Is CBD Trail Running’s Wonder Drug? Create a personalized feed and bookmark your favorites. Already have an account? Join Trail Runner Magazine Create a personalized feed and bookmark Intrigued about CBD and how it can help your running and recovery? Here's our round-up of products to help you do just that The hottest thing going right now in the running market when it comes to performance and recovery is definitely CBD or cannabidiol, one of the many
Is CBD Trail Running’s Wonder Drug?
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Scott Gold loves the grind and exhilaration of long technical trail runs as much as anyone. The challenge of running over rocks, roots and ridges provides an ideal blend of physical and mental stimulation as well as peacefulness.
The 31-year-old software-service manager from Boulder, Colorado, has logged his share of early morning jaunts before work, long mountain runs on the weekends and trail races from 26 miles to 100K in recent years. But he also knows what it feels like a day or so after those kinds of runs. Aside from minor aches and soreness, he also often feels tired and generally fatigued and that can lead to stress and anxiety.
A few years ago, he discovered cannabidiol, or CBD oil—a non-intoxicating plant-based substance derived from cannabis plants—and now he ingests it on a daily basis. Yes, those are similar plants from which intoxicating marijuana is derived, but don’t jump to conclusions that Gold is some kind recreational doper. It’s not about getting high.
Breaking Down CBD
While marijuana and THC-derived supplements produce a wide range of psychoactive effects, CBD does not. For a growing number of trail runners, CBD is a natural alternative to ibuprofen, naproxen and a range of opioid painkillers, while for others it’s a sleep aid or recovery supplement. For Gold, it’s mostly about recovery and reduced anxiety.
For a growing number of trail runners, CBD is a natural alternative to ibuprofen, naproxen and a range of opioid painkillers, while for others it’s a sleep aid or recovery supplement.
Gold, who ingests CBD supplements most evenings, says, “It’s hard to tell how it really works, but for me the bottom line is that I feel more refreshed the next day, and I feel pretty rotten if I don’t take it.”
That’s a common reaction among growing number of professional and recreational trail runners who use CBD supplements. The increased prevalence and acceptance of CBD for medicinal uses can be partially attributed to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized industrial hemp and declassified it as a Schedule 1 drug.
Although THC is fully legal as a recreational drug in only 11 states and Washington D.C. as of spring 2020, CBD is legal (in some form or another) in all 50 states. CBD enhanced with THC is only legal in pot-legal states.
It’s important to note that CBD products sold in the U.S. fall into one of two categories. CBD isolate contains only CBD without any other cannabinoids; full-spectrum CBD oil retains THC and other cannabinoids. In either form, it can be consumed in several different ways, including chewable gummy tablets, ingestible capsules and food products, powdered recovery drinks, tinctures, topical creams and balms or via vaporizing. Dosage might range from 10mg to 25mg, depending on the individual and symptoms.
Overcoming the Stigma
As medicinal CBD has separated from the hazy social stigma of recreational pot, it has gone from a largely misunderstood substance originally tied to the legalized marijuana trade to somewhat of a modern wonder drug and a natural panacea for soreness, pain, anxiety, depression and inconsistent sleep—even though there is little research to support any CBD health claims, given that it’s only become fully legal within the past year.
Pro trail runner Hillary Allen started using CBD to treat pain and inflammation after suffering major injuries during a fall in a technical trail race in Tromsø, Norway, two years ago. After tripping and falling near the halfway mark of the 50K race, she tumbled more than 150 feet over rocks and scree, suffering two broken ribs, a couple of fractures in her back, a ruptured ligament in her foot and two broken wrists, not to mention numerous lacerations, scrapes and deep bruises. In the weeks and months that followed, she was in constant pain.
Allen, who has a master’s degree in neuroscience, was already aware of the positive effects CBD can have on overactive nerves, but she was drawn to topical ointments and creams to treat localized pain and inflammation during her recovery. Because it’s legal in Colorado, she also uses CBD that contains trace amounts of THC as a sleep aid.
