Make The Most Out Of Summer: A Guide To Exercise With CBD Softgels

by PP Health Admin / Jun 26, 2021

Covid-19 has drastically changed the way we exercise. While the novel circumstances of lockdown inspired some of us to 'sweat it out' for the first time in years, the nationwide closure of gyms, leisure centres, and even some outdoor spaces, pushed others to live a more sedentary lifestyle. Fortunately, however, as indoor and outdoor fitness venues continue opening up and we approach the summer months, many of us have begun dusting off our workout gear. Whether you're sticking with home workouts or venturing into the outside world, one question remains - did you know your workout might be amplified with the use of CBD softgels?

At PPHealth, we're all about finding ways to maximise your potential through the healing power of nature, and that's why we're so excited about the hemp extract known as CBD. Otherwise referred to as cannabidiol, this herbal compound has been used by athletes and fitness gurus for decades as a way to improve wellbeing, reduce pain, and aid recovery. However, with so many claims being made about its benefits, it can be challenging for the average person to gauge how effective these natural supplements may actually be. So, to distinguish fact from fiction, this article will address up-to-date research into CBD and exercise, guide you through the exciting world of CBD softgels, and give you some pointers on what to look out for when buying cannabinoid products on the marketplace.

However, before we get into all of that good stuff, let's take a closer look at the star of the show: CBD.

What is CBD? an Overview

Cannabidiol is a chemical compound that is found in the cannabis Sativa plant (also known as marijuana or hemp). It's one of over a hundred cannabinoids present within cannabis, and apart from delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it's the plant's most commonly occurring active ingredient. Unlike THC, however, CBD is entirely non-intoxicating and instead has been shown to balance out the effects of this psychoactive counterpart.

First isolated in 1942, CBD has only entered mainstream culture in the last decade. However, since the compound arrived on the scene, it has risen through the ranks of the wellness world due to its wide range of reported therapeutic and beneficial properties. Its benefits were initially spread through anecdotal evidence and word-of-mouth, and an increasing amount of recent studies have begun to investigate its deeper potential.

For instance, research has shown that the hemp extract may have the ability to:

What are CBD softgels?

CBD is extracted in the form of an oil, but after this substance is obtained, it can be infused into an abundance of different products, including softgels.

Softgels are soft and pillow-like oral capsules that contain cannabidiol. Each softgel capsule is pre-measured with equal amounts of CBD so that they may deliver the user with a consistent dose of the hemp extract. CBD softgels are discreet and straightforward and can be consumed as a daily herbal supplement or as a one-off pick-me-up. While the nature of softgels vary from brand to brand, they can be found in a variety of strengths, quantities, and flavours.

How do they work?

Just like all oral CBD products, softgels take effect in our bodies by stimulating our natural endocannabinoid system. This system, which is commonly abbreviated to 'the ECS', is a network of receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids (cannabinoids like CBD, but which are naturally made within our body) that can be found throughout our body and brain. Its overarching function is to balance out a range of mental and physiological processes; including our sleep, mood, appetite, and immune response.

When phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids that derive from plants) come into contact with this system, they are thought to mimic our bodies naturally occurring cannabinoids and improve the overall performance of the ECS. This is the primary way cannabinoid products are understood to deliver effects to their users. However, since softgels are consumed orally, they travel to our bloodstream via our digestive system. This means that, compared to other methods, it takes slightly longer for CBD's potential benefits to be dispersed into your system.

Wellbeing from the inside out - why exercise is important

Now we've covered the basics of CBD, let's run through the benefits of another natural phenomenon - exercise. No matter your age, weight, or genetic make-up, maintaining an active lifestyle can help you live a longer, healthier, and happier life. So, here's how exercise can help you along your path to wellness.

Physical benefits

One of the main reasons people work out is to keep in shape and to lose weight. While achieving that 'summer body' is a definite perk of staying active, the physical advantages of exercise are anything but skin deep. In fact, according to the NHS, working out regularly has been shown to:

  • lower your risk of developing coronary heart disease by up to 35%
  • reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 50%>
  • make you up to 68% less likely of encountering a hip fracture
  • reduce your risk of developing arthritis by up to 83%
  • reduce your risk of developing breast cancer by up to 20%
  • and lower the risk of early death by 30%

What's more, finding time in your schedule for physical activities also helps to decrease sedentary behaviour, which the Department of Health describes as a "silent killer". This type of behaviour is associated with a range of adverse health outcomes, and has unfortunately increased throughout the past year as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. So, by introducing more varied activities into our daily life, you can help to keep these health conditions at bay.

Mental benefits

Young woman in workout gear running across a bridge and smiling

In addition to the physical advantages of working out, staying active has also been shown to help people foster a healthier state of mind. When the body engages in physical activities, endorphins are released, spread from our brain and spinal cord. These 'feel good' chemicals help to encourage feelings of happiness and euphoria, which makes exercise an effective way to naturally fight off symptoms of low mood and depression.

Bouts of physical activity have also been shown to reduce levels of stress and anxiety through the production of neurohormones, which are hormones that are produced by nerve cells. When neurohormones (such as norepinephrine) are released, they have been shown to reverse stress-induced brain damage, which, in turn, lowers instances of stress and over-thinking.

