It’s the year of World Cups: The men’s England cricket team won the cricket world cup in a thrilling final over New Zealand this summer and the England Lionesses football team reached the semi-finals in France just a few weeks ago. And now it’s the turn of one of the toughest team sports in the world – the rugby world cup in Japan starting in a few days time. The men’s England rugby squad are currently preparing for their first pool game against Tonga on Sunday 22nd September and the team are hoping to emulate the success of the 2003 England squad by bringing home the Webb Ellis Trophy on 2nd November.
But what does it take to maintain such elite physical fitness and perform on an international sporting stage in such a physically demanding sport? We spoke to Saracens and England second-row player George Kruis who gave us some insight into his training and CBD oil – a food supplement that makes a big difference to his recovery and resilience and a product that we can all make use of.
CBD oil in sport
The wider mainstream interest in CBD and the explosion in CBD products on the market in the last year have not gone unnoticed in professional sports. The analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of CBD are an attractive prospect to support performance, recovery and resilience from the physical demands of training and competing that are placed on athletes’ bodies, none more so than rugby players. These health benefits also make CBD oil a popular choice for anyone leading an active lifestyle.
So how does cannabidiol (CBD) work? CBD is just one of the spectrum of natural phytocannabinoids found in hemp plants (Cannabis Sativa L.), that regulates and stabilises the body’s own endocannabinoid system, which effectively acts as an interface between the central nervous system and the immune system. Interestingly, raised levels of anandamide – one of the body’s natural endocannabinoids named after the word Ananda in Sanskrit, meaning “bliss” or “elation” – is responsible for the natural “high” that you experience during a workout or a run. This is often described as “runner’s high” and in the past has been (incorrectly) attributed to the body’s natural endorphin levels; we now know that it’s actually anandamide that is responsible for supporting this positive flow-like feeling. CBD blocks the enzyme that breakdowns anandamide so this is just one way that CBD oil may naturally support training and performance.
Research into CBD also suggests that it has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antipsychotic, sedative, appetite- sleep-regulating and anti-nausea effects; relieving muscle tension and joint pain. Alongside these wide-reaching benefits, the actions of CBD on 5-HT neurotransmitter pathways in the brain is one probable mechanism for CBD oil’s ability to reduce anxiety; parallels have been drawn that CBD oil may not only help with muscle health and pain management but also help manage sports performance anxiety, a phenomenon that affects even the biggest of global sports stars.
George has been playing professional rugby for 10 years and is a seasoned England international and British Lion. Having been under the surgeon’s knife several times and played and trained through pain and injury more often than he would’ve liked he took no convincing when he was introduced to CBD oil by fellow Saracens teammate Dom Day, as part of his recovery regime. In fact, George told us that taking CBD oil before bed improves his sleep quality and this is one of the main ways he supports his recovery and resilience. George is passionate about scheduling in quality rest time especially during peak training and World Cup matches saying “Sleep is so underrated and can work absolute wonders for your recovery time. No matter how comprehensive your diet and training regime, without sufficient rest you will not be able to optimise your potential.” Science is beginning to catch up with these anecdotal CBD reports with one study of 103 people suggesting an improvement in sleep scores (and anxiety) using CBD oil.
Generally speaking, though scientific research investigating the specific application of CBD oil for athletes is still scarce although the situation is rapidly changing with pilot studies and clinical trials being reported. But, whilst these studies move forward there are some well-documented success stories of CBD oil that support George’s personal observations: One of the most well-known is the example of American footballers of from the NFL club, The Denver Broncos, who use CBD dietary supplements to alleviate pain after games matches and minimise the time needed for the post-workout recovery. Their star player, Terrell Davies, recently came forward in support of CBD and said if he had used it during his NFL career he would have been able to play for longer. CBD is also being researched in chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE; traumatic playing-related head injury), a highly publicised condition amongst former NFL players. Closer to home, rugby league star Sam Tomkins flies the flag for using CBD oil as part of his training and recovery programme, along with a host of other professional athletes including the tennis players, golfers and surfers.
In fact, many athletes have reported CBD oil supporting post-workout recovery through reducing muscle soreness (as measured by Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) test) and reducing reliance on painkillers, including opiates that have well known negative side effects alongside their anti-inflammatory and analgesic mechanisms.
Of course George is quick to point out that pain management is something that is closely monitored by the club for the welfare of the athletes and whilst CBD oil has been a game-changer for him and fellow athletes, it’s part of the wider picture of training which includes tremendous focus and team effort around diet, training schedule and the all-important rest and sleep.
But are CBD products legal?
CBD is part of the natural phytocannabinoid spectrum found in hemp plants, part of the cannabis plant family that is naturally high in CBD and low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). And this is where, for some people, the suspicion over hemp products lie; THC is the psychoactive ingredient that at certain levels renders products illegal. But this is the crucial difference that everyone needs to know about in terms of CBD oil legality and use:
CBD oils that contain less than 0.2% THC can be legally sold, bought, consumed and recommended by practitioners in the UK.
There is still some confusion over this, in part due to the different EU states having different rules over THC content, but for now, the UK position is clear: Premium CBD oil products with less than 0.2% THC are here to stay! These negligible traces of THC will not have any clinical effect and it’s the other phytocannabinoids and hemp nutrients including terpenes that provide the health benefits. Any reputable company will have certification to prove the CBD spectrum and THC content of their products so consumers and practitioners alike can be assured they are sourcing and using a safe and legal product.
But what about elite athletes?
CBD was removed from the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) prohibited substances list on 1st January 2018. However, THC is still on the list of banned substances and is part of the anti-doping panel that elite athletes are randomly tested for. CBD oil with even trace THC (<0.2%) may therefore still carry risk to athletes, as any THC detected has the potential to halt an athlete’s career in their tracks.
This is where George became interested in products containing 0% THC suitable for elite athletes. Along with Dom, they set up fourfivecbd providing the world’s first 0% THC cross-contamination tested for banned substances by the independent 3rd party Banned Substance Control Group (BSCG). This 0% THC CBD oil carrying the requisite BSCG drug-free certification was bought to market as a direct response to demand from fellow professional athletes who have seen the benefits of taking CBD but are concerned about where CBD comes from and whether it might contain banned substances. Now, professional athletes subject to drug testing can enjoy the benefits that CBD can offer, with fourfivecbd’s 0% THC CBD oil, being the safest and most rigorously tested CBD product available.
So where does that leave the aspiring athlete or people that wish to maintain a healthy active lifestyle? Raw, organic CBD oil (with <0.2% THC) is a great all-rounder product providing the full spectrum of phytocannabinoids and terpenes from hemp plants. For elite athletes needing to avoid all trace THC for anti-doping reasons then fourfivecbd 0% THC product is ideal.