How Can Cannabis and CBD Aid in Sports Recovery Featured Image with female standing with slight backbend and arms overhead in light purple top and black patterned yoga pants in a wooden studio

How Can Cannabis & CBD Aid in Sports Recovery?

We know that sports performance is a key factor to an athlete’s success, but what happens once training (or competition) ends & sports recovery begins?

Much like the “What came first? The chicken or the egg?” debate, one could argue that recovery is what drives performance, and therefore, should be priority #1.

Think about it. If you can’t recover from that training session, then how productive & useful will you be in the next one? Or, more importantly, during competition?

In this follow-up post, we’ll discuss how to maximize your recovery efforts in order to boost your future training & competition performance.

Keep reading to find out how cannabis & CBD along with optimal nutrition & sleep can aid in your sports recovery.

what comes first? sports performance or sports recovery? with a female runner stretching her right quadricep in a standing position on a road

>>> In case you missed it, check out this article on How Cannabis & CBD Affects Sports Performance first <<<

Information presented in this post is intended as a personal and professional representation of my views on food, nutrition, sports nutrition, and the use of cannabis. Be sure to check out our disclosures.

The contents of The Pineapple Expressionist is intended for informational and educational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Reliance on any information provided by this site is solely at your own risk. Consult a physician before starting any exercise regimen. 

What is Sports Recovery?

Regardless of what type of athlete you may be or how intense training was, every athlete needs to take time to recover from that training session through proper nutrition and rest.

Recovery is one of the most critical components to health, fitness, mental toughness, follow-through, and compliance. So there’s still lots of work to be done even after you head to the locker room!

Some of the most common side-effects to try to avoid after training include: “delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), perceived fatigue, muscle damage, and inflammatory markers after physical exercise”.

Sports recovery includes:

Image of Roy Kent from Apple TV's Ted Lasso in ice bath scene in blue trash can and the Roy Kent Chant - Roy Kent! He's here! He's there! He's every- f&$#in'-where! Roy Kent!
From Ted Lasso on Apple TV+
  • Active rest days (i.e. going for a walk, yoga, foam rolling)
  • Inactive rest days (i.e. complete relaxation, no exertion)
  • Muscle recovery (i.e. ice baths, Epsom salt soaks, deep tissue massage)
  • Proper nutrition & nutrient timing
  • Adequate hydration & rehydration
  • Stress management
  • Self-care healing habits
  • Healthy sleep habits

How Can Cannabis & CBD Aid in Sports Recovery?

The analgesic properties of cannabis & cannabidiol (CBD) seem to show promise for ease in muscle recovery with less time to recover along with anti-inflammatory properties to allow those working muscles to relax for repair.

image of thc & cbd for self-care with two vials of oil, leaves in mortar and pestle with burlap lying behind it

In addition, cannabis (with THC) stimulates appetite, but CBD alone will not. Take this into consideration as well when choosing to use cannabis and/or CBD for sports recovery especially if you have no issues with appetite.

Too much recovery nutrition is also possible, and if this is the case for you, shoot for strains higher in THCV to reduce added appetite stimulation.

>>> Check out this article for a more comprehensive overview of the synergistic nutrients that not only optimize the ECS, but can also aid in sports recovery <<<

CBD for Sports Recovery

When we exercise, we induce muscle “damage” as we work to hypertrophy the muscles to increase strength and stamina. In turn, the muscles become inflamed as they work to grow. 

Then in order to preserve that lean muscle tissue, we compensate through nutrition and post-recovery efforts (i.e. nutrient timing, Epsom salt bath, stretching, etc.) to reduce inflammation and promote muscle growth & repair.

And one of CBD’s most intriguing properties is how it works to help regulate inflammation.

CBD and Muscle Recovery

According to this study, high doses of CBD (i.e. 60 mg/kg/day) saw improvements in muscle strength and stamina along with reduced tissue degradation largely due to its ability to reduce the effect of mRNA expression and reduce plasma concentrations of IL-6 and TNFa, both proinflammatory cytokines. (3,4)

Foam rolling, active stretching & deep tissue therapy can be helpful in reducing recovery time & muscle soreness with a male massage therapist stretching a female athlete's leg and lower back while she is on her stomach

Lower doses of CBD (i.e. 20-40 mg/kg/day), however, appeared to show no functional benefit for muscle tissue recovery or repair. (3,4)

Keep in mind that the research in this area is still very much preliminary, yet incredibly promising. Additionally, not all CBD is created equal. Check your sources carefully.

THC for Sports Recovery

Much like CBD, THC can help to reduce inflammation in blood & muscle tissue, decrease pain sensations, create a state of euphoria for physical & mental relaxation, and assist those experiencing traumatic brain injuries with reduced mortality rates. (2)

Of course, the amount of THC present will determine the impairing effects, so be sure to start off with a lower dose (~1 – 2.5 mg), then slowly titrate up until you reach the maximum effective dose for you to feel the greatest desired effect (less is more when it comes to cannabis).

