Why are Runners Trying CBD?
Although they may seem like strange bedfellows, cannabis and sports mix surprisingly well. Many athletes turn to cannabis as a gentler alternative to alcohol, and others use it for pain or anxiety. A recent survey of 1,161 athletes found that those who used cannabis tended to be highly active. 71% of the current cannabis users exercised between 6–15 hours per week. About 49% of the cannabis-using athletes suffered from sports-related pain and 25% were runners1.
Is CBD Beneficial for Runners?
Running is notorious for causing wear-and-tear on the body. In one study, 79% of runners suffered at least one injury during a six-month observation2. Many runners' pains and strains come from increasing the intensity of training sessions too quickly. For those who compete in long-distance events, the need for intense training can conflict with their body’s need for rest. When they get hurt, the forced hiatus from their sport can put a dent in their progress and their well-being.
For Anna, 30, an injury almost stopped her from running. After nearly three years and several half-marathons, she’d come to rely on the mood-boost she got from her training. “It changes my entire day if I've gone for a run in the morning,” she says. “I feel less stressed and more positive.” About four years ago, she developed painful shin splints and a knee issue. That’s when she started taking CBD.
The main benefit most athletes are chasing from CBD is anti-inflammatory relief3. Normal exercise breaks down muscle, and we gain strength when it gets built back up. This process requires a certain amount of inflammation to trigger rebuilding, but beyond that point, too much inflammation leads to stiffness, soreness and impaired function.
Many distance runners use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), on a regular basis to manage their inflammation state. But recent research is shedding light on the downsides of frequent NSAID use. More and more athletes are turning to CBD as a gentler alternative.
Why Not Stick with Advil?
“I was taking Ibuprofen daily for pain—like the maximum amount you should have,” says Christopher, a veteran ultra-marathoner who nearly got sidelined by knee surgery and painful Achilles tendonitis. “I knew that wasn’t going to work long term, so I changed up my training style and my recovery plan, which included introducing CBD to my routine.”
Daily ibuprofen has been shown to potentially pose risks to the heart, kidneys and digestive system4, something Christopher was all too aware of. “I didn’t get into running to make my health worse!” he jokes.
"I used to take an extra-strength Advil before a run and in the days after when recovering. But I didn't like relying on that or want to be taking Advil long term,” says Anna. “CBD, I find, has drastically reduced the amount of anti-inflammatory or painkiller meds I take and my recovery from muscle soreness after a long run is much quicker.”
Is CBD Safe for Runners?
In early 2019, the World Health Organization recommended that the United Nations remove pure CBD from its list of controlled substances5. In the attached report, it referenced decades of research where CBD has been found non-intoxicating6, not addictive7 and noting that no toxic dose has been found so far8.
What Does a Runner’s CBD Routine Look Like?
"I use a CBD oil before bed several nights a week, usually after I've gone for a long run in the morning," says Anna. "I often wake up throughout the night if I've gone on a long run, and my muscles are sore, but with CBD, I sleep straight through." As any athlete could tell you, sleep is an important part of training and recovery. The greatest muscle rebuilding happens during our nighttime rest.
For Christopher, some CBD oil in his post-run smoothie proved effective as a natural anti-inflammatory. He also takes a 20 mg CBD capsule before bed each night, whether he ran that day or not. “It helps me sleep deeply, which is one of the most important parts of recovery for me, I’ve come to learn,” he says. He’s even tried a topical balm that combines CBD and arnica, a plant-based solution to muscular aches and joint pain.
All this, combined with a slower, more deliberate approach to training has changed the way Christopher runs. "It's been interesting during this chapter of my running career to see how these different products have improved how I feel both during and after a race, or even on a training run."
“I’ve kind of changed mindsets now, where running brings me joy again.”
How Much CBD Should I Take for Running?
According to a medically-reviewed article by Healthline.com, CBD has been studied in doses from 20 mg to 1,500 mg per day. They recommended starting near the lower end of the range (roughly 20–40 mg per day) and increase by 5 mg per week until you get the relief you’re looking for. The amount you will need depends on your own unique body chemistry. Even though CBD has does not cause toxicity at any dose, it’s a good idea to start low so you can find your optimal dose and don’t take more of the expensive oil than necessary.
Recipe: CBD Energy Balls
Are you looking for an easy way to incorporate CBD into your running routines? Try these tasty oatmeal balls designed by Chef Elycia Ross. She took time out from her work as head chef on Lil Truck on the Prairie, Calgary’s premier gourmet food truck, to create a recipe for us. It’s a handy, nourishing, anti-inflammatory snack for runners on the go.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Setting time: 15 minutes
CBD content: 20 mg per ball
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil (not infused)
- 2 cups old fashioned oats
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/2 cup almond butter
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 6 Tbsp CBD-infused coconut oil
We used a homemade CBD oil with approximately 16 mg CBD per ml. Adjust your amount depending on the strength of your oil. Aim for about 20-40 mg per serving.
1. In a large bowl combine all ingredients.
2. Mix with a wooden spoon until completely combined.
3. Once combined, place in your refrigerator for 15 minutes.
4. After the 15 minutes, form the balls with 1/8 cup in each portion.
5. Press and roll in your hands to keep the ball together.
6. Place in an airtight container and keep in your refrigerator for up to one month.
 Zeiger JS, et al. Cannabis use in active athletes: Behaviours related to subjective effects. PLoS One. 2019;14(6):e0218998.
 Lun V, Meeuwisse W, Stergiou P, Stefanyshyn D. Relation between running injury and static lower limb alignment in recreational runners. Br J of Sports Med. 2004;38(5):576-580.
 Nagarkatti, P, et al. Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future Med Chem. 2009;1(7);1333-1349.
 Marcum ZA, Hanlon JT. Recognizing the Risks of Chronic Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug Use in Older Adults. Ann Longterm Care. 2010;18(9):24-27.
 Ghebreyesus TA. (2019 January 24). UNSG Letter ECDD41 Recommendations on Cannabis. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/UNSG_letter_ECDD41_recommendations_cannabis_24Jan19.pdf?ua=1. Accessed on 3 Oct 2019.
 Haney M, et al. Oral Cannabidiol does not Alter the Subjective, Reinforcing or Cardiovascular Effects of Smoked Cannabis. Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. 2016;41(8):1974-1982.
 Martin-Santos R, et al. Acute effects of a single, oral dose of d9- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) administration in healthy volunteers. Curr Pharm Des. 2012; 18(32):4966-79.
 Iffland K, Grotenhermen F. An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. 2017;2(1):139-154.