The hottest thing going right now in the running market when it comes to performance and recovery is definitely CBD or cannabidiol, one of the many compounds found in the cannabis plant. This association immediately scares most people, but CBD is different than its primary counterpart, THC, in that it lacks any true psychotropic properties. Essentially, CBD doesn’t give you that high feeling often associated with marijuana. Also different from THC based products, CBD is also legal in all 50 states and can be sold and shipped to most as well. Many cultures have been using CBD for years due to its health benefits and its ability to aid in muscle recovery has seen numerous athletes turning to it to help with their training. At The Running Event late last year, the floor was littered with companies trying to enter the market all with a variety of approaches. The real question everyone is asking themselves is what can it do for me and in this article, we jump into a bunch of brands and walk through their offerings.
To start off, we look at the hard question of what CBD is designed to do. It is typically used to reduce muscle pain and decrease inflammation, it helps speed up your recovery time and makes it easier to sleep, and lastly, it plays a role in reducing general stress and anxiety, promoting a sense of calm both in and out of training. It is also 100% natural in its normal state, but of course, it is then refined in many ways depending on the uses and you will find it in everything from topicals to gummies to gels and much much more. The following are some we have selected after 30-60 days of use as best in the breed, not everyone has the same reaction to each brand however so there is some experimentation in this.
The Most Well Rounded CBD Training Lineups
From our perspective, Venga offers one of the most complete CBD endurance and training lines on the market right now. The entire lineup has been built end to end to cover all aspects of your training routine. More than that, their CBD is water-soluble and designed to deliver five times more CBD to your bloodstream than most products you’ll find. Their offering currently consists of three primary products, their Ultra Gels, Aid Station Gummies, and Recovery Balm. They also have a great CBD Guide for Endurance Athletes that is worth a read through, you can find it here.
The Ultra Gels also contain Curcumin which in itself helps with inflammation so the combination is supposed to supercharge this. These are water-soluble so it should work quickly and Venga says they can really be used anytime. We found they worked best in the evening as they led into a peaceful sleep and recovery, but in theory, you could easily take these pre-run or even in a run. Each tablet contains 25mg of CBD and features their patent-pending nano-emulsion technology which is all about increasing the absorption rates. A container of 30 gels will run you $99.00 (USD).
Next up are their Aid Station Gummies (which are vegan and gluten-free!) which for us were perfect in a run. They contain 25mg of CBD each and the citrus flavor is okay, but it’s definitely hard to compete on taste given all the players in this market, but they do the job. You can easily do 1 to 2 an hour and a jar of 30 will run you $49.00 (USD).
Last up is their Recovery Balm which is perfect after the shower or before bed. They have two jar styles, a 2oz version featuring 1000mg of CBD and a smaller 1oz jar at 500mg. In addition to the CBD, you will find a mix of aromatic essential oils and beeswax and honestly, the smell on this is very minimal which is a huge plus. It doesn’t have the icy hot cooling feeling others do, but it does work well. The large jar is $99.00 (USD) and the smaller is $59.00 (USD).
You can buy them all direct from their website.
IKOR is a really interesting one and we had a chance to try it right on the show floor at The Running Event in Austin which took us into a longer test. They also have a nice lineup that spans all your needs and where they do a good job is blending CBD with other well known all-natural ingredients to produce a cocktail of sorts. Their lineup includes a recovery shot, a daily tincture, and then a recovery topical.
First up is the IKOR Recovery Shot which is 2oz and probably 100% better tasting than you might expect. It features 22mg of liposomally encapsulated (for absorption) full spectrum hemp extract (13mg of CBD), and then a mix of beetroot, tart cherry, raspberry juice, turmeric, ginger, ashwagandha root, and hyaluronic acid. Pop these bad boys in the fridge and then pull them out before or after exercise, give it a hard shake and you are good to go. Each one costs $5.99 (USD) and you can also buy them in 6 and 12 packs or even subscribe!
Their daily tincture (drops) features 18mg of full-spectrum hemp extract (5mg of CBD) and a nice citrus flavor from the included fruit extracts. It is designed to be used twice a day (morning and night) and at 5 pumps a day should provide about 200 servings. They come in a 1oz tincture for $69.99 (USD) or a 3.5oz version for $179.99 (USD).