While CBD is federally legal, THC still remains federally illegal but legalized in some states. Check with your local state laws regarding cannabis use, manufacturing, sales, distribution, rules & regulations.

>>> FREE Cannabis & CBD Symptom Tracker <<<

Optimal Nutrition for Sports Recovery

Remember that cannabis can help to stimulate appetite, and could be just the thing an athlete needs to ensure they consume enough post-workout nutrition.

I’m not saying that this is what everyone should do, but for myself, cannabis can help improve my appetite after a high-intensity workout when appetite tends to diminish.

Nutrition for sports recovery is critical to prevent lean muscle tissue breakdown, repair working muscles in preparation for hypertrophy, restore glycogen (the storage form of glucose for later use/fuel) & initiate muscle protein synthesis, to name a few.

Image with wording Sports recovery nutrition should serve as tasty FUNctional fuel, NOT AS A PUNISHMENT with real images of bananas, spiraled pasta, dried rice and legumes, baguettes, eggs in shell in a bowl, oatmeal bowl, oranges, green apple, kiwi and a glass of water on a white background

Much like how CBD-to-THC ratios create different therapeutic effects, carb-to-protein ratios play a key role in sports recovery effectiveness.

Depending on your sport and goals, looking for carb-to-protein ratios of at least 2:1, but more optimally 3:1 (i.e. 75g carbs, 25g protein) when crafting your post-workout recovery meal or snack. (6)

Protein Power

According to this study, 0.72 g protein/lb (or 1.6 g/kg) of body weight appeared to maximize strength-training induced gains in muscle mass with other participants seeing results at protein intakes as high as 1.0 g protein/lb (or 2.2 g/kg) of body weight.

Take note that these are recommended ranges, not hard and fast numbers for every individual. Each individual will respond to a certain protein dose differently (much like cannabis!).

I’ve had several athletes see success with protein intakes as low as 0.55 g protein/lb (1.2 g/kg), whereas others have needed closer to 1.0 g protein/lb (2.2 g/kg). It just depends on the person, their body size & type, activity, intensity & frequency of training.

Don’t Skimp on Carbs! 

They’re not the enemy, they’ve just been given a bad rep.

Not only critical for insulin secretion to promote glycogen synthesis, ingesting 0.5-0.7g carbs/lb (or 1.1-1.5g/kg) of body weight within about 30 minutes post-exercise also helps to restore glycogen.

Glycogen is a branched chain of glucose molecules that’s hydrolyzed into single glucose molecules for fuel, highly similar in structure to starch. Choose complex or starchy carbohydrates* to aid in glycogen replenishment. (5)

Nutrient Timing

You may have heard of the “anabolic window”, which is a theory that promotes maximizing results by ingesting recovery nutrition within a certain timeframe or “window”. The general “rule” or “goal” of the anabolic window is to take in nutrition within 15-60 minutes after finishing a workout.

However, there are several variables with a few caveats.

For example, research promotes that glycogen is maximized & restored faster within a 30-60 minute window for individuals training multiple times a day, such as a professional athlete. Whereas the recreational athlete has more wiggle room with this recovery window.

Image of Keep Going. Keep growing. with muscular male athlete's back standing upright with arms out like the letter T on black background

In addition, muscle protein synthesis (MPS) can last for up to 36 hours in trained individuals.

At the 4-hour mark, we see a 50% elevation in MPS rates, then up to 109% within 24 hours post-exercise, allowing far greater flexibility than what’s typically perceived.

So when it comes to protein, research shows that you don’t need to ingest it as quickly as many, many supplement companies would have you believe. Instead, focus on your protein goal throughout the day.

Best Foods for Sports Recovery

There are lots of different ways to attack sports nutrition for recovery, and this list has some of my favorite food suggestions for athletes to ensure that their meals & snacks are not only nutrient-dense but tasty and functional!

Keep in mind that many foods often fall into more than one macronutrient category

Protein

Protein food sources for sports nutrition with images of dairy, raw beef, poultry and fish, nuts, seeds, milk, chocolate milk, protein powder in shaker and scoop, and nut butter spread on bread
  • Complementary proteins, especially if you’re a vegan or vegetarian athlete
  • Dairy (nonfat Greek yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, cream cheese)
  • Iron-rich foods
    • Beans
    • Eggs
    • Fatty fish
    • Fortified, whole grain cereals
    • Ground meats
    • Lean poultry
    • Red meat
    • Quinoa
  • Lowfat chocolate milk (often the perfect blend of protein, carbohydrates & fat post-workout – consider lactose-friendly varieties if consuming prior to a workout or right after a high-intensity session to ease digestion)
  • Milk or milk substitutes
  • Nut butter, nuts & seeds
  • Protein powder mixed with water (or milk for more calories/protein) & fruit of choice

