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Two bicyclists riding dirt road

Hemp for Cyclists: An Unfair Competitive Advantage?

Hemp and cyclists: can the partnership work? Apparently, yes. In recent years, the stigma of using hemp seems to have dissipated. More recently, the Canadian Cycling Magazine touted the benefits of hemp-derived CBD for enhancing muscle repair and healing. Even cycling coaches admit that hemp offers unmatched benefits for sleep and recovery.

That said, the competitive nature of sports often prompts athletes to resort to extreme measures to gain an advantage. We’ve all heard about the steroid scandals in baseball. And, many fans are still reeling from the fact that Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for using performance-enhancement drugs.

And yet, there’s often a fine line between what’s ethical and what gives an unfair advantage. Armstrong’s illicit steroids and blood transfusions left little room for debate. But, what about natural supplements that boost an athlete’s well-being and performance in legal ways?

The question is particularly relevant in cycling-related sports, where endurance, recovery intervals, and conditioning are critical. So, it’s only natural to ask whether Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil gives competitive cyclists an unfair advantage.

The short answer is no. In fact, the Canadian-based World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) recently removed CBD/hemp from its list of banned substances. If you’re wondering about WADA’s credibility, more than 600 sports organizations (including the International Olympic Committee) rely on WADA’s anti-doping code to craft drug policies and regulations. Still, given the sensitivity of the topic and the nuances surrounding it, we’ll provide further details below.

Cycling as a High-Risk, High-Endurance Sport

Before digging into hemp and its benefits for cyclists, let’s discuss the sport itself. While hemp can benefit all types of athletes, cycling is a particularly interesting sport to highlight. That’s both because of its strict anti-doping rules and the nature of the sport.

Cycling routinely ranks among the most high-endurance sports in the world, topped only by alternatives like distance swimming, Nordic skiing, soccer, and boxing. That’s because most road races are between 50 and 100 miles long, the high end of which takes professional cyclists upwards of six hours to complete.

An entire day on the bike, pushed to the limits of one’s physical abilities, also introduces a significant risk factor. As muscles begin to tire and attention begins to wane, the risk of injuries and accidents increases. Often, the winners of popular races aren’t necessarily the most powerful athletes — they just possess equal amounts of mental and physical ability. Tenacity also helps.

Combine all of these factors, and you have a sporting discipline that’s not for the faint of heart. Competitive cyclists need to orient their entire lifestyle towards staying in great mental and physical shape, and some turn to supplements for help.

4 Benefits of Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil for Cyclists

One of these supplements appears to be getting more attention than others: CBD oil, along with its more complete and comprehensive relative, Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil. The cannabinoids and other chemical compounds found in hemp offer a number of natural advantages that are increasingly relevant for competitive cyclists.

The science regarding hemp-based supplements is still developing, however. While each of the benefits below has been substantiated by at least one study, others are still waiting for confirmation of existing hypotheses. Still, the signs certainly point in the right direction, as we detail below.

1) Building Endurance for Long Races

Endurance athletes need to train. They have to spend weeks and months getting their body ready for an important race. Many athletes train for long hours; this means their endurance levels must last.

In recent years, two medical studies highlighted connections between cannabinoids and the energy levels necessary to sustain a hard workout:

  • 2007 study found that the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in regulating hormones responsible for stress and energy homeostasis. Thus, adding cannabinoids to one’s daily routine may lead to better energy balance in the body.
  • 2015 study discovered that the so-called runner’s high, a feeling of euphoria and sedation that helps endurance athletes transcend feelings of exhaustion, may be directly related to the body’s cannabinoid receptors. The study, performed on mice, showed positive results when the cannabinoids in Hemp Oil activated cannabinoid receptors in the body. Essentially, the activation of cannabinoid receptors precipitated a significant increase in the hormones responsible for the runner’s high phenomenon.

With hemp, you get an ideal scenario where energy balance-related factors can stave off exhaustion. This leads to better endurance for long practice runs, workouts, and track races.

Cyclists in race

2) Improving Recovery After the Race

As in any endurance sport, workout recovery is just as critical as athletic performance. And yet, a number of factors typically prevent athletes from achieving effective recovery management:

  • Poor regeneration practices
  • Stress
  • Deficiencies in diet

Researchers have studied how the chemical compounds in Hemp Oil exert a positive influence on the above factors. Their work highlights hemp’s positive effects on the recovery process.

2018 review of studies found CBD “effective for pain management, without negative side effects.” Meanwhile, the National Institute on Drug Abuse believes cannabidiol to be a reliable option for balanced mood support. And of course, terpenes, another type of compound found in Hemp Oil, may contribute to enhanced physical and mental wellbeing.

3) Managing the Stress Put on Joints

One aspect of pain management that’s particularly relevant for cyclists is the stress put on the joints from long hours of exertion in a single position. Knee pain, experienced by more than 90% of competitive cyclists, is only one example of this type of issue.

