Aurora and MMA giants explore how CBD helps fighters recover and manage pain. UFC results for CBD recovery treatments are promising
Aurora Cannabis and the UFC have combined forces to advance (specifically hemp-derived) CBD research and education for fighters. Both organizations see this partnership as an opportunity to help improve the health and wellness of competitive mixed martial arts (MMA) athletes. So what are the UFC results when it comes to CBD as a recovery aid.
Athletes from all walks of life seek to continually improve themselves and give themselves an edge in the hyper-competitive world of sport. This competitive spirit is no different in martial arts. But just how effective is CBD for a mixed martial artist’s athletic performance and recovery?
CBD can Help to Reduce Pain and Inflammation
Pain management is one of the most common reasons people take cannabis. According to research, both CBD and THC, the two primary cannabinoids in cannabis, help to reduce pain. Most research shows that when CBD and THC are consumed together, this provides superior pain relief. The synergy of cannabinoids and terpenes — known as the entourage effect — increases cannabis’s effectiveness.
Isolated CBD has also been shown to decrease pain, and is especially effective at reducing inflammatory pain. Although the research on CBD and pain is relatively new, there are thousands of anecdotes from athletes verifying the benefits.
Martial artists are frequently injured during training and competition. As such, many fighters suffer from chronic inflammation. Fortunately, many are finding that CBD can help manage their pain, reduce inflammation, and improve their recovery rates.
Frank Mir, a former UFC champion, stated that “there’s no miracle cure, but if you seriously take (CBD) every day, you will notice a lot less inflammation and sleep better.” Frank’s statement is anecdotal, but it speaks volumes for the thousands of athletes who have experienced similar effects.
As cannabis legislation changes, researchers have had more opportunity and funding to study the effects of cannabis in a clinical setting. Athletes are more susceptible to physical stress, which can surpass what the body’s endocannabinoid system can naturally handle.
The human body has two primary endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. CBD has a natural affinity to the CB2 receptor. CB2 receptors play an essential role in lowering or triggering inflammation by stopping or starting the send out of cytokines. Because CB2 receptors help to lower inflammation, stimulating this receptor will manage inflammation and its associated pain.
Improved Recovery Time
Recovery is one of the most important determining factors of athletic success. Every high-performing athlete trains with intensity so they can win. However, those who recover best and fastest (dictated by genetics, diet, sleep, training, and other factors) tend to surpass their competition.
Recovery is so vital that most top athletes resort to using banned performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids. These are mostly known for increasing muscle mass. Steroids do increase muscle mass, but their primary utility is their ability to improve recovery rates. The faster a fighter can recover, the more hours they can train, and the better they will perform in competition.
CBD is no match for an anabolic steroid or other banned substances for performance and recovery. But CBD’s ability to reduce inflammation, improve sleep, and decrease stress and anxiety is significant enough that it could give athletes a reason to shift their use of performance enhancing drugs to a healthier, legal option. These are essential variables that can significantly influence an athlete’s recovery and performance.
CBD Helps Fighters Reduce Their Reliance on Dangerous Pain Medication
Due to chronic inflammation in fighters, many use over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Despite the effectiveness of NSAIDs for inflammation, long-term chronic use is associated with adverse effects, such as stomach ulcers, indigestion, headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, allergic reactions, and, in the worst case scenarios, stroke, heart attack, heart failure, or issues in the liver, kidneys, and heart.
Since CBD has few adverse side effects, it’s quickly becoming a popular alternative to inflammatory drugs and powerful pain killers, such as opioids.
There is a growing body of research showing that CBD inhibits cue-induced heroin-seeking behaviors. This is no small feat as some fighters have reported using opioids for pain management. CBD could, therefore, be a viable replacement to addictive, harmful opioids.
Improving both sleep duration and quality is one of the best ways an athlete can improve their recovery and performance. Reports have shown that athletes who consume CBD have an easier time falling asleep. One reason for this could be that CBD enhances anandamide signaling, which would inhibit the re-uptake of adenosine. This causes drowsiness, and will help the consumer to fall asleep easier.
Since CBD has anxiolytic properties (meaning it reduces anxiety), it could also improve sleep before a big match or intense training day. According to research — published in Sleep Medicine Clinics (2017) —anxiety can increase wakefulness and disturb sleep cycles, primarily due to the elevation of the stress hormone cortisol. Of course, anyone who has watched UFC can see why a fighter may be anxious before a big fight. Fatigue is dangerous, and could increase risk of harm during training or in matches. The importance of sleep for MMA fighters cannot be undervalued.
How can Fighters Take CBD to Improve Their Performance?
CBD products ranging from oils and edibles to topicals, bath bombs, and pills have infiltrated the market.
How a fighter uses CBD to their advantage is an individual decision. Some may use a topical CBD oil and apply it on their inflamed muscles, while others may prefer to infuse CBD oil into their diet. It depends, of course, on what they’re looking to achieve — anti-inflammatories or anti-anxiety and sleep inducing?
Which brings us back to the partnership between Aurora Cannabis and the UFC. Their understanding of the benefits of CBD for athletes is validation that consumption of this cannabinoid may be in the best interest of MMA fighters. Cannabis’ uses in treating concussions are surely next on their research agenda, if they truly want to keep athletes safe. This newly found partnership is an excellent move for both organizations and will hopefully spark more clinical research exploring the therapeutic effects of CBD on athletes.