare forms of epilepsy (such as Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndrome), and by millions of people around the world for symptoms like anxiety, pain, inflammation, and insomnia.
How can CBD have so many suggested benefits?
CBD achieves all of this because of its ability to interact with a regulatory system — rather than one specific organ. This allows CBD to affect many different organs around the body directly and indirectly — including the muscular system.
How Does CBD Work?
CBD works through a subsystem in the body found in all mammals called the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) involves a collection of special G-protein-coupled receptors (called endocannabinoid receptors), and hormones designed to interact with these receptors (called endocannabinoids).
The ECS is used to help regulate homeostasis throughout the body — which basically means internal balance.
Everything from temperature regulation to hormone levels needs to remain within a specific range. Homeostasis is the process of keeping these metrics within the ideal ranges. If we fall too far outside these ranges, we become sick and die.
CBD is a modulator of the endocannabinoid receptors. It attaches to them in a unique way and modifies their structure slightly to allow our naturally-produced endocannabinoids to bind to them more effectively. It also inhibits an enzyme designed to break down our endocannabinoids (called FAAH). This essentially primes the ECS — giving it a boost to do its job more effectively.
CBD doesn’t stimulate the endocannabinoid system directly, rather it helps upregulate the system we already have in place.
Conversely, the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC, activates the endocannabinoid receptors directly (rather than modifying them). Some of the receptors THC activates result in a release of serotonin in the brain — which produces the characteristic high from marijuana plants.
CBD also activates other receptors in the body, including:
- 5HT1A receptors (serotonin receptors) 
- Vanilloid pain receptors 
- PPARγ nuclear receptors 
Muscle Recovery 101: What Happens After Excercise?
There are three kinds of muscle in the human body — but the most relevant for the purpose of this discussion is the skeletal muscle.
The other two are smooth muscle (found in the internal organs and lining of the arteries), and cardiac muscle (a specific type of muscle only found in the heart).
The cells that make up skeletal muscle are uniquely suited to their job. They have more mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) than most other cells in the body. This is meant to help them meet the high energy demands of the muscles.
Muscle cells are also long and cylindrical, helping them form long fibers.
Each muscle cell contains functional units called sarcomeres — which are the part of the muscle that contracts and expands to allow for movement. Proteins called actin and myosin contained in the cells are responsible for expanding and contracting the muscle tissue to achieve movement using calcium and adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
When a nerve stimulates muscle cells with acetylcholine, (i.e. when you tell your arm to move) calcium is pumped into the cell, which allows actin and myosin to interact, causing the cell to contract (shorten). This step requires a lot of energy — in the form of ATP, produced in the mitochondria of the cell.
When the nerve stops activating the muscle cells, calcium is pumped back out of the muscle cell and phosphate (a form of transferable energy) dislodged, causing the muscle to expand again (lengthen).
What Makes Your Muscles Sore After a Workout?
By now, you’re probably familiar with the aches and pains that come along with exercising. These sensations are present no matter how often you work out — so what causes them?
Every time you exert your muscles, you cause microscopic damage to millions of tiny proteins that make up your muscle cells. This damage leads to inflammation of the muscle — which causes the characteristic aches, pains, and stiffness experienced after a workout.
The pain after a workout usually begins the following day.
This is referred to in the medical community as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
DOMS is a healthy part of the adaptation process. It only happens when we push our muscles harder than they have before, or in a different way than we’re used to. Over time, repeating these activities will produce less DOMS as the muscles recover and become stronger and more resistant to the same level of exertion.
How is DOMS Usually Treated?
DOMS will go away on its own — usually after about 3–5 days. Many athletes can’t wait this long to get back into the gym or on the pitch, so they’ll take measures to reduce the downtime.
Here are some of the most common treatments for DOMS:
- Rest — This is the simplest treatment, but takes the longest amount of time.
- Massage therapy — Physically massaging the muscles helps to stimulate the area, remove lactic acid buildup that may be causing more inflammation to the area, and force fresh blood into the affected area.
- Painkillers — Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen and Aspirin are often used to reduce inflammation and stop the pain. Unfortunately, these medications also come with negative side-effects.
- Ice packs — Cooling the area slows blood flow and reduces inflammation. This only works if applied directly after an injury or following a workout.
Can Athletes Use CBD? Is CBD Legal in Competitive Sports?
You may be skimming through this article and wondering — “is CBD legal in sports? Won’t cannabis make athletes fail a drug test if they use it?”
While cannabis is technically illegal, CBD is a clear exception.
In 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from its banned substances list. This essentially means the organization recognizes that CBD is not comparable to performance-enhancing drugs like amphetamines, hormones, or illegal drugs. This is how professional athletes like Nate Diaz from the UFC are able to use CBD without being banned from events.
With that said, make sure to check your local laws and regulations. Just because WADA allows CBD doesn’t mean your individual country or regulatory agency allows it too.
