Whether you are a professional athlete, enjoy amateur competition or simply aim to improve your fitness, we all want to achieve the best results from working out. Besides how you exercise, what you do in the post-workout recovery, phase may help to maximise gains in fitness and strength – or negatively affect your results.
Usually we want to rest after intense exercise because we feel tired, sore and stiff, but why does this happen? Apart from simply feeling tired, intense exercise has been found to cause microscopic muscle damage1, which appears to be a major factor in muscle soreness the next day after exercise. This is soon repaired and can trigger muscle growth by more proteins being produced than required to simply replace damaged fibres.
Nutrition helps post-workout recovery
In order to produce our own proteins, we must consume proteins. Protein supplementation, both pre- and post-workout, generally improves recovery, muscle growth and strength2. However, specific amounts and types of protein can promote greater improvements in physical fitness. For example, drinking milk after a workout can promote increases in muscle size and strength while decreasing body fat. To be more specific, the amino acid known as leucine, particularly a dose of 3-4 grams, can promote maximum muscle gain. However, fast-acting carbohydrates such as glucose are needed because the release of insulin that follows carbohydrate intake promotes tissue growth.
Carbohydrate intake after intense exercise3 is also essential in order to replenish stores of energy that may have been exhausted, preferably within one hour after finishing. Of course, rehydration should never be overlooked after intense exercise. This includes both water and electrolytes such as sodium, which reduce urine losses and are needed for cellular functions, but are lost in significant amounts through sweat. Approximately 25-50% more water than what has been lost through sweat is required for proper rehydration, and this should be taken within 4-6
hours after exercise.
Post-Workout Recovery Tips using Hemp & Cannabidiol
But where can hemp and cannabinoids play a role in post-exercise recovery? Some cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), have been shown to possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and painkilling (analgesic) effects. This is relevant because strenuous exercise increases oxidative stress4 and therefore inflammation, while moderate antioxidant supplementation may reduce the damage. In pre-clinical research, CBD was found to be a stronger antioxidant than vitamin C or E5, able to protect cells against damage caused by reactive oxygen molecules. However, isolated CBD has been found to only exert anti-inflammatory and painkilling effects in a limited dose range6.
Research on a mouse model of inflammation comparing isolated CBD to a CBD-enriched whole hemp extract showed that the whole extract had stronger anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects in increasing doses. The whole hemp extract also performed better in reducing pain and inflammation than the common pharmaceuticals, aspirin and Tramadol. This may mean that the components of hemp need to work together for the best results, and that CBD is not the only anti-inflammatory, painkilling cannabinoid. In fact, another cannabinoid known as cannabigerol7 (CBG) has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers and increase levels of one of the body’s own antioxidants, superoxide dismutase.
Besides the cannabinoids, terpenoids8 present in hemp extracts also possess anti-inflammatory and analgesic abilities. Additionally, the terpenoid myrcene is recognised as a sleep aid and may be a muscle relaxant, which could help athletes rest after intensive exercise. Alpha-pinene has been found to help dilate (widen) airways, which may increase oxygen supply and therefore aid clearance of lactic acid and tissue repair. However, while whole hemp extracts look like a promising aid to post-exercise recovery, they should be used alongside standard recommendations of rest, rehydration and nutrition.
- Tortora, GJ & Derrickson, B, 2012, Principles of Anatomy & Physiology, 13th edn, Wiley