Finally, if you're looking to boost your mental performance, working out may be able to help too. Studies on mice and humans have shown that, through a process called neurogenesis, new brain cells are able to be created, and the overall performance of the brain can be improved. In fact, staying active also helps to strengthen the hippocampus, the area of our brain responsible for memory and learning.

So, now we've established the physical and psychological benefits of exercise, let's take a closer look at its relationship with CBD.

CBD & exercise: the lowdown

While cannabinoids and other cannabis-derived substances aren't naturally associated with fitness, these herbal agents have been used to boost physical performance and aid recovery. From ancient Greek athletes using terpenes (aromatic plant molecules) from the frankincense tree to reduce the swelling and inflammation associated with sporting injuries, to traditional Chinese surgeons harnessing the herb for its pain-relieving qualities, the purported relationship between healing and cannabis is long and well-established.

Cut to the current day, and the potential stress-relieving and remedial qualities of CBD are still being promoted by world-famous athletes such as Nate Diaz and James Haskell. CBD-infused gels and other cannabinoid products are being sold all across the world, and an increasing number of fitness gurus are using the supplement to take their work out to the next level. However, due to the scarcity of research into CBD, much of the agent's supposed benefits are based on anecdotal evidence, not scientific research. However, before we jump into what we do know about CBD and exercise, is CBD even legal for athletes to consume?

CBD & doping

According to current UK law (and throughout most of the EU), cannabidiol is legal to buy, sell, and consume- as long as it contains a THC content lower than 0.2%. When it comes to CBD and doping, this distinction wasn't always as clear. Prior to 2017, athletes in the UK were prohibited to use the cannabinoid, because it was considered to be a dangerous performance-enhancing substance. However, in September 2017, the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) lifted its ban on CBD, and its use in sports was permitted once again. Despite this reform, it is essential to note that CBD is only be allowed if it contains trace amounts of THC (or, better yet, none), and aside from cannabidiol, all other cannabinoids remain prohibited.

How might CBD enhance your workout?

So, with its herbal history explained and its legal status cleared, let's take a look at how this herbal extract might be able to complement your fitness regime.

By reducing pain and soreness

We've all had the displeasure of experiencing pain. When our body is experiencing trouble and requires a fast response, pain sensations are sent to our brain as part of its natural signalling process. Although most injuries happen in the home, sports-related injuries are also closely followed. While it's crucial for us to listen to our body to avoid further strain and injuries, using a natural pain reliever may help sports enthusiasts to ease excessive levels of discomfort so they're able to rest effectively or continue working out in a responsible way.

As this 2018 study details, one way CBD has been shown to potentially reduce levels of pain and discomfort is by interacting with our bodies ECS. By triggering CB1 and CB2 receptors and helping this biological system to achieve a greater balance, the compound is purported to decrease levels of inflammation around the targeted area, while also encouraging general feelings of wellbeing to aid a more holistic recovery.

In addition to this function, CBD products are also understood to possibly relieve sports-related pain by blocking pain sensations from reaching the brain. As this review into the neurological benefits of cannabidiol explains, cannabidiol-infused products may be able to reduce levels of discomfort for athletes by stimulating the neurotransmitter adenosine. So, specifically by possibly impacting levels of adenosine, CBD, and other cannabinoids hold potential in reducing pain signals reaching the pain processing centre in the brain.

However, while the existing research into CBD's pain-relieving qualities looks promising, it's important to point out that due to the unexplored nature of the compound, more significant investigation needs to take place before definitive conclusions can be drawn.

By facilitating a faster recovery

Whether you're a dedicated athlete or a fitness rookie, it's vital that you give your body time to rest and recover between workouts. Just like warming up and stretching, recovery should always be a top priority, because it decreases the risk of potential injuries from occurring. This gives your body the care it deserves, and allows you to perform even better when you're sweating it out in the future.

Just like pain, inflammation can be a natural part of the recovery process. While the sensation it causes may be irritating or even downright unpleasant, it helps to direct attention to the injury before your body encounters any further damage. In some acute cases, the reaction helps athletes recover more swiftly from sporting-related injuries by sending white blood cells, and body fluid to the area in need, which, in turn, helps to fight off foreign invaders and repair damaged tissue. However, suppose the body's inflammatory response is too strong. In that case, the recovery process can be hindered, and athletes can be left with excessive swelling, which can restrict movement in the affected area.

Fortunately, as extensive research has shown, cannabidiol has powerful anti-inflammatory properties which have been reported to protect our body from some symptoms of inflammation due to the way it is thought to interact with our ECS. When CBD is consumed or rubbed into the skin topically, the cannabinoid is believed to interact with CB2 receptors, which may reduce levels of the cell messengers that are responsible for inflammation. So, just like how the endocannabinoid system is understood to potentially control levels of pain, it may also control our inflammatory response.

By limiting this process, inflammation from sports injuries may be kept at bay, and athletes are able to experience more minor physical discomfort and swelling. However, by allowing levels of healthy inflammation to take place, cannabinoid products may still encourage the response by soothing the affected area without interrupting our bodies' natural recovery process.