Drug tests used in professional sports can’t identify chemicals in the blood or urine unless you specifically go looking for them. They don’t provide a full list of compounds contained in the fluid.
Most drug tests for marijuana use synthetic antibodies to look for THC — or the metabolites our body creates after breaking down THC. Therefore, you’ll only fail a drug test for these substances if you’ve used a supplement that included THC. For this reason, if you’re competing in professional sporting events and are interested in using CBD, you should opt for a product made from third-party tested CBD isolate, rather than full-spectrum hemp — which may contain trace amounts of THC.
Here are some of the most common ways people are adding CBD to their supplement regimen:
- Add CBD oils to your protein or nutritional shakes
- Take CBD capsules or gummies
- Use CBD oils sublingually after a workout and on recovery days
- Use a vaporizer pen
- Apply CBD topicals directly over the affected muscles
How To Get The Most From CBD For Muscle Recovery
The recovery process is complex, and shortening the amount of time needed between recoveries relies on many different factors. Taking several different measures at the same time will go a long way in shortening the recovery time beyond what CBD has to offer on its own.
Some simple advice for getting more out of CBD for muscle recovery:
1. Drink Plenty of Water
The recovery process releases a lot of metabolic waste into the bloodstream that needs to be filtered out by the kidneys. Aim for at least 3 L of water per day.
2. Spend Time Stretching After A Workout
This helps to remove harmful lactic acid after a workout and improve blood flow to the affected muscles.
3. Visit A Physiotherapist
It’s ideal to seek professional help to monitor your recovery and provide specific advice.
4. Listen To Your Body
Sometimes the pain experienced after a workout is more than DOMS. If you feel a sharp or excruciating pain, or the pain is accompanied by a fever, visit a doctor immediately.
5. Combine Internal & Topical CBD
This is going to provide the best chance for CBD to exert its effects on the muscles.
6. Prioritize Sleep
As mentioned, sleep is a critical component of the recovery process. Take the time to rest so you can get back into the gym faster.
7. Seek High-Grade CBD Products Only
There’s a lot of poor-quality CBD products floating around, many of which lack the potency advertised on the bottle, and may even have contaminants like heavy metals which could negatively affect your recovery.
8. Combine Other Health Supplements With CBD
Some of the best supplements for promoting recovery are branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s), magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamin C.
9. Eat A Balanced Diet With Plenty of Fruits & Vegetables
In order to recover the body needs access to the raw materials. These raw materials come from our food. We need proteins (and their amino acid components) to build the structures of muscle tissue, along with trace nutrients and vitamins.
Key Takeaways: CBD & Muscle Recovery
CBD is a popular supplement for a lot of reasons. The active ingredient (CBD) interacts with the endocannabinoid system to regulate homeostasis throughout the body — including the muscles.
After a tough workout, the tiny microfilaments in the muscle fibers become damaged — leading to inflammation, pain, and a loss of strength in the muscle. Over the next 3-5 days, the body needs to repair this damage and strengthen the fibers. During this time, it can be difficult to keep exercising that muscle group, which can ultimately slow down your gains.
Injuries are even worse, sometimes keeping you out of the gym for months on end.
CBD offers several unique benefits to aid the recovery process:
- It reduces inflammation to prevent unnecessary damage to surrounding muscles
- It improves our quality of sleep to support the regeneration process
- It relaxes the muscles to stop spasms and tension
- It blocks the transmission of pain
These effects help explain why so many athletes report improvement in recovery times after using CBD.
In order to get the most out of CBD, we recommend you take a multifaceted approach, incorporating other measures into the recovery as well — such as massage, healthy dietary habits, taking other supplements, drinking water, and ensuring you get plenty of rest.
The field of CBD and muscle recovery is still young, and there are dozens of interesting research studies on this subject either in progress or planned for the near future. Be sure to stay tuned by signing up for our newsletter below to receive news and updates on cutting-edge research as it’s published.
5 Best CBD Products for Sleep, Recovery, Pain, and Stress
By now, you’ve probably heard there are a handful ailments that science and athletes say CBD can actually help with: trouble sleeping when you have a big meeting tomorrow, body pains after taking a digger off your mountain bike, stress or anxiety when responsibilities start piling up, and muscle recovery after a heavy leg or chest day.
But the key to leveraging the power of CBD is sorting the snake oil from the reliable formulas. That means finding brands that have intentional formulations.
For starters, that looks like using high-quality hemp. But we find it best to not just rely on CBD alone—there is an array of other plants that can act as medicine to help you sleep better or recover faster.
Enter Evn, a no-fuss CBD brand that focuses on high-quality extracts, trusted by world-class athletes.
Evn CBD products are made from non-GMO, organically grown hemp plants on family-owned hemp farms in Colorado. Smaller farms cared for by real people is usually a guarantee for higher-quality plants.