“When I was recovering, I used CBD as often as I needed it—which was every day and sometimes multiple times a day,” says Allen. “I’d always rub it on my foot to sooth it for sleeping and then I started taking an oral supplement more for a sleep aid when I was having trouble sleeping. With a broken back, I took all the help I could get.”
Is It Competition-Legal?
Although THC is legal in 11 states, it remains on the WADA/USADA banned substance list, meaning athletes can be suspended if it comes up in a drug test. However, CBD was removed from the list in January 2019 and is no longer prohibited. Still, both continue to carry a bit of a lingering stigma.
That’s something that Joanna Zeiger, Ph.D., is trying to help eliminate. A former professional triathlete who competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials for both triathlon and the marathon, Zeiger started using CBD and combinations of CBD and THC after she retired to manage chronic pain and discovered that she wasn’t alone.
Joanna Zeiger, Ph.D. founded the Canna Research Group in Boulder, Colorado, last year and conducted the Athlete PEACE Survey to understand CBD and THC use among adult athletes. The biggest takeaway was that 61 percent of athletes polled were using some sort of CBD—either with or without THC—to successfully manage pain.
She founded the Canna Research Group in Boulder, Colorado, last year and conducted the Athlete PEACE Survey to understand CBD and THC use among adult athletes. The biggest takeaway was that 61 percent of athletes polled were using some sort of CBD—either with or without THC—to successfully manage pain. There were also some adverse effects reported—including difficulty concentrating and increased appetite—but the good far outweighed the bad, Zeiger says.
“A lot of athletes are turning to it for pain management, improved sleep and decreased anxiety,” she says. “With CBD being legalized, it’s become a dip-your-toe-in-the-water experiment for people who are still feeling the stigma of THC but are canna-curious.”
It’s Still the Wild, Wild West
The biggest challenge is that the CBD industry is still in the wild, wild west of its evolution, partially because the absence of federal regulation. In late May 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration held a public hearing to allow stakeholders in the CBD world to share their experiences and challenges with products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds to begin a regulatory strategy.
While there are many reputable brands such as iKOR Labs, Charlotte’s Web, Floyd’s of Leadville, cbdMD, NuLeaf Naturals, Spruce, CBDistillery and Myaderm, among others, that are willing to share all of their manufacturing information, there are plenty of shady brands too. So buyer beware, Zeiger says.
Some CBD products can contain contaminants because cannabis plants can absorb heavy metals, pesticides and other harmful chemicals found in the soil or water. Until the FDA comes out with regulations, CBD and the companies that sell it are largely unchecked when it comes to manufacturing, labeling, claims and dosage.
Treat the Root Cause First
Dr. Lara Johnson, a Boulder-based physical therapist, is aware of the positive effect CBD products can have for an athlete, but she recommends treating the root cause of the pain or soreness first and foremost. CBD might be helpful, but it also might be similar to using kinesiology tape, custom insoles or even engaging in an improper training or strengthening program, she says, in that it’s not really going to heal the problem or fix it.
“People might think it’s a wonder drug, but I tend to think most drugs aren’t wonderful, in general, because they tend to mask what’s really going on,” Johnson says. “Our bodies are very intelligent and when they tell us about pain or soreness, it’s an indication about some bigger things that might need addressing. If CBD is helping with pain management and recovery, that’s a good thing. But it’s not going to be dealing with the root cause of biomechanics or nerve function or other things that might be causing the pain or soreness.”
People might think it’s a wonder drug, but I tend to think most drugs aren’t wonderful, in general, because they tend to mask what’s really going on,” Johnson says. “Our bodies are very intelligent and when they tell us about pain or soreness, it’s an indication about some bigger things that might need addressing.
In the meantime, the product offerings from CBD brands continues to evolve with trail runners in mind. For example, iKOR Labs released its Recovery Shot in early June at the Ragnar Trail relay event in Snowmass, Colorado. The all-natural, two-ounce drink formula includes tart cherry juice, turmeric, ginger root, black pepper, plus 22 milligrams of full-spectrum hemp extract and 13 milligrams of CBD per serving and a proprietary blend of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant extracts.
