CBD and Cortisol

From Effect of cannabidiol on plasma prolactin, growth hormone and cortisol in human volunteers.

This study was conducted back in 1993 and consisted of only 11 volunteers.

The study concluded that CBD had no effects on prolactin or growth hormone.

The more interesting conclusion of the study found after a dose of CBD, there was a significant decrease in cortisol levels. CBD was also found to have a sedative effect as determined by the self-evaluation scales. The present results suggest that CBD interferes with cortisol secretion.

It should also be noted that plasma cortisol levels decreased significantