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Fitness Benefits of CBD Oil – Does it Live up to the Hype?

Fitness Benefits of CBD Oil

As voters in more and more states choose to legalize marijuana for medicinal and increasingly for recreational use, related products like CBD oil are trending.

As they become more mainstream, cannabis-related products may be picked up by more people and for a variety of uses. There is some evidence that CBD oil can provide important health benefits and even improve fitness and aid in recovery.

It is important for trainers to stay up to date on trends in supplements like CBD oil. Learn more about this product, if it really can support better fitness and performance, if there are any risks, and who should and should not use it.

What is CBD Oil?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of many compounds found in cannabis, also known as marijuana. These compounds are known as cannabinoids and they have different properties, effects, benefits, and risks. Although related, they can trigger very different responses.

The cannabinoid THC is most responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana. CBD does not produce these effects. In other words, you cannot get high from CBD. CBD oil is simply an extraction of this compound from the cannabis plant. Don’t confuse it with hemp oil, which is a food product extracted only from the seeds of cannabis.

Check out this ISSA blog post to learn more about the benefits of plant-based proteins, including hemp seeds and products.

Because it produces no euphoria or psychoactive effects at all, CBD oil is not addictive. It will not cause withdrawal or put you at risk of developing dependence. However, as with any supplement, there may be important reasons you should not use it. Always check with your doctor before starting a new supplement or herbal.

Potential Fitness Benefits of CBD Oil

Cannabis has long been used by humans, for thousands of years in fact, for medicinal purposes. The modern research is still uncovering how useful CBD oil may be for a variety of health benefits. A current trend is to use CBD to aid recovery, boost energy, and enhance athletic performance. But does it really work? The evidence is mixed but mostly positive, although the hype may be exaggerated.

Did our ancestors really have it right when it came to diet? Check out this ISSA blog post on paleo foods and the benefits and drawbacks of this ancient diet.

Reducing Pain and Inflammation

One important way in which CBD oil may help athletes is by reducing pain and minimizing inflammation post-workout. Anyone who works out and exercises regularly knows that inflammation can result from a hard session. You also know that pain is not unusual after particularly hard exercise.

Any reduction in inflammation can reduce the pain associated with normal muscle pain after a tough workout as well as injuries. There is plenty of evidence from research that CBD can help reduce pain. The studies point to action at certain receptors but also a reduction in inflammation as explanations for how it works.1

Aiding Muscle Recovery

It is the ability to reduce inflammation that may make CBD oil a useful recovery supplement. Rigorous workouts and competitions during which you go all out cause tiny tears in muscle tissue, which in turn trigger inflammation. The body then goes to work repairing the damaged tissue, building it up to be stronger muscle tissue.

This is normal and leads to gains, but there are definitely times when you push it too far. The inflammation and muscle damage in these instances is no longer useful and can even reduce fitness gains and cause injuries. For recovery from difficult workouts, the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD oil may be helpful in healing the damage.

Better Sleep

We can all work out better and perform better when we sleep well, right? So if CBD oil can improve your sleep, it can indirectly improve your athletic performance. A review of research involving all types of cannabinoids and sleep found that there is evidence that CBD can directly affect sleep by interacting with related receptors in the brain. More research is needed, but there is definite potential for CBD to help people who struggle with sleep disorders and insomnia get more and better quality sleep.2

Relieving Stress and Anxiety

Another indirect way that CBD oil may boost your athletic performance and confer some fitness benefits is by managing anxiety and stress. Most athletes know the nervousness that comes ahead of competitions and the stress that can be caused by putting a lot of pressure on working out and succeeding.

These bad feelings may be alleviated by CBD oil. One study found that in people with anxiety disorders, treatment with CBD oil reduced nervousness, discomfort, and anxiety, and improved cognitive function ahead of a performance as compared to people who did not receive CBD oil.3

Improving Performance

This is where the fitness benefits of CBD oil become a little contentious. Some people will claim that CBD gives them more energy and increases their athletic performance abilities. Research to back this up is pretty limited.

However, CBD can certainly reduce pain and inflammation, which in turn can lead to a speedier recovery from injuries and workout-related muscle damage. This improved recovery can help you work out more and longer, so in that way, you could say that CBD oil supports fitness gains. And, the positive effects on sleep and stress may also help you perform better, especially on competition days.

Pros and Cons of Trying CBD Oil

There is definitely evidence that points to the usefulness of CBD oil for athletes and people who work out regularly. However, the proof isn’t perfect and the results may be different for each person. Before you try CBD oils in an attempt to perform better, and certainly before you suggest it to clients, know what the risks are, the cons, and how they may or may not outweigh the pros.

CBD Oil Side Effects and Interactions

As with any supplement or medicinal product, you need to weigh the benefits of CBD oil against its drawbacks. That includes considering side effects. Some people may experience no side effects, while others get them to some degree or severely. Potential side effects reported with CBD include fatigue, appetite changes, and diarrhea.

There can also be interactions between CBD and medications. This is one reason it is so important to talk to your doctor before trying any new supplement. An interaction may cause your medicine to be less effective or may even trigger a harmful reaction.

CBD Products Vary

A con to using CBD oil is that there is no regulation in place to ensure you get what you are paying for. Labels on products may claim pure CBD, but what you get may be much less. One recent study found that just 31 percent of CBD products sold online contained the levels the amounts claimed.3 Some products may even contain significant amounts of THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid. Be careful of the source of any CBD oil you try.

Do Fitness Benefits of CBD Oil Outweigh Risks?

Whether or not the benefits outweigh the risks is a personal choice. It is important to have all the information, pros and cons, in order to make this decision. You may have those clients eager to jump on the bandwagon of new fitness and health trends, but it’s wise to always urge caution.

Generally, CBD is considered to be safe. Whether it will really provide you with benefits is debatable, but for most people it is a low-risk option. Help your clients make a smart choice about this trending supplement by providing them with balanced, evidence-based information.

Interested in learning more about supplements and being better able to inform your clients? Check out the ISSA’s comprehensive Nutritionist Certification Course.



    1. Darkovska-Serafimovska, M., Serafimovska, T., Arsova-Sarafinovska, Z, Stefanoski, S., Keskovski, Z., and Balkanov, T. (2018). Pharmacotherapeutic Considerations for Use of Cannabinoids to Relieve Pain in Patients with Malignant Diseases. J. Pain Res., 11, 837-42. Retrieved from
    2. Babson, K.A., Sottile, J., and Morabito, D. (2017). Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the Literature. Curr. Psychiatry Rep., 19(4). Retrieved from
    3. Bergamaschi, M., Costa Queiroz, R.H., Chagas, M., Gomes de Oliveira, D., De Martinis, B., Kapczinski, F., Quevedo, J., Roesler, R., Schroder, N., Nardi, A., Martin-Santos, R., Hallak, J., Zuardi, A., and Crippa, J. (2011). Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients. Neuropsychopharmacology, 36(6), 1219-26. Retrieved from
    4. Bonn-Miller, M.O., Loflin, M.J.E., and Thomas, B.F. (2017). Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA., 318(17), 1708-9. Retrieved from

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