Carbohydrates

  • Bagels*
  • Fruit & vegetables (to restore electrolytes/avoid muscle cramping)
    • Potassium-rich (K) produce such as cantaloupe, citrus fruits, melons, dried fruits, white & sweet potatoes, broccoli, & spinach
    • Iron-rich (Fe) foods: dark, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, fortified cereals
  • Pasta*
  • Potatoes/sweet potatoes*
  • Rice*
  • Tortillas
  • Whole grains* (not whole wheat – wheat is often refined like white bread products and dyed brown; whole-grain is really what you want to look for)
    • Crackers, sprouted grain bread, corn, pita
Try using butter/ghee or coconut/MCT oil with lactose-friendly milk in your coffee instead of traditional creamer with images of cantaloupe, spinach, avocado toast, butter, coffee, oils, nuts, salmon, bananas, hardboiled eggs, dried pasta and rice, potatoes and bread on a wooden backround

Fats

  • Avocado oil (for cooking)
  • Butter or ghee (for cooking, to add to coffee, foods, etc.)
  • Coconut or MCT oil (for cooking, to add to coffee, etc.)
  • Fatty fish
  • Ground meats
    • Depending on athlete’s goals, 97/3, 85/15, 80/20 are good options
    • Need to put on weight? Go for 85/15 or 80/20
    • Trying to lean out? Go for 97/3 or even 95/5 if you can find it
  • Hummus (as a condiment on wraps and sandwiches)
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Olive oil (for dressings at room temperature)

Other

  • Sodium/table salt (especially for salty sweaters)
  • Salt substitutes such as Mrs. Dash (potassium chloride – KCl) for those sensitive to salt or athletes with high blood pressure

The Importance of Sleep for Sports Recovery

If we’re not well-rested, then productivity, performance & focus will suffer. This is the time for your body to reset, and the quantity AND quality of your sleep will affect that.

The 5 Stages of Sleep

There are 5 stages of sleep. (1)

Stage 1 is the lightest sleep stage lasting ~20 minutes in which you can be easily woken.

Stage 2 involves deeper sleep with greater difficulty to wake & accounts for about half of that night’s sleep.

Stage 3 is comprised of a few minutes of transition time (we don’t spend too much time here).

Stage 4 involves deep sleep & muscle paralysis.

Stage 5 is REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the deepest stage of sleep.

The 5 Stages of Sleep Infographic, Stage 1 lightest sleep stage lasting approx. 20 minutes easy to be woken, Stage 2 deeper sleep with greater difficulty to wake & accounts for about 1/2 of that night’s sleep, Stage 3 a few minutes of transition time (we don’t spend too much time here), Stage 4 deep sleep muscle paralysis, Stage 5 REM sleep deepest stage of sleep
Pin it for later!

However, many people, athlete or not, do not get quality and/or enough sleep. Sure, maybe you “slept” for 8 hours like we’re always told to do, but how long were you actually asleep? Which stage did you get to?

For those with sleep issues, disruptions or disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea, achieving stage 4 or 5 may be nearly impossible. But how can you tell? Well, how do you feel when you sit up in bed first thing in the morning?

If you feel refreshed with a quick squint of your eyes & a big yawn wakes you up, congratulations! You just got some quality sleep & are hopefully ready to take on the day.

Or did you wake up feeling groggy, grumpy, and (already) tired? Then there’s some room for improvement.

“Bud”time for Bedtime Prep

Luckily, there are a few things we can do to improve our sleep patterns & quality (with or without the help of cannabis!). And that’s just one more reason why I love this plant so much. Any and all are welcome, but we also love anyone who doesn’t partake.

It only adds benefit to those who tolerate it well (which is most, not all), but removing it or abstaining also causes no harm whatsoever. I love when you can live synergistically without judgment.

Gif of Boo from Disney's Monsters, Inc. giggly then passing out to sleep in bed

Bedtime Prep Checklist (1)

  • Try to avoid eating ~3 hours before bedtime
  • Make yourself some decaf tea
  • Draw a warm bath with Epsom salt
  • Dim lights to “mood” lighting with candles
  • Turn on ambient music at a low volume
  • Set an essential oil diffuser with calming scents like lavender or eucalyptus
  • Put all electronics away 60 minutes before bed

Bedroom Prep Checklist (1)

  • Reduce EMF exposure in your bedroom by removing or turning off all electronics
  • Use a non-electric alarm clock instead of a cell phone
  • Meditate, candle gaze or lightly stretch 10-30 minutes before getting into bed

Consider keeping a sleep journal. Goldleaf has beautiful journals & wall prints that can help you track the effects of cannabis or you can check out my FREE Cannabis & CBD Symptom Tracker.

