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Can CBD ease athletes’ performance anxiety?



Anxiety before a competition can cause sleep loss, increase energy expenditure, and impair nutritional intake.

While physical fitness is obviously key to sporting success, the psychological element plays a huge part too.

Many athletes and sportspeople suffer from performance anxiety, no matter how hard and well they have trained, which will then in turn impact on how they perform.

According to America’s National Collegiate Athletic Association, almost 85 percent of trainers believe anxiety disorders are currently an issue with student-athletes on their campus.


While amateur athletes may be slightly more likely to suffer from performance anxiety, they are far from the only ones.

Triggers can include playing in an unfamiliar location (an away game, for example), taking part in an individual sport without the support and camaraderie of teammates or simply feeling that the opponent is better. 

Anxiety before a competition can cause sleep loss, increase energy expenditure, and impair nutritional intake.

Managing symptoms

There are a number of ways athletes can ease symptoms of performance anxiety, including making sure they are well prepared and learning methods to deal with negative thoughts.

In fact, some sportspeople are able to channel the nervous energy and anxiety in such a way as to boost their performance, thriving on the challenge of a competition and experiencing a feeling of being  “pumped up”.

Fostering a sense of support, either through asking friends and family to attend away matches and competitions or making friends with fellow competitors, is also a good way to relax and bring back the focus to the activity.

However, if the above methods aren’t enough, more and more athletes are turning to CBD to help manage the worst of the symptoms.

How CBD can help

According to Sports Medicine Review, CBD can be used to help athletes manage sports performance anxiety. 

According to the authors of the review, studies in non-athlete human populations indicated that CBD may relieve anxiety in stressful situations, and could even be more effective when teamed with psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

After assessing clinical trials investigating the impact of CBD on cognitive and psychomotor function, researchers also concluded that CBD was unlikely to have any negative impact on either physical or psychological function.

Other benefits

CBD is also thought to help athletes recover, both from activity and injury.

The remedy is famed for its anti-inflammatory properties; according to a 2018 review of 132 original studies published in Frontiers in Neurology, CBD can clearly be seen reduce inflammation in the body.

The effect is produced when cannabinoids bind to CB2 receptors in the body, which can create an anti-inflammatory effect by reducing cytokine (cell messengers) production.

Additionally, CBD has also been linked to increased endurance. A study found that the substance could help to boost endorphins while working out by balancing the endocannabinoid system and offering what is known as the ‘runner’s high’. This provides a major athletic advantage for those training, but struggling with motivation.

It is worth noting that, at the beginning of 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from the list of prohibited substances, whether in or out of competition. However, all other cannabinoids, such as cannabis, marijuana and THC, are banned in competitive situations.

In Britain, UK Anti-Doping advises that CBD products should be considered in the same way as all other dietary supplements and used at the athlete’s own risk.



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