“Yeah, it’s still the wild west and a buyer’s beware market because there are clearly a lot of brands trying to make a quick buck out there,” says Jon Robichaud, vice president of marketing for iKOR Labs. “For us, it’s really about education and the people behind the product, as much as the product itself. Our intent is to become a thought leader so we can rise above the part of the industry that is just white-labeling products and selling them vs. putting thought behind what an individual really needs and how it can affect them on a daily basis.”
As for Gold, he says he keeps up on research and news about CBD and continues to adjust what’s best for him, lately preferring Stillwater Brands’ Ripple drink mix with a 20/1 CBD/THC ratio and Extract Lab gummies with a 10/1 ratio.
“You kind of have to experiment a bit to figure out what works for you,” he says. “If you get the right combo, you can really feel your body relax and that’s when the pain management begins.”
Tips on Using CBD
OK, so you’re interested in trying cannabidiol, or CBD oil, to manage pain, inflammation, sleep or general recovery. But how do you get started?
As with any industry, not all products are created equally. There are high-quality products and low-quality products and just about everything in between, says Aaron Cadena, editor of CBD Origin.com, an online education, news and resource site about cannabidiol. Until the FDA begins regulating CBD, the most important keys are awareness and education.
Cadena says the critical factor in your purchasing process is making sure you’re buying CBD products from a company that insists on third-party testing from a reputable lab that provides a valid Certificate of Analysis report. That will allow you to make sure the cannabinoid content listing on the product’s label is consistent with what is listed in the product’s lab report, that the product is free from harmful contaminants and contains less than 0.3 percent THC—both for legal reasons and to avoid unwanted side effects.
Knowing where was the hemp sourced, how was it cultivated and what kind of CBD you’re buying is also important, as is understanding the dosages in each product, whether it’s a gel capsule, gummy, drink mix or tincture.
When in doubt, ask more questions and do some digging for answers. Does the company have a good reputation? What other ingredients are included in the product? Are the ingredients natural and organic? Is it fairly priced?
“The only consensus is the idea of ‘starting slow and going slow,’ meaning you should start with very low dosages and increase it slowly over time as you figure out what the effects are,” says Joanna Zeiger, Ph.D, who also suggests doing plenty research about a brand before buying any CBD products and keeping a journal to keep track of your usage.
The CBD products that can help running recovery
Intrigued about CBD and how it can help your running and recovery? Here’s our round-up of products to help you do just that
The medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant have been used for centuries to heal and restore health. In ancient times, herbalists and physicians cultivated cannabis extracts to help cure everything from the common cold to indigestion, and in the last few years the active ingredient cannabidiol (CBD) which is found in the plant has created a major buzz in wellness circles.
There are so many health concerns that CBD is thought to help address. From helping you to sleep better after a long run or before a big race to melting away post-workout pain, this wonder ingredient can help to turbocharge training.
Here’s our round-up of some of the latest CBD products to help running recovery.
1. Cheerful Buddha CBD Infused Chocolate
Your perfect post-run healthy indulgence. Made with the finest sustainably sourced single origin cacao and precision infused with UK hemp-derived CBD oil, Cheerful Buddha’s 70% dark CBD chocolate is the ultimate go-to recovery snack. A Great Taste award winner, it delivers all the benefits of high-quality CBD in a deliciously smooth and rich luxury chocolate. Buy it online or from WHSmith Travel stores nationwide.
Available in Plain, Mint and Orange flavour.
2. Ardoa CrossPro CBD Muscle & Joint Recovery Cream 50ml
High in CBD, anti-inflammatory and 100% plant-based, CrossPro Topical is specially formulated to aid in sports related muscle, joint and skin recovery. It combines 18 nourishing botanicals, selected for their therapeutic benefits, with 750mg of pure CBD isolate to create a powerful addition to your post workout routine.