Evn then uses premium-grade CO2 equipment to extract the CBD from hemp plants for a cleaner distillation, and it tests all its final formulas at accredited, third-party independent labs to ensure everything is hitting the benchmarks for quality and consistency.
The result: You’re putting incredibly high-quality CBD in your body that’s been confirmed to be pure, reliable, and as effective as possible.
But there are two other reasons Evn CBD products stand out above others. For starters, its products focused on sleep, pain relief, and other ailments leverage more than just the power of CBD—the formulas have been thoughtfully crafted with other powerful herbs and plants proven by science to help you find relief, like curcumin for pain and L-Theanine for sleep.
But the real clincher: Evn offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee that says if you don’t find its products help your ailment, you get your money back. So there’s little reason not to give the brand trusted by athletes and everyday guys alike, a shot.
Here are our top picks.
For Sleep: Evn Sleep Powder
For as little research as we have on CBD, we are pretty confident it can help with sleep troubles: When people who had basic trouble sleeping took CBD before bed for a month, some 67 percent started scoring a better night’s rest, reports a large 2019 study in the Permanente Journal. Other research shows CBD might even help folks with sleep apnea and insomnia.
Evn’s Sleep Powder offers 20mg full-spectrum CBD per serving, which allows for the entourage effect wherein terpenes and other cannabinoids can work together to enhance the power of CBD.
But what makes this powder truly powerful is that, in addition to the cannabinoid, this product is elevated by a blend of vitamins and minerals all supported by science to either help you fall asleep faster or stay asleep longer, including magnesium, passion flower, L-Theanine, and melatonin.
The powder has a nice, slightly sweet vanilla-cacao flavor that mixes well in warm milk or a “mylk” alternative—a nighttime drink that’ll land you hours of uninterrupted rest for tomorrow’s adventures.
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For Pain: Evn CBD Curcumin Capsules
You’ve probably heard CBD’s psychoactive brother, THC, is a great remedy for pain, but you actually don’t need the mind-altering effects to score relief: A 2016 study in the European Journal of Pain found topical CBD helped relieve pain and inflammation in rats without any side effects, and a whopping 79 percent of the people in that 2019 Permanente Journal study said nightly CBD helped improve their anxiety and sleep.
Evn’s CBD Curcumin Capsules are ideal for soothing pain because, in addition to 25mg high-quality CBD, each capsule also contains 10mg curcumin. The bright yellow chemical in turmeric, curcumin has been proven to help reduce inflammation, theoretically supercharging pain relief.
Packed with that extra punch and all-natural relief, these capsules are ideal to keep on hand whether you’re looking to soothe achy joints after a long day of sitting at work or muscle soreness after a big day in the mountains.
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For athletic recovery: Evn CBD Salve
Now, CBD for athletic recovery is one area we don’t have a ton of human research to support, but it’s a common recovery tool we hear athletes swear by. And some animal studies report topical creams with pure CBD can help relieve arthritis pain and be both anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving.
Intended to be rubbed into skin after a heavy lifting day or long run, Evn’s CBD Salve provides 500mg broad-spectrum CBD per jar to help soothe tired muscles. The formula—beloved by world-class athletes and weekend warriors alike—is enhanced by eucalyptus and lavender oils. These medicinal plants not only help you relax further, but they also help make the balm smell lush as you rub it into achy muscles. The base of the salve is beeswax and MCT oil, which is super hydrating and easy on sensitive skin, so it’ll agree with most everyone.
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For Stress: Evn Natural CBD Oil 1000mg and Evn 10mg CBD Gummy Bears
If you regularly feel anxious or stressed, we couldn’t recommend CBD more. Studies show small doses of the cannabinoid can help with a range of anxiety-related disorders. Even the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that rats given CBD exhibit diminished anxiety and lower heart rates. In particular, CBD can help offset that late-night, anxiety-induced, wide-awake feeling—which most of us know all too well.
For stress and anxiety, we love Evn’s pure CBD formulas, which offer a super clean cannabinoid from organically sourced, small-farm hemp plants without any herbs or minerals to enhance the effect. For this, Evn has two products we love.
CBD Gummy Bears are ideal if you want a smaller, more controlled dose. You’ll know exactly how much CBD you’re getting with each gummy (10mg) and you can adjust your dosage higher or lower according to how you feel after one. It’ll take longer to kick in (your body has to digest it), but it’s often a more nuanced and steady stabilizer.
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Meanwhile, tinctures are more versatile if your stress and anxiety levels range day to day. They’re also ideal if you need the relief to kick in ASAP. Evn’s tinctures are made with broad-spectrum CBD, which means that it contains no trace of THC but does offer the benefits of other plant compounds.
One full dropper of Evn’s CBD Oil will deliver 50mg of the natural stress relief. That means if you just need a little help taking the edge off that heart-racing feeling, you can play with one quarter or half a dropper; then, on days where you’re looking for a serious unwind—say, after meetings or long travel—you can score more milligrams of relief without having to down a bunch of capsules or gummies.
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