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An Overview of CBD For Athletes

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As an athlete, you know better than most that how you care for your body affects your performance. A good night’s sleep can make all the difference on the field or on the trail. A routine post-workout recovery helps muscle soreness after any strenuous exercise. A healthy, nourishing diet helps fuel your body for big runs or big climbs. And of course, plenty of water helps keep you hydrated as you race toward new milestones and benchmarks. Each one of these practices holds immense health benefits.

But what about CBD? Could a CBD roll-on or balm be the secret weapon that helps you reach your ultimate athletic goals?

Before you make CBD a part of your regular athletic routine, it may help to know exactly what CBD is.

Some of the biggest names in sports — including Megan Rapinoe, Lamar Odom and Rob Gronkowski — tout the benefits of CBD, but you may be wondering exactly how this unique substance can help. If you’d like to find out why these top athletes are stoked about CBD, look no further than this guide to CBD for athletes.

This guide will cover:

  • What is CBD?
  • Will I pass a drug test if I take CBD?
  • Benefits of CBD oil for athletes.
  • Using CBD for athletes: How to incorporate CBD into your routine.
  • Finding the best CBD for your body.

Let’s dive in...

What Is CBD?

Before you make CBD a part of your regular athletic routine, it may help to know exactly what CBD is.

CBD is short for cannabidiol, a chemical compound derived from cannabis plant, whether it’s hemp and marijuana. CBD works by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system, or ECS. Scientists are still learning more about this intricate system. So far, researchers have discovered that the ECS regulates and maintains several important systems, many of which can impact athletic performance, including:

  • sleep.
  • appetite.
  • stress and discomfort management. 
  • mood.
  • energy.

The ECS works throughout the entire body via a network of endocannabinoids and endocannabinoid receptors. Endocannabinoid receptors send “distress” signals through the endocannabinoid system when one or more of the above listed functions needs relief. Endocannabinoids then bind with the receptors to help resolve the issue. For example, if a person is experiencing backaches, endocannabinoids will bind to receptors in spinal nerves to help provide relief. 

While there’s still more to learn about exactly how CBD functions within the ECS, scientists believe that the cannabinoids in CBD oil play a role in supporting the endocannabinoids your body's endocannabinoid system naturally produces. Cannabinoids in CBD help extend the lifespan and effectiveness of endocannabinoids, so they can respond to endocannabinoid receptors more efficiently.  


If you’re an athlete who has to regularly take drug tests, you may be wondering if CBD extract, CBD cream, a CBD supplement or any CBD products will bench you for the season. So can you pass an athletic league’s drug test while taking these? 

If you’re using premium CBD sourced from hemp plants, the risk is low. That’s because CBD isn’t the same as THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis plants. 

Although CBD and THC can be found in both hemp and marijuana plants, the amount of THC is what distinguishes the two. Hemp has 0.3% or less THC content by dry weight, while marijuana has more than 0.3% THC content. 

While hemp-sourced CBD is considered safe, you should double-check your league’s rules and regulations to ensure you’re in compliance.

While CBD products are cannabis products, THC is completely different from CBD. Instead of supporting the body’s natural endocannabinoids, THC binds to endocannabinoid receptors and can't cause symptoms associated with being high, including:

  • increased sensory perception.
  • euphoria.
  • drowsiness.
  • decreased memory function.
  • concentration struggles.
  • increased appetite.
  • sometimes paranoia.

THC is a regulated substance and its legality varies from state to state. 

Sports drug tests typically look only for traces of marijuana; however, each sports organization has a different list of forbidden substances. While hemp-sourced CBD is considered safe, you should double-check your league’s rules and regulations to ensure you’re in compliance.

Benefits of CBD Oil For Athletes

Whether you’re a football player, a gymnast or a marathoner, being in tune with your body’s needs while maintaining sharp mental focus is a key aspect of athleticism. CBD can help you stay focused and powerful for every workout, competition or adventure. The key benefits of CBD for athletes include:

  • Improving focus. Keeping your eyes on the prize isn’t as easy as it sounds when your heart is pounding, your muscles are straining and your competition is about to blow by you. CBD oil can keep your head in the game so it can command top performance from your body. 
  • Boosting energy. Sometimes all you need is a burst of energy to achieve your personal best. But sugary, chemical-heavy energy drinks can send you crashing rather than crushing personal records. CBD oil products can help your body enjoy prolonged energy so you can surpass your athletic goals. 
  • Supporting healthy sleep. What’s the last thing every coach says right before an important competition? Almost universally, it’s “Get a good night’s sleep.” That’s because coaches and athletes alike know that sleep is how your body restores and replenishes itself. Cells repair, systems reset and your body feels better from the inside out. CBD can help calm your mind, and your body gets enough nourishing sleep. 
  • Managing stress. Exercise is stress on the body; athletes probably know that better than most. But mental stress may disrupt your workouts and hamper your performance. CBD can help soothe away nervous thoughts and ease stressful moments. 
  • Soothing achy muscles. You’re no stranger to post-workout muscle soreness. But a day spent wincing every time you rmake a move can actually slow your body’s healing processes. The discomfort can cause strain on your recovering muscles. CBD can help tension and discomfort melt away from your body so you can feel renewed after a tough workout. 