Get £5 off + free shipping with code WRUNFIVE at the checkout.
3. Mission C Pre-Workout + CBD Heating Muscle Balm
Mission C’s Pre-Workout + CBD Heating Muscle Balm is the perfect way to prep your leg muscles before any training run or big race day. Infused with Pure Isolate CBD plus Arnica, Camphor, Menthol and natural essential oils, this luxurious balm intensely heats the muscles, stimulating blood flow while reducing inflammation and providing the required energy boost for your best performance yet.
4. Fourfive CBD Thermal Joint Gel
Designed to keep you moving, this CBD Thermal Joint Gel is the perfect post run saviour. Combining 300mg of premium CBD with active ingredients such as glucosamine, arnica and menthol, this innovative formula is 100% natural and paraben free. Apply the joint gel as and when needed and feel the warming effects on aching joints.
5. Runk CBD Foot Cream
Our feet are what keep us going throughout the miles, so why wouldn’t you want to look after them? They’re often forgotten about, so it’s time to put them on the front foot (pun intended). Runk’s CBD Foot Cream is thick and buttery, and full of natural oils, to provide an intense moisturising treatment for dry and cracked heels. Use after a run to keep your feet in tip top condition! The CBD element can help relieve pain with its anti-inflammatory elements.
£14.95 | runk.co
6. Holistic Herb CBD Oral Drops
Holistic Herbs THC Free CBD Oral Drops use a unique delivery technology, Total Bioavailability™, to enable better absorption into the bloodstream. Model, racing driver and TV personality Jodie Kidd uses these drops as an alternative solution to treat her anxiety and pain. She takes the drops each morning and evening, and through the day as necessary when she has an important meeting or she’s travelling through crowded areas. If it works for Jodie!
Available in single & double strength in 15ml, 30ml & 60ml.
7. Papilio CBD Tiger Balm
For centuries, Tiger Balm has been used to bring relief to tired and aching muscles, to ease headaches or as a decongestant. Combining the wisdom of this ancient recipe with the beneficial properties of CBD, this premium quality balm quickly soothes by massaging just a small amount at the point of discomfort. The perfect addition to any runner’s recovery kit!
Get 20% off CBD Tiger Balm with code RUN20 at checkout.
Valid until 31st December 2022.
8. Runk CBD Joint Relief Cream
Made with natural ingredients to provide pain relief, Runk’s CBD Joint Relief Cream is designed for runners to help the post-run issues. Created with CBD which has anti-inflammatory elements, use this cream to help ease tired muscles and joints post-exercise.
Best CBD Products for Runners – A Round-Up of Solutions to Help with Performance and Recovery
The hottest thing going right now in the running market when it comes to performance and recovery is definitely CBD or cannabidiol, one of the many compounds found in the cannabis plant. This association immediately scares most people, but CBD is different than its primary counterpart, THC, in that it lacks any true psychotropic properties. Essentially, CBD doesn’t give you that high feeling often associated with marijuana. Also different from THC based products, CBD is also legal in all 50 states and can be sold and shipped to most as well. Many cultures have been using CBD for years due to its health benefits and its ability to aid in muscle recovery has seen numerous athletes turning to it to help with their training. At The Running Event late last year, the floor was littered with companies trying to enter the market all with a variety of approaches. The real question everyone is asking themselves is what can it do for me and in this article, we jump into a bunch of brands and walk through their offerings.
To start off, we look at the hard question of what CBD is designed to do. It is typically used to reduce muscle pain and decrease inflammation, it helps speed up your recovery time and makes it easier to sleep, and lastly, it plays a role in reducing general stress and anxiety, promoting a sense of calm both in and out of training. It is also 100% natural in its normal state, but of course, it is then refined in many ways depending on the uses and you will find it in everything from topicals to gummies to gels and much much more. The following are some we have selected after 30-60 days of use as best in the breed, not everyone has the same reaction to each brand however so there is some experimentation in this.
