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What should athletes understand about hemp, CBDA, and CBD?

It's important for athletes of all levels to understand the legality and safety of hemp-based products.

What should athletes understand about hemp, CBDA, and CBD?

Published on: 06/20/2022

The popularity of hemp-based CBD products has expanded exponentially over the last three years in both athletic and non-athletic consumer circles. New Frontier Data, a trusted hemp-cannabis industry analytics and data source, reported that 23% of consumers have incorporated cannabinoid products (including hemp-based products) into their daily lives to enhance wellness and exercise routines (NFD Cannabis and Wellness, 2021).  As such, it is important for athletes of all levels to understand the legality and safety of hemp-based products.


Major sport leagues, like Major League Baseball and the National Football League, have either approved the use of hemp-based products, as long as they do not contain delta-9-tetrahydracannabinod (otherwise known as D9THC), or have funded research studies to determine whether hemp-based products can replace pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory and pain medications. Even the World-Anti Doping Agency, the one that regulates Olympic athletes, has made it clear that CBD-like hemp products are approved outside of competition. USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) followed suit and allows for athletes to use hemp-based products outside of competition. Read more about WADA's current policies here.


The only major athletic association that has not updated its hemp-based product policies (as of Dec. 2021) is the National College Athletic Association (NCAA), but the subject is rumored to be under discussion. Understanding the legality of hemp-based products is only half of the story- the real questions athletes and consumers want to know is, “does it work?”. Everything from “decreased pain” to “enhanced mood” is touted by consumers and companies alike.  


But, is there sound science and strong research to back these claims?


Almost 1000 peer-reviewed studies have been published in the last ten years on CBD alone. Of these studies, 80 were double-blind and placebo-controlled, which is the gold standard in medical research. The number of monthly hemp-related articles being published is growing rapidly (CannaKeys, 2021). Hemp-based products typically contain a mixture of compounds called phytocannabinoids, or cannabinoids for short. Researchers can test what effects a product’s cannabinoids have on the body. Most hemp products include a processed cannabinoid called cannabidiol, or CBD. CBD is created when natural cannabinoids found in the hemp plant are exposed to chemicals and heat. However, products can also contain CBD in its natural form, known as cannabidiolic acid, or CBDA. This natural, raw form of CBD is more active at the cellular level.


Cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, or ECS, which is a complex system of cells and receptors. Discovered in 1992, the ECS is thought to be the homeostatic regulator of the body. It plays a role in a wide array of basic bodily functions, from soothing muscles, to relieving stress and uplifting a person’s mood. As such, some view the ECS as a “cure all” or a “magic fix.” However, the effect of cannabinoids on each person’s ECS is different. That’s why it is suggested for athletes to gradually incorporate hemp-products into their routines until they determine the right level for their body. To put it simply, hemp-based products can help athletes prepare for exercise, perform smoother, and recover quicker. Each athlete should plan to find the product and amounts that works best for them and their body’s endocannabinoid system. Some of the most popular products are lotions and topicals, which, right now, are the only application methods approved by the WADA and USADA. Lotions made with natural cannabinoids, like CBDA, penetrate the skin barrier and enhance post training recovery.


Check out our lineup of all-natural CBDA products here.

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