Best Terpenes & Cannabinoids for Sleep

Terpenes (1):

  • Limonene: Reduces symptoms of anxiety & depression
  • Linalool: Provides calming sedation & reduces stress
  • Myrcene: “Couch lock” takes effect at levels of 0.5% or higher

Cannabinoids (1):

  • Cannabidiol (CBD): Alerting properties to help balance effects of THC
  • Cannabinol (CBN): Up to 10x more sedative than other cannabinoids (due to THC oxidation as cannabis buds age)
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): Best for sleep in low doses
    • Take caution. Some may find it helpful for sleep, but could create paranoia in others making the mind & heart race
    • If you’re extra sensitive or new to THC, either try a different strain or CBD on its own first since it can help reduce anxiety, then slowly play with CBD-to-THC ratios
      • i.e. start with something more conservative (you may not even feel the effects of THC at first) such as a 10:1 CBD-to-THC ratio, and as you build a tolerance, start to level off those ratios → 5:1 → 3:1 → 2:1 → 1:1
    • Common ratio for optimal sleep is a 2:1 CBD-to-THC ratio, regardless of delivery method
Image for "Bud"time for Bedtime 2 to 1 cbd to thc ratio for optimal sleep, regardless of delivery method with disclaimer where legal and for those who can tolerate without adverse/awakening effects. Which delivery method will you choose? with images of oils, tinctures and cannabis bud

Best Delivery Methods & Dosing for Sleep

Inhalation via Smoking or Vaporizer

  • Instant effects that usually last 1-3 hours
  • Best to help you get to sleep

Sublingual Tinctures

  • Effects usually take 30-45 minutes to set in
  • Can last throughout the night to help you stay asleep
  • Add to caffeine-free teas as you wind down for the night

Edibles*:

  • Effects can take 30 minutes to 2+ hours to set in
  • Can last throughout the night to help you stay asleep
  • Due to first pass through the liver, edibles can be more potent with longer-lasting effects into the morning

*Responses will vary based on body type, sex, metabolic rate, usage frequency, genetics, etc.

“Start low & go slow” to find your optimal dose. You can find all this info and more with my “Bud”time for Bedtime: Insomnia Tips with the Help of Cannabis free download. Print it out then hang it on your fridge as your daily wind-down reminder!

Product image for Budtime for Bedtime insomnia tips with the help of cannabis with bedtime and bedroom prep checklists from the pineapple expressionist
Click the image above for instant download

Sports Recovery with Reefer

Depending on what you need to accomplish next & where you’re looking to target pain relief will help you determine how to use cannabis or CBD to recover. 

Hemp-derived CBD balms, lotions & salves can help to alleviate sore muscles with localized relief. Can be used to spot-treat specific painful or sore areas with a female pouring cbd lotion onto her hand over a tray of cbd balms and salves

For example, do you need to go to work right after your training session? Go heavier on CBD (possibly even avoiding THC depending on where you live/local laws, your tolerance & functional productivity). 

Hemp-derived CBD balms, lotions, and salves can be excellent additions to calm inflamed muscles while delivering localized relief with no psychoactive effect.

Or was training at the end of your day and all that’s standing between you & your bed is your recovery meal (and maybe – definitely – a shower)?

Then consider using either CBD or a combination of CBD and THC (remember the Entourage Effect!). Hemp-derived or broad spectrum CBD balms, lotions, and salves are also great to use here in conjunction with other delivery methods.

Use your BEST judgment, be smart, don’t dose too high, and keep some extra CBD around in case you start to get a little too uncomfortable. You choose when and how you incorporate cannabis into your workouts and recovery. 


>>> If you found this article to be useful, then you’ll want to make sure to go back & read: How Does Cannabis & CBD Affect Sports Performance? before getting started on your fitness journey! <<<


Share this post with anyone looking to respect their own recovery a bit more & don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter & follow me on Instagram so you never miss an update!

Until next time, go Pineapple Express Yourself!


Prefer to make your own cannabis-infused products at home? Learn how to here. Downloadable Decarboxylation Time & Temperature Chart included!

And check out these awesome (and easy) recipes from Emily Kyle, MS, RDN, HCP.

>>> How to Make CBD Oil at Home <<<

Level up your protein powder game:

>>> How to Make Cannabis Oil Powder (THC or CBD) <<<

>>> All-Natural Cannabis Recovery Drink Recipe <<<


This post contains affiliate links* below. If you make a purchase, I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Want to teach others about cannabis? Become a Holistic Cannabis Practitioner (HCP) through the Holistic Cannabis Academy*! Follow this link to earn 50% off the total price at checkout!


Please be sure to check out our disclosures.


References:

  1. Matson, J. (n.d.). Insomnia: Integrating Cannabis for Optimal Sleep. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://vimeopro.com/holisticannabisnetwork/hca-signature-course/video/203226928

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top