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.
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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:
- 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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
In addition, muscle protein synthesis (MPS) can last for up to 36 hours in trained individuals.
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
- Complementary proteins, especially if you’re a vegan or vegetarian athlete
- Dairy (nonfat Greek yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, cream cheese)
- Iron-rich foods
- Fatty fish
- Fortified, whole grain cereals
- Ground meats
- Lean poultry
- Red meat
- 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
- For more information, check out The Protein Power Packet + CBD & Sports Bonus.
- 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
- For more information, check out Eat Your Electrolytes.
- Potatoes/sweet potatoes*
- 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
- 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)
- 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.
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.
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
Best Terpenes & Cannabinoids for Sleep
- Limonene: Reduces symptoms of anxiety & depression
- Linalool: Provides calming sedation & reduces stress
- Myrcene: “Couch lock” takes effect at levels of 0.5% or higher
- 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
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
- 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
- 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!
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.
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.
Until next time, go Pineapple Express Yourself!
And check out these awesome (and easy) recipes from Emily Kyle, MS, RDN, HCP.
Level up your protein powder game:
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- Matson, J. (n.d.). Insomnia: Integrating Cannabis for Optimal Sleep. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://vimeopro.com/holisticannabisnetwork/hca-signature-course/video/203226928