The Most Well Rounded CBD Training Lineups
From our perspective, Venga offers one of the most complete CBD endurance and training lines on the market right now. The entire lineup has been built end to end to cover all aspects of your training routine. More than that, their CBD is water-soluble and designed to deliver five times more CBD to your bloodstream than most products you’ll find. Their offering currently consists of three primary products, their Ultra Gels, Aid Station Gummies, and Recovery Balm. They also have a great CBD Guide for Endurance Athletes that is worth a read through, you can find it here.
The full lineup of Venga products
The Ultra Gels also contain Curcumin which in itself helps with inflammation so the combination is supposed to supercharge this. These are water-soluble so it should work quickly and Venga says they can really be used anytime. We found they worked best in the evening as they led into a peaceful sleep and recovery, but in theory, you could easily take these pre-run or even in a run. Each tablet contains 25mg of CBD and features their patent-pending nano-emulsion technology which is all about increasing the absorption rates. A container of 30 gels will run you $99.00 (USD).
A close-up look at the Ultra Gels from Venga
Next up are their Aid Station Gummies (which are vegan and gluten-free!) which for us were perfect in a run. They contain 25mg of CBD each and the citrus flavor is okay, but it’s definitely hard to compete on taste given all the players in this market, but they do the job. You can easily do 1 to 2 an hour and a jar of 30 will run you $49.00 (USD).
Venga Gummies are fully vegan, sport a citrus flavor, and have decent mouth texture during run.
Last up is their Recovery Balm which is perfect after the shower or before bed. They have two jar styles, a 2oz version featuring 1000mg of CBD and a smaller 1oz jar at 500mg. In addition to the CBD, you will find a mix of aromatic essential oils and beeswax and honestly, the smell on this is very minimal which is a huge plus. It doesn’t have the icy hot cooling feeling others do, but it does work well. The large jar is $99.00 (USD) and the smaller is $59.00 (USD).
Venga’s Recovery Balm has that really stiff texture that just melts away as soon as the heat of your fingers touches making it quick to absorb and easy to use. A little can go a long way.
IKOR is a really interesting one and we had a chance to try it right on the show floor at The Running Event in Austin which took us into a longer test. They also have a nice lineup that spans all your needs and where they do a good job is blending CBD with other well known all-natural ingredients to produce a cocktail of sorts. Their lineup includes a recovery shot, a daily tincture, and then a recovery topical.
First up is the IKOR Recovery Shot which is 2oz and probably 100% better tasting than you might expect. It features 22mg of liposomally encapsulated (for absorption) full spectrum hemp extract (13mg of CBD), and then a mix of beetroot, tart cherry, raspberry juice, turmeric, ginger, ashwagandha root, and hyaluronic acid. Pop these bad boys in the fridge and then pull them out before or after exercise, give it a hard shake and you are good to go. Each one costs $5.99 (USD) and you can also buy them in 6 and 12 packs or even subscribe!
This little shot is packed with goodness, but more than anything it just tastes good… unexpectedly so.
Their daily tincture (drops) features 18mg of full-spectrum hemp extract (5mg of CBD) and a nice citrus flavor from the included fruit extracts. It is designed to be used twice a day (morning and night) and at 5 pumps a day should provide about 200 servings. They come in a 1oz tincture for $69.99 (USD) or a 3.5oz version for $179.99 (USD).
Then have some great athletes on their team and you can learn more and buy direct from them on their site.
The Best CBD Options to Just Throw in Your Training Bag
So first off, MuscleMX does offer drops and lotions, but what we truly loved were their balms which we really leaned into and have become a mainstay. Built and packaged much like deodorant, the balms come in two versions, ACTIVATE and RECOVERY, both retailing at $39.99 (USD) for a 2.5oz stick. The Activate version is designed to be used before your workout and like so many others features all-natural ingredients including broad-spectrum CBD, Camphor, Arnica, Peppermint, Beeswax, Coconut, Grapeseed, Eucalyptus, Caffeine, and more. It goes on really easy, heats up a bit, and lasts for at least the first 30 minutes of your exercise. After you pop out of the shower, you can then throw on the Recovery version which really does contain the exact same ingredients in just a bit of a different level mix. Fair warning, the camphor and peppermint gave it a bit of a medicinal smell, but it does work.