CBD Oil For Athletes: How to Incorporate CBD Into Your Routine

If you’re interested in adding CBD to your athletic training regimen, you might be curious about how this unique ingredient can work within your schedule or practice. From pre-workout to post-game cool downs, there are multiple ways CBD can help you reach your athletic goals. 


Getting in “the zone” before a workout, game, or training session can help athletes make the most out of their practice. But some days, getting into the zone may be the biggest challenge of your day. These days, there are plenty of choices in CBD edibles for sale to help encourage focus, sustain your energy and reduce worried or stressed thoughts. Try adding one of the following CBD options to your pre-workout routine:

  • Mints – a refreshing CBD mint taken an hour or two before a workout can help you focus on your exercises. 
  • CBD oil – if you enjoy pre-workout shakes or smoothies, consider adding a bit of CBD oil to your favorite concoctions. CBD is fat-soluble, so incorporating it into your pre-workout protein shake will encourage better absorption and better focus during practice or training sessions. 
  • Tablet – a CBD tablet can be taken like a daily vitamin to help you reach peak performance. 

Post-Workout Recovery

CBD is a helpful addition to any locker, gym bag or tote for your post-workout routine. Plus, it can easily be introduced to some of your favorite cool-down practices in various forms:

  • Balm – when you push your body to the limits in a fast-paced sport or exercise, in the moment you may feel incredible. But not long after the burn, you may feel the cost of your athletic determination: sore and achy muscles. Help soothe tired limbs with a muscle and joint CBD balm so you can enjoy the victorious afterglow. 
  • Lotion – a shower after an intense workout or strenuous exercise can sometimes be the best part of your day. After you dry off, apply a moisturizing CBD lotion or moisturizing cream to your skin to help promote better sleep, reduce anxious thoughts, and calm sore muscles. Bonus? You can enjoy deeply nourished and hydrated skin. 
  • CBD oil – a post-workout smoothie or shake can help your body replenish much-needed hydration, electrolytes, vitamins and minerals. Incorporating CBD oil into your go-to shake or smoothie can also help your body feel more at ease for a rejuvenating night’s sleep and increased muscle recovery. 

CBD Dosage For Athletes: Start Low, Then Go Slow

When it comes to estimating how much CBD to use for your athletic practices, stick with these two rules:

  1. Read the product label.CBD products each come with their own individual recommendation for use. First, read the label and start with the minimum dose.
  2. Start low and go slow. Because everyone’s body is different, your ideal dose of CBD may be a bit different than the label’s recommended dosage. Your best bet is to start off with a small dose and gradually increase to find your ideal amount. 

Think of acclimating to CBD like you would if you were drinking coffee for the first time. You probably wouldn’t start by drinking a triple-shot cappuccino! So start low and go slow. 

Because CBD can take up to two hours to be absorbed into the body, you may not experience its beneficial effects right away. So start with the dosage recommended on the product label, wait a bit, then check in with yourself to see if you’ve noticed any changes. If you haven’t, try upping the dose a bit the next day. Continue until you find your optimum CBD dose.

Finding the Best CBD For Your Body

You know that the quality of fuel you provide for your body impacts your athletic performance. This same principle applies to CBD: The quality of the product is key to realizing its potential benefits. But the world of CBD is growing bigger every day, and it can be a challenge to decipher which products are high quality and which are not.

To find the best CBD product for you, keep an eye out for the following characteristics:

  • Organic hemp – Choosing organic hemp-sourced CBD is a simple way to ensure your CBD is free of unnatural pesticides and herbicides. 
  • Third-party laboratory testing – Because the FDA does not monitor or test CBD products, it’s up to CBD brands to do their own quality checks. Look for products that have third-party laboratory testing on their labels: This indicates that the product quality and ingredients have been verified by a third-party lab. However, inaccuracies in third-party laboratory testing have become frequent occurrences in the CBD market, which is why you should always look for the Label Accuracy Guarantee™.
  • Label Accuracy Guarantee™ – What if you could be sure that your CBD product’s ingredient list and quality was tested for both CBD and THC? This is precisely why we created our Label Accuracy Guarantee™: It verifies that a CBD product’s CBD and THC levels were verified by two independent labs. It’s the most comprehensive CBD testing on the market, and you won’t find it anywhere else but

Zebra CBD: Always Going the Extra Mile

At Zebra CBD, we understand how important your well-being is to your athletic goals. As the leader in CBD science and research, we’ve put our all into developing premium formulas to help you fine-tune your performance. 

If you believe that there’s always room for improvement, you’re ready to explore our selection of premium, organic hemp-sourced CBD online. With our 90-Day Money-Back Guarantee, you’ve got nothing to lose except the opportunity to do better next time.


Runner’s World. Next-Generation CBD Products for Athletes.

Healthline. CBD for Athletes. Research, Benefits, and Side Effects.

Co-founder of Copycat Copywriters, Adam has written for dozens of CBD and cannabis companies on a wide array of topics, including regulations, economics, farming practices and biochemistry.

About the Author

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Adam Biederman

As co-founder and lead writer of Copycat Copywriters, one of Adam’s primary areas of expertise is within the budding CBD and cannabis space. He has written for dozens of CBD and cannabis companies, producing a collection of white papers, press releases, blog posts, articles and ebooks about a wide array of industry-related subjects, including regulations, economics, farming practices and biochemistry.

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