CBD, cannabidiol, is a phytocannabinoid produced naturally by the cannabis plant. It is one of its active ingredients, non-intoxicating and very famous for its potential virtues in cosmetics. And well-being. Its effectiveness continues to be demonstrated by scientific studies, its safety in use is highlighted, and its benefits never cease to amaze us.
But while fighters are always on the lookout for products adapted to their pace of life, allowing them to improve their performance and recovery while respecting anti-doping laws, CBD seems to appear as the ideal candidate. What are its therapeutic virtues so popular with these athletes? How to use CBD for combat sports? And finally, what is its situation concerning the legislation in force on doping products?
CBD, the ideal weapon for combat sports
The anti-inflammatory potential of CBD is remarkable. This is one of its indications which is now scientifically recognized in France. It can provide local as well as general relief. Its anti-inflammatory effect is explained by an indirect mechanism on the endocannabinoid system.
Indeed, although CBD does not interact directly with endocannabinoid receptors, it has an action on FAAH (Hydrolase of Fatty Acid Amides), enzymes for degrading endocannabinoids and more particularly anandamide, a neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of inflammation and synthesized on demand by the endocannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2.
It is the activation of the CB2 receptor that allows the modulation of the inflammatory response. Some of these receptors are present in the synovial membrane of the joints, a location particularly prone to inflammation in combatants. Thus, a supply of CBD will make it possible to inhibit the concentration of FAAH and, therefore, increase the concentrations of anandamide and their effect on regulating the inflammatory reaction.
A study published in 2020 tested the effectiveness of CBD on ten healthy adults by giving them 30 mg/day orally. The results were very positive; 90 minutes after taking it, the researchers observed a marked decrease in TNF, one of the blood markers of inflammation. This is a so-called RCT-type study, i.e. placebo-controlled and double-blind. This is one of the highest levels of evidence in clinical studies. The next step will be to renew it on a larger sample.
Promotes sleep and, therefore, muscle recovery
After intense efforts and potentially violent fights, the body and the mind need to let go to recover and maintain a level of performance over time. CBD helps ensure quality, restful sleep. Indeed, it promotes rapid fall asleep, without numbness upon waking and without affecting sleep cycles.
The other recurrent phenomenon among combatants concerns muscles and, more particularly, contractures after intense efforts. Here again, CBD is proving to be a great ally in recovery. Indeed, thanks to a double muscle relaxant and antispasmodic action, the muscle fibres will be put to rest, and the aches will be limited.
Help reduce stress and pain
Stress is common among high-performance athletes and especially when they are constantly in competition as in combat sports. CBD would be an effective anxiolytic and present much less side effects than conventional treatments often prescribed, such as benzodiazepines.
Knowing that blows and injuries are common, analgesics are part of the range of the fighter. Thanks to its muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory effect as described above, CBD helps relieve pain associated with intense training or violent fights. It offers a more suitable alternative to opioid-based analgesics. Indeed, although effective on pain, they have serious undesirable effects.
In an environment where performance often takes precedence over health, it is common to quickly fall into addiction to these analgesics. Sadly, this phenomenon is widespread in the world of sport as witnessed, for example, by Mark Kerr, former wrestling champion.
How to use CBD for combat sports?
There are different ways of consuming CBD. It can be taken orally, as swallowable drops or capsules of CBD oil, with or without food. It will then be digested and metabolized by the liver before entering the bloodstream and interacting with the endocannabinoid system.
This mode of administration, making it possible to ensure a prolonged effect over several hours, is particularly suitable for improving the quality of sleep or relieving stress. On the other hand, it presents a risk of interactions with other substances also metabolized by the liver. It is, therefore, essential to inform the medical profession of this intake.
CBD oil can also be taken in sublingual form. Drops are then placed and kept under the tongue for a few minutes to pass directly into the bloodstream through the veins and mucous membranes without waiting for digestion. Thus, the effect is felt after a few minutes but usually does not last more than an hour.
Massage balms and oils
Topical application using CBD balm or massage oil is particularly suitable for fighters. It allows targeted efficiency on the areas to be relieved. By bypassing the sublingual or oral route, CBD does not pass into the bloodstream. This helps to limit the risk of drug interactions as well as to achieve rapid relief.
By combining its application with therapeutic massages, it is better absorbed by tissues and muscles and will thus ensure deep muscle relaxation. This mode of administration is particularly suitable for relieving inflammation and local pain.
Is CBD a product considered to be doping?
The amalgamation of CBD and cannabis has been done for many years, and the difference with THC was not clear. The combatants must have irreproachable hygiene of life to ensure the expected performances. For fear that athletes consume this plant recreationally, CBD had been banned by the institutions that legislate competitions.
Although it is psychoactive because it affects the psyche, and that is why it exhibits an anxiolytic action, it is not intoxicating. In other words, it means it doesn’t get “high” as THC does. It is thanks to this distinction that it is now authorized in most sports tournaments. On January 1, 2018, WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) finally removed CBD from the list of prohibited substances:
“All natural and synthetic cannabinoids are prohibited, except cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabis, hashish and marijuana are prohibited. Products containing cannabinoids, including food and drink, are also prohibited. All synthetic cannabinoids mimicking the effects of THC are prohibited.”
CBD is an integral part of the routine of many fighters today. Its anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxant, soporific, anxiolytic and analgesic actions make it a major ally in helping to endure the traumas linked to particularly violent sports practices. Its neuroprotective potential, still tested in various clinical trials, has already been recognized by the US government as evidenced by this patent filed in 1998 and granted in 2003 by the US Department of Health and Human Services. This application is essential for their practice. Indeed, concussions and head injuries are common, and the consequences on health are increasingly documented.
Finally, it is not only CBD that has useful virtues for fighters. Myrcene, one of the terpenes present in the cannabis plant and cannflavin A and B, flavonoids also present in the plant, are said to have a remarkable anti-inflammatory action.
However, it is important to learn about the exact composition of the product because, as we recall, WADA specifies in its texts that “CBD is not prohibited; however, athletes should be aware that some CBD oils and tinctures extracted from cannabis plants may also contain THC and other cannabinoids, which could result in a positive cannabinoid result in a doping test.”