MuscleMX comes in Active and Recovery models and they also have travel sizes so you can breeze through security. It doesn’t get any simpler than this, just works like your normal deodorant stick.
You can learn more and buy direct from MuscleMX, make sure to try out their products as well. They also sell travel sizes!
Level Select like many others also makes drops and roll-ons, but in their case, we really leaned into their sports creams. All of their products use a proprietary blend of broad-spectrum and nano CBD for better absorption and the interesting part here is they have lumped all their products into “levels”. Each level is really about the amount of strength needed based on the degree of pain, inflammation, and heaviness of workout. Every 3oz container and the ingredients, for the most part, are identical including that broad-spectrum CBD, Menthol, Rosemary, Arnica, Chamomile, Chestnut, Grape Seed, and more. They also have the same minty smell.
The full lineup from Level Select… one for every level of pain.
For example, Level 1 retails at $39.99 (USD) features 300mg of CBD and it is better for really easy days where a little relaxation is needed. Level 2 comes in at $59.99 (USD) features 600mg of CBD for those harder days and then Level 3 at $89.99 (USD) features 1200mg of CBD which is really for those days when maximum strength is needed.
A close up look at the minty freshness that is Level Select. All of them look the same and consistency is similar to old school cold cream.
Find them on all on the site at https://selectmylevel.com/ and you can use the code BOGO50 to buy one, get one 50% off.
The Best CBD Choices for Those on the Fence About CBD
The products from BLNCD are east to jump into and run the gambit across drops, roll-ons, lotions, salves, and more. We would refer to them more as a Wellness brand than an athletic brand, but the look and feel of the brand make it really easy to introduce this to runners and non-runners alive. Our particular favorite for runners is their CBD Salve for Relief and does have a subtle minty smell which again makes it easily accessible. It contains grapeseed, sunflower, beeswax, arnica, wintergreen, peppermint, eucalyptus, helichrysum, and of course CBD. They come in 500 and 1000mg tins for $50.00 and $80.00 (USD) respectively.
Great branding, super simple, and doesn’t scream CBD. A look at the actual balm which is very similar to Venga visually. It also responds the same way, but with less of a nose.
Last up is Sagely Naturals and one can’t get any more wellness-focused than this brand. It appears ripped from the world of Instagram influencers and every product is ready for a photoshoot. This is definitely a gateway into the world and their products run the gambit from capsules to roll-ons to creams, lotions, serums, oils, and more. Runners will want to focus on their Relief & Recovery lineup which sees broad-spectrum CBD mixed with other ingredients like Turmeric and Black Pepper extracts. For a little additional, check out the Extra Strength models.
The Sagely Naturals lineup is very safe looking for most and is an easy way to bring people into the CBD world.
Their website is a wealth of information and the 101 section alone is a great place to start one’s education. Make sure you signed up for their newsletter for 15% off.
The real conclusion here is that there is no magic pill, but there are folks out there really pushing the needle and this is a good thing for the entire running community. Whether it works for everyone remains to be seen, but CBD is really an amazing all-natural alternative for recovery in our tests. There is a bit of an unknown on the long term use side, but people around the world have been using hemp and CBD for centuries so we can lean on that as a decent test sample. Personally, we have had really amazing success with many of these products. We would love to see some regulation come to bear to really justify the quantities of CBD that are thrown around as right now one really just has to take it on faith. The other area we struggle a bit with is when you have products that contain camphor, menthol, tart cheery, beet, etc then you have to wonder if it’s the CBD or those products and is it worth the extra cost. However, if you feel it is helping you then in the end, stick with what works and in this case… CBD is all the rage, so get on board and give it a shot.