By naturally elevating energy levels

Sometimes, when it comes to maintaining an active schedule, the most challenging part can be actually finding the motivation to 'get up and go'. While we all would love to be bursting with energy 24/7, sometimes life gets in the way and instead of leaping into fitness gear, spending an extra five minutes watching Netflix sounds a lot more desirable. While there's no miracle cure for laziness, certain things can help us to help ourselves. For instance, rather than overstimulating your body with caffeine, CBD might be able to offer athletes a natural way to stay alert.

One way cannabidiol is recognised to promote wakefulness is through its interaction with the gut. While our gastrointestinal system (GI) might not be the first thing you associate with increased energy output, a healthy gut has been shown to boost levels of energy and delay the onset of fatigue. Cannabinoid products like softgels have been reported to support healthy GI function by balancing out the presence of healthy and harmful bacteria, and encouraging healthy immune functioning. Therefore, by keeping our microbiome happy, CBD may be able to help you feel healthier, less anxious, and more full of life.

In addition to promoting the health of our gastrointestinal system, cannabinoid-infused products may also be able to improve wakefulness and focus by helping us to achieve a longer and more restful sleep. It's no secret that the best way to feel lively and energetic is by getting a good night's rest, and when it comes to sports, it's no different. Fortunately, recent research indicates that, by lowering levels of anxiety and inducing feelings of calm and relaxation, CBD may make it easier for individuals to achieve those precious 40-winks. Subsequently, as this 2014 research review points out, by potentially helping people to sleep better at night, cannabidiol may also help them to feel more alert and focused in the day - making it easier for athletes to reach their goals.

By impacting your runners high

If you've ever run for miles on end or smashed a high-intensity exercise, chances are you've encountered the famous 'runners high'. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of experiencing it, a runner's high is a brief (and deeply rewarding) sense of euphoria that occurs after, or during, an intense and lengthy physical activity. When you begin to hit your stride, and your heart works harder to pump blood around your body, endorphins or 'happy chemicals' flood our brain, and this is what is understood to produce the short wave of pleasure.

While the act of working out is ordinarily rewarding enough as it is, for many sports enthusiasts, this sensation is just the cherry on top. Additionally, for those who seek greater wellbeing, studies have shown a runner's high has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. But where does CBD come in? Well, according to recent research carried out by German scientists, cannabidiol and other cannabinoids may be able to help athletes to achieve this feel-good sensation by helping to 'balance out' the body's all-important ECS.

As the study outlines, while endorphins may normally struggle to pass through the blood-brain barrier, the endocannabinoid anandamide, (otherwise known as the 'bliss molecule') can easily travel from the blood into the brain. This means that, by improving our endocannabinoid system's performance, more anandamide can reach our brain when we complete a high-intensity exercise. So, while more research into this phenomenon needs to be conducted, current studies indicate that, by taking CBD-infused products before a workout, athletes may be able to enhance feel-good sensations and achieve a higher level of endurance.

What should I look out for when buying CBD softgels?

Loose CBD softgels catching the light on a table with a bottle in the background

So, if you're interested in CBD softgels and their potential in levelling up your exercise regime, you might be wondering where you're able to get your fix. Unfortunately, the CBD marketplace can be an overwhelming place, so here are some things to bear in mind when searching for the perfect cannabidiol-infused softgels.

Only buy third-party tested products

If you want to guarantee the quality of a CBD product, checking its Certificate of Analysis (CoA) is a great place to start. Once a product has been tested, the company will display its CoA, which provides the consumer with the product's cannabinoid levels, terpenoid levels, and whether it's free of possible contaminants (such as heavy metals, fertilisers, or other impurities). These are usually featured on the products or the brand's webpage, so it's a super-easy way to quickly check the quality of your softgels.

Look out for accompanying ingredients

When it comes to cannabinoid products, CBD is normally the highlight. However, if you're looking to maximise your experience, it's wise to look for CBD softgels that also contain other beneficial ingredients. For example, if you find a CBD product with a complimentary carrying oil like hemp, olive, or MCT oil (each of which comes with its own purported benefits), the advantages of the herbal extract can be pushed even further.

Consider the spectrum of CBD

CBD can be extracted in a range of different ways. Each variety of CBD has its own unique qualities and elicits a slightly different effect. While CBD isolate offers cannabidiol in its purest form, broad-spectrum and full-spectrum extracts may help make the product more capable of achieving the 'entourage effect', which is recognised to boost its overall effectiveness the compound. So, with this in mind, to ensure you're getting the most out of your CBD softgels, it's wise to consider which extract the product features.

CBD and Plant Physiology health

At PP Health, we take CBD very seriously. Our philosophy is guided by the healing power of nature, and this is why we only use high-quality hemp extracts in all of our products. We only select the best plants from our organic plantation in Switzerland. To ensure the quality and safety of all our products, everything we produce is tested by an independent laboratory.

If this sounds like something you're into, or if you'd like to learn more about the potential benefits of CBD, you can find out more about what we do by visiting our website here.