Review hints at CBD’s performance enhancing qualities as EC decision awaits

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Review hints at CBD’s performance enhancing qualities

Related tags Cbd Sports nutrition narcotic

Cannabidiol (CBD) may have its uses as a performance-enhancer in sports after a review outlines the compound’s role in reducing inflammation and anxiety as well as increasing the quality of sleep.

Writing in the Sports Medicine – Open​ journal, ​the Australian-based team points out that current evidence is preliminary and inconsistent, with most preclinical studies involving laboratory animals.

The researchers write that despite the links, rigorous, controlled investigations clarifying the utility of CBD in the sporting context are warranted.

“Such [preclinical] studies are limited in their generalisability to athletes (and humans in general), and often administer high doses of CBD that may be difficult to replicate in humans,”​ says the team, led by Dr Danielle McCartney, postdoctoral research associate at The university of Sydney in Australia.

“The central observation is that studies directly investigating CBD and sports performance are lacking, and until these are conducted, we can only speculate in regard to its effects.”

The review cites clinical studies that report CBD’s role in exerting physiological, biochemical, and psychological effects on the body opening up possibilities that professional athletes may gain from its use.

These include anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and analgesic effects as well as protection against gastrointestinal damage and promote healing of traumatic skeletal injuries.

Early stage clinical studies also suggest that CBD may be anxiolytic in “stress-inducing” situations and in individuals with anxiety disorders.

EC decides in September

Interest in CBD has intensified among the general population as evidenced by an exponential rise in internet searches for ‘CBD’ throughout Europe and indeed globally.

Key to its popularity are the low dose (e.g. 5–50 mg·d−1) supplements containing CBD in oil or capsule form that have become available online and over the counter in pharmacies and health food stores.

This includes some varieties that are marketed specifically to recreational and elite athletes from retailers Holland and Barrett, Impact sports, and EndoSport.

Regulation concerning CBD containing products took another twist last month as the European Commission delayed 50 CBD-related Novel Food applications until September as it decides whether CBD extracted from the plant should be considered a narcotic.

The decision only affects food items containing naturally occurring CBD and not synthetic versions.

Depending on the Commission’s decision, a ruling that decides CBD is a narcotic effectively bans CBD for sale across Europe.

Ergolytic effect

The review coincides with another recently published review​ that concludes that cannabis consumption has an ergolytic effect on exercise performance and does not act as a sport performance enhancing agent.

The review, which included 8 peer-reviewed publications as well as 10 literature reviews found cannabis consumption prior to exercise resulted in a reduction in performance (reduced ability to maintain effort, physical/maximal work capacity).

The research team also found its consumption led to undesired physiological responses such as increased heart and breathing rate, myocardial oxygen demand and neurological effects on balance with an increased sway noted.

But as the Australian team points out the central observation in its findings is that studies directly investigating CBD and sports performance are lacking.

“Until these are conducted, we can only speculate in regard to its effects,”​ the team says, which include colleagues from Griffith university and the Menzies Health Institute also based in Australia,

“Nonetheless, this review suggests that rigorous, controlled investigations clarifying the utility of CBD in the sporting context are clearly warranted.”

Source: Sports Medicine - Open

Published online:

“Cannabidiol and Sports Performance: a Narrative Review of Relevant Evidence and Recommendations for Future Research.”

Authors: Danielle McCartney et al.


30 Sep - 14 Oct 2020     Three Online Events




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Brain Performance - 14 October


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