Cyclists are often looking for ways in which to increase performance. A combination of a specific training plan and nutrition strategy is developed and executed to progress. Supplements have played a crucial role in these plans and CBD oil has emerged recently with claims that adding it to your daily repertoire can boost recovery, improve your sleep and have a positive impact on your training.
What is CBD?
CBD is one of two components found naturally in the cannabis plant along with THC, the psychoactive constituent also found in cannabis, and which provides the high loved by marijuana aficionados. CBD, on the other hand, helps the body’s endocannabinoid system perform its neuron modulation duties, promoting pain relief and other good qualities.
To cyclists, the relevant and most important benefits include pain relief, improving sleep quality, anti-inflammation, and recovery. Athletes are swearing by it, including cyclists, triathletes, and others in the endurance realm.
While CBD science is thin on the ground at this stage, hemp products are being used to help with sleep, mood disorders, eczema, epilepsy, arthritis, and general wellbeing.
Nick Morgan, the founder of UK-based sports nutrition consultancy, Sports Integrated, noted: “Recovery is a very holistic need, but CBD seems to be locked into the pain and soreness and relaxant effect.”
Currently, most of CBD’s performance benefits haven’t got any real scientific proof. However, there are around 100 CBD trials underway or awaiting science journal publications from international universities, research institutions, and CBD players.
When these studies are published, this scientific data will benefit the sector and provide conclusions that are supported by credible evidence. At the moment, the non-scientific data we currently have varies greatly depending very much on the CBD format, dosage, consumption regime and type of activity engaged in.
Mark Tallon, Ph.D., managing director of UK firm, Legal Foods, a nutritionist and someone who has himself competed in Ironman events, called out the sector for a gaping lack of scientific data.
“There are no studies that relate to the dose used in commercial low-dose CBD products except an early assessment study that found 75mg CBD oil per day could improve sleep, reduce appetite and enhance quality of life,” Dr. Tallon said.
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Which CBD is best?
There are two main types of CBD Hemp oil that are available to you, Broad spectrum CBD oil and Isolate CBD oil. Broad-spectrum oil contains the entire plant with a near-total reduction of THC (up to 0.2% THC) and Isolate CBD Oil is pure CBD.
Isolate CBD is used by professional athletes as THC is on the list of banned substances. The issue with this is that by isolating the CBD you lose some beneficial properties of the broad spectrum oil (the phytocannabinoids are lost) and the results may vary.
If you’re going to buy a CBD supplement, you may want to research the benefits of broad-spectrum CBD oil versus isolated CBD extraction.
Another problem is that the current global CBD market is somewhat of a wild west. Hence the controversial tag. Authorities don’t seem to know how to regulate it with clarity and consistency; enforcement is erratic; product quality fluctuates wildly, especially with fast-buck, fly-by-night entities flooding the marketplace.
“Many brands claim to have found or are using the highest quality available – but even more nutritionists or practitioners say this is almost impossible to evaluate/understand – so how could a consumer? Reputable brand choice is key,” Morgan said.
That said, there are serious players too and even health food retail behemoth Holland & Barrett has a shelf devoted to ‘Sports CBD’.
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The dope on CBD’s doping problem
While CBD vendors such as Colorado-based iKOR Labs sponsor athletes like 3x Ironman winner Chris Leiferman and claim their wares are THC-free, CBD products have led to doping infractions, especially in the US. The problem lies in that CBD and THC are challenging to separate.
So while an independently tested product may win a QC Certificate of Analysis (CoA) stating it is THC-free, it may just be below the tested threshold of, say, 1mg of THC. Traces of THC frequently remain, and this has tripped up several athletes if more sensitive anti-doping testing is applied.
Colorado-based triathlete Lauren Goss was handed a 6-month ban by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) just last month for THC levels in her blood. She blamed on a CBD cream she was using out-of-competition for a ‘musculoskeletal injury.’ Despite the fact the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had removed CBD as a banned substance last year and raised the legal THC limit from 15 nanograms/millilitre to 150ng/ml, Goss and others have fallen foul of CBD’s ongoing THC problem.
But the fact CBD supplement use remains widespread among elite athletes prepared to risk a doping ban is perhaps the best testimony to how effective CBD can be.
CBD’s legal status
Like Ketone-Esters, CBD is legal for athletes. As there has yet to be a successful CBD application to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), most CBD sources are classed as unauthorised Novel Foods in the EU. Firms, including TTS, are awaiting verdicts on their lodged CBD dossiers.
The EU Novel Foods stance has proven open to interpretation by EU Member States – along with interplay with other legal realms like cosmetics and pharmaceuticals – and thus creating a state-by-state legal grey area.
TTS has chosen to wait for EU Novel Foods approval and does not sell CBD food supplements presently.
Others have chosen not to wait.
UK analysis raises serious QC questions
Independent analysis published just this week of 31 CBD products in the UK which found almost half contained banned psychoactive compounds cannabinol (CBN) and/or THC above the 1mg legal limit, according to NutraIngredients.
Many of the products did not meet their CBD content label claims.
The independent analysis was commissioned by frustrated UK CBD manufacturer, TTS Pharma. “This study represents the vast majority of brands, and spans the leading high-street retailers including what we believe to be the top four selling products currently available,” TTS Pharma CEO Mark Tucker said in the story.
Tucker referenced the sports nutrition sector, noting athletes should look to products that have been third party tested by services such as Informed-Sport, although as yet, none are.
In short, CBD appears to be widely used by professional athletes and some of which are willing to risk prosecution to receive its benefits. The data is currently quite subjective and scientific data is on its way to categorically tell us whether we should be stocking our cupboards with this potentially brilliant supplement. Until then if you are to try CBD, it would be advisable to consult your doctor.