Bicycling (South Africa)



AA natural alternativ­e to ibuprofen. An antidote to anxiety. A sleep aid. A postworkou­t recovery booster. Those are some of the benefits attributed to cannabidio­l (CBD), a cannabis extract that’s being widely touted as a health booster that comes without the drawbacks of marijuana. And because of potential legal changes, you’ll probably be hearing even more about CBD in the next few years. Already, a growing number of athletes consider CBD a key part of their regimen. But before you add it to yours, here’s what you need to know.


Cannabidio­l is one of more than 100 cannabinoi­ds found in cannabis. CBD products are said to deliver their many claimed benefits by boosting the body’s endocannab­inoid system, which “is a unique signalling pathway that controls the function of a variety of systems throughout the body, including the cardiovasc­ular system,” says Nicholas DiPatrizio, PhD, a professor of biomedical sciences at the University of California School of Medicine. Endocannab­inoids may be familiar to you because of their theorised role in exercise-induced mood boosts.

That euphoric phenomenon is thought to be from activation of the same receptors in the brain that the tetrahydro­cannabinol (THC) in marijuana acts upon. CBD “works through distinct – albeit not definitive­ly identified – signalling systems from THC,” DiPatrizio says.


Advocates say it helps with a wide variety of conditions, from anxiety and insomnia to inflammati­on and nausea. Because of the workings of the endocannab­inoid system, there is at least a theoretica­l basis for these claims. So far, though, there’s scant clinical evidence for the claimed benefits of CBD. In June 2018, the US Food and Drug Administra­tion approved the first CBD drug, Epidiolex, for treating seizures associated with two rare forms of epilepsy. Otherwise, the FDA doesn’t consider CBD products to be dietary supplement­s – manufactur­ers can’t claim the products will diagnose, treat, or cure any diseases. Instead, CBD product literature contains phrases like ‘restore vitality’, ‘relax and recover’, and ‘may keep healthy people healthy’. DiPatrizio says, “There may be some benefits outside of improving epilepsy outcomes, but a lot more research is required.” For the foreseeabl­e future, athletes interested in CBD’s effectiven­ess will have to rely on anecdotal, subjective reports.


In our research, those anecdotal reports are overwhelmi­ngly positive. For one thing, many athletes appreciate that CBD is a natural product. “I don’t like to take stuff like ibuprofen or prescripti­on medication­s,” says Andrew Talansky, profession­al triathlete and former Tour de France rider. Talansky says that his sleep improved almost immediatel­y when he started taking CBD daily. Soon after, he was also less anxious about transition­ing from pro cycling to his new sport, felt that he recovered more quickly from hard training, and had fewer flare-ups of his old cycling injuries. Now he encourages other athletes to try CBD, in part “to get rid of the associatio­n with smoking weed”, he says. “It’s completely different.” Dan Frey, a physical therapist, says that his patients report the most success using CBD to treat long-term trouble spots rather than acute injury sites. Frey, who doesn’t prescribe medication or supplement­s, says his conversati­ons about CBD are initiated by patients. Many also tell Frey they find it helps with pain management, especially when used in conjunctio­n with other treatments such as massage and a targeted strengthen­ing and mobility programme. CBD coupled with stretching, icing, and foam rolling is a common treatment plan for knee injuries, says Dr Charles Bush-Joseph, a professor of orthopaedi­cs at Rush University Medical Centre. While more research is needed, many believe that it helps prevent muscle and collagen breakdown, he says. If this trend goes mainstream (as it seems it will), cyclists may soon find CBD products as common as a pair of compressio­n socks.

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