Then have some great athletes on their team and you can learn more and buy direct from them on their site.
The Best CBD Options to Just Throw in Your Training Bag
So first off, MuscleMX does offer drops and lotions, but what we truly loved were their balms which we really leaned into and have become a mainstay. Built and packaged much like deodorant, the balms come in two versions, ACTIVATE and RECOVERY, both retailing at $39.99 (USD) for a 2.5oz stick. The Activate version is designed to be used before your workout and like so many others features all-natural ingredients including broad-spectrum CBD, Camphor, Arnica, Peppermint, Beeswax, Coconut, Grapeseed, Eucalyptus, Caffeine, and more. It goes on really easy, heats up a bit, and lasts for at least the first 30 minutes of your exercise. After you pop out of the shower, you can then throw on the Recovery version which really does contain the exact same ingredients in just a bit of a different level mix. Fair warning, the camphor and peppermint gave it a bit of a medicinal smell, but it does work.
You can learn more and buy direct from MuscleMX, make sure to try out their products as well. They also sell travel sizes!
Level Select like many others also makes drops and roll-ons, but in their case, we really leaned into their sports creams. All of their products use a proprietary blend of broad-spectrum and nano CBD for better absorption and the interesting part here is they have lumped all their products into “levels”. Each level is really about the amount of strength needed based on the degree of pain, inflammation, and heaviness of workout. Every 3oz container and the ingredients, for the most part, are identical including that broad-spectrum CBD, Menthol, Rosemary, Arnica, Chamomile, Chestnut, Grape Seed, and more. They also have the same minty smell.
For example, Level 1 retails at $39.99 (USD) features 300mg of CBD and it is better for really easy days where a little relaxation is needed. Level 2 comes in at $59.99 (USD) features 600mg of CBD for those harder days and then Level 3 at $89.99 (USD) features 1200mg of CBD which is really for those days when maximum strength is needed.
Find them on all on the site at https://selectmylevel.com/ and you can use the code BOGO50 to buy one, get one 50% off.
The Best CBD Choices for Those on the Fence About CBD
The products from BLNCD are east to jump into and run the gambit across drops, roll-ons, lotions, salves, and more. We would refer to them more as a Wellness brand than an athletic brand, but the look and feel of the brand make it really easy to introduce this to runners and non-runners alive. Our particular favorite for runners is their CBD Salve for Relief and does have a subtle minty smell which again makes it easily accessible. It contains grapeseed, sunflower, beeswax, arnica, wintergreen, peppermint, eucalyptus, helichrysum, and of course CBD. They come in 500 and 1000mg tins for $50.00 and $80.00 (USD) respectively.
Check out their website for full details and of course to buy direct.
Last up is Sagely Naturals and one can’t get any more wellness-focused than this brand. It appears ripped from the world of Instagram influencers and every product is ready for a photoshoot. This is definitely a gateway into the world and their products run the gambit from capsules to roll-ons to creams, lotions, serums, oils, and more. Runners will want to focus on their Relief & Recovery lineup which sees broad-spectrum CBD mixed with other ingredients like Turmeric and Black Pepper extracts. For a little additional, check out the Extra Strength models.
Their website is a wealth of information and the 101 section alone is a great place to start one’s education. Make sure you signed up for their newsletter for 15% off.
The real conclusion here is that there is no magic pill, but there are folks out there really pushing the needle and this is a good thing for the entire running community. Whether it works for everyone remains to be seen, but CBD is really an amazing all-natural alternative for recovery in our tests. There is a bit of an unknown on the long term use side, but people around the world have been using hemp and CBD for centuries so we can lean on that as a decent test sample. Personally, we have had really amazing success with many of these products. We would love to see some regulation come to bear to really justify the quantities of CBD that are thrown around as right now one really just has to take it on faith. The other area we struggle a bit with is when you have products that contain camphor, menthol, tart cheery, beet, etc then you have to wonder if it’s the CBD or those products and is it worth the extra cost. However, if you feel it is helping you then in the end, stick with what works and in this case… CBD is all the rage, so get on board and give it a shot.