If you are an athlete, you are probably used to putting your body under a lot of stress. While training can improve your performance and promote overall health, it might also have some negative effects. 

What if an injury happens, or you are dealing with inflammation, and you have a race soon? That can be inconvenient for marathon runners and other endurance athletes. Fortunately, research is being conducted into how CBD may be able to benefit runners. Let’s discuss whether CBD can provide pain relief, accelerated recovery, and other benefits for marathon runners and endurance athletes.

What Are You Using for Pain Relief?

Whether you are a professional athlete or recreational runner, you’ve probably used an OTC pain reliever at least once. However, ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause dependence, and users may develop a tolerance level to them over time. This is one reason why some runners are turning to all-natural CBD instead.

CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is one of the cannabinoids found in hemp. CBD is known to activate receptors in the human endocannabinoid system (or ECS). This is promising because, among other important duties, your ECS plays a role in managing pain and inflammation.

Is CBD Legal for Athletes?

If you plan to participate in races and official competitions, you are probably wondering whether CBD is permissible.

The short answer is generally yes. Both WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) and USADA (the Anti-Doping Agency of the United States) have removed cannabidiol from the list of prohibited substances.

However, things are not that simple. CBD is derived from the hemp plant, which belongs to the cannabis family. Products that contain CBD often contain other cannabinoids, and some other cannabinoids—including THC—are prohibited by WADA.

We want to be precise, so let’s mention that WADA has restricted THC, which is a cannabinoid that has psychoactive characteristics (it can get you “high”). The restriction is 15 nanograms per milliliter.

It is important to be careful and use pure CBD products that contain no or little THC. Fortunately, federal regulation is in line with this restriction. According to the new Farm Bill signed in 2018, all hemp and hemp-based products should contain no more than 0.3% of THC. 

The Farm Bill makes the use of hemp-derived CBD legal on a federal level. However, you should still check your local state laws to confirm whether you can purchase and use CBD legally. As for official athlete tests, you are safe if you adhere to applicable THC limits.

How CBD May Work For Runners 

CBD is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis, and it is special for many reasons. Not only it doesn’t have any psychoactive properties, but an increasing number of studies are exploring a wide range of potential benefits of CBD. Not enough research has been conducted to substantiate any specific claims yet, but CBD users are hopeful for what the future may bring.

Cannabidiol works by interacting with the inner endocannabinoid system (ECS) that every human has inside their bodies. It sounds hard to believe, but scientists have only recently taken an interest in the ECS. 

The main task of this system is to maintain homeostasis, which can be described as balance within an organism. Since athletes often push their bodies to the maximum, they often rely on their ECS to stabilize their body after difficult workouts, practice sessions, or competitions.

Your endocannabinoid system produces experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) and 2-AG compounds, which are transferred from neurons to the synapse. These compounds connect to CB1 and CB2 receptors. They work to limit or prevent the release of specific neurotransmitters. For example, your ECS can decrease glutamate buildup and help limit seizure activity.

You can find CB1 and CB2 receptors in various body parts, including the immune system, spinal cord, and brain. CBD binds to these receptors to influence your central nervous system. At the same time, your endocannabinoid system helps your body deal with painful conditions like inflammation. 

What Are the Best Ways For Runners to Use CBD?

Runners must deal with numerous physical and mental challenges. Following are just a few of the hurdles they need to overcome on a regular basis:

  • Muscle and joint pain 

  • Inflammation

  • Performance anxiety

  • Cognitive overload

Joint and Muscle Pain

If you ask an average CBD user, they will tell you that a desire to obtain pain relief is one of the main reasons why they use these products. 

Everyone who trains regularly knows that pain can be frequent occurrence. Whether it is a short-term muscle problem or an injury that requires a prolonged recovery, you’ve surely experienced pain in your joints and muscles.

Pain can threaten your preparations or participation at a competition. You want to put in the best performance in every race, but that is not easy if you are dealing with pain.

Opioids and NSAIDs are potential solutions, but they may be addictive and can also pose a health risk. As a marathon runner or an endurance athlete, you need a product that you can rely on in the long run.

While it has not been approved as a pain reliever by the FDA, cannabidiol is being heavily researched for potential applications in this area. One hypothesis being explored by some studies is that CBD may block the perception of pain. Because it is an all-natural product, athletes hope that CBD will provide a safe, chemical-free solution for them.

Runners are subject to muscular wear and tear, inflammation, arthritis, and many other conditions. Many are hopeful that CBD can help counteract these hurdles.


The most common inflammation that athletes face is joint inflammation. Unfortunately, knees are prone to regular damage over time. Marathon runners and endurance athletes are particularly susceptible to it. It might seem a bit ironic since runners tend to be in better overall shape than much of the population, but their knees may have paid the price.

If you have problems with joint inflammation, surgeries are complicated and might compromise your future running plans. Arthritis medications are expensive, and they might not be allowed by anti-doping agencies. That is why many athletes hope that CBD can provide the relief they need.

Performance Anxiety

Have you ever felt nervous going into competition? It might be an important race, or you just want to be at your best. However, the anxiety you feel ahead of and during the competition might prevent you from performing at your peak.

You might even be having issues with general anxiety, and it is showing up in your running. It is not easy to deal with that, especially since anxiety medications might reduce your reflexes and even sedate you.

Cannabidiol is often used among working people looking for stress relief after a tiring day. It is also popular with public speakers that need a way to manage anxiety when they will be speaking in front of a crowd.

Anxiety can also play a major role in your sleep. Increased levels of stress may prevent you from falling asleep easily. Restless thoughts could transform into insomnia. If you aren’t sleeping well, you probably won’t be running well in the morning. That’s why endurance athletes need to take the steps necessary to ensure they get a good night’s sleep free from undue stress or anxiety. 

Cognitive Overload

You might be focusing on improving your physical performance. You will surely need to be in excellent physical condition for excellent running results, but it is important to remember that the mind and body are very connected. The body’s endocannabinoid system can help minimize oxidative damage to the brain and other cells. Thanks to that, it can maintain and promote optimal cognitive performance.

Having a strong mind is crucial if you plan to maintain your focus on the race and execute the strategy you designed before the competition. You might also need to adapt to a sudden change that occurs during the event. Keeping your cognitive performance optimal is an excellent way to counter any unexpected occurrences and stay focused on your goal.

How to Use CBD for Runners

The first thing to decide is how you want to consume CBD. You can consider purchasing CBD oil for sublingual use and quick effectiveness. Alternatively, pills and capsules take more time to act, but their effects last longer. Other options include sports drinks, energy bars, and other edibles, as well as topical solutions.

The quantity of CBD required to experience effects largely depends on the individual and the method of consuming it. We strongly suggest reading the instructions and starting with the lowest recommended dosage. Wait for a couple of days and increase the dose if necessary until you find optimal quantity to produce the effects you desire. Your doctor may also be able to help choose the dose that’s right for you.