Of course, Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil is far from a wonder drug that magically alleviates joint and muscle pain. However, studies are beginning to suggest that it may be a safer alternative to common NSAIDs like ibuprofen, which (when used frequently) can increase the risk of heart attacks, renal damage, and strokes.

Many are instead turning to more natural alternatives like Hemp Oil. As outlined by Harvard Health, a recent study showed that topical use of cannabinoid applications may decrease physical discomfort, with minimal side effects. Meanwhile, another study demonstrated hemp’s ability to inhibit neuropathic distress. These benefits, if proven by further studies, may make a significant difference in managing joint pain and other common joint stressors.

4) Optimal Resting Ahead of the Race

We’ve discussed energy levels above, but let’s be honest. The single best way to get more energy before an important race — or even before a grueling training session — is to get a healthy night’s sleep. This is another area where Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil may be able to help.

  • 2019 study involving 72 test subjects found that 79% of the patients reported lower anxiety levels, and two-thirds reported better sleep, within the first month of taking a hemp-based supplement.
  • 2014 study found that CBD, a cannabinoid in hemp, improved the symptoms of sleep behavior disorder, often associated with daytime sleepiness and nightmares.
  • 2014 review of studies found that cannabinoids can promote wakefulness, preventing the daytime grogginess that can negatively impact athletic performance.

Beyond these direct results, some of the above-mentioned benefits are also related to this topic. Naturally, effective pain management and improved energy levels can also promote the optimal sleep needed to perform at full capacity on the day of the race.

Hemp for Cyclists: Do These Benefits Provide an Unfair Advantage?

Combine the above points, and the advantages Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil offers in relation to sports becomes clearer. This, of course, leads to the natural follow-up question many competitive athletes may have: Do these benefits provide an unfair advantage for athletes, in cycling-related sports like mountain bike racing and track racing?

The short answer, as mentioned above, is no. However, there’s more to that answer, which is why we want to break it down in further detail.

From an ethical standpoint, the benefits outlined above don’t provide an unfair or illegal advantage. Hemp or CBD products are readily available at department stores, supermarkets, and retail outlets. Both professional cyclists and the general public can purchase hemp or hemp-derived CBD products without a doctor’s prescription.

Unlike opioids or illegal blood transfusions, these products present no health or legal risks. Note: Blood doping or EPO blood transfusions involves the illegal use of the drug erythropoietin (EPO) to enhance the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to the muscles.

However, it gets more complex. In 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD, a hemp phytonutrient, from its list of prohibited substances. Its American-based counterpart, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, promptly followed suit. Crucially, marijuana is still on the list of banned substances, as explained in the Marijuana FAQ published on the USADA website.

Check With the Appropriate Authorities When in Doubt

There’s a gray zone here, however. On the same website, the U.S. agency states that “WADA exempted cannabidiol (CBD) from this category. However, all other cannabinoids, whether natural or synthetic, are prohibited in-competition.”

The website doesn’t clarify whether cannabinoids found in Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil are included in that statement.

With that said, the USADA only prohibits cannabinoids in the human body at the time of competition. Thus, hemp products used for endurance build-up may still be legal as long as they clear the system before the race.

In other words, the rules remain ambiguous. This is, in no doubt, due to quality Hemp Oil products just making their way into the mainstream. When in doubt, always check with your competitive body regarding the rules and regulations. This ensures that you do the right thing, both ethically and within the rules of the competition.

The Reasons Why More Cyclists Don’t (Yet) Use Hemp Oil

The above complexities provide a good explanation of just why more competitive cyclists haven’t yet embraced Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil. But, there are other reasons as well, which are important to keep in mind as you consider these products for yourself:

  • While the WADA and USADA have declared CBD legal, they have been explicit that any use is at the athlete’s own risk. That language alone has caused many professionals to stay away.
  • Hemp Oil, while thousands of years old, has only recently emerged as a potential solution for some of the health challenges experienced by Americans. Athletes may be wary, due to the newness of the product and the seeming lack of research substantiating its benefits.
  • Because of the recent advent of Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil products, it’s difficult to gauge the quality of most offerings on the market. More consistent standards will motivate athletes (and the sports industry in general) to embrace these new treatment options.

Find the Right Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil Product for Cyclists

That last point particularly deserves further consideration. Finding the right Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil product is far from easy. Many businesses have rushed to join a rapidly growing industry. However, they don’t always deliver on their promises. Athletes looking into this option must know how to find the right products for their needs:

  • Understand your needs. Anti-inflammatory topicals like body butter make sense for pain management. However, tinctures may be more convenient for sleep and recovery.
  • Understand the industry. Know the differences between Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil and CBD Oil products. Do your own research on the ingredients.
  • Go for transparency. The company you trust should have the backing of medical professionals. It should also offer transparency in supply chain, farming, and manufacturing operations.
  • Look for credibility. Sometimes, credibility is easy to spot. Be wary of outrageous “wonder drug” claims. Choose companies that have established their credibility through third-party testing.

And of course, it never hurts to reach out to Functional Remedies about our Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil products and to learn more about this potential solution. Contact us if you’re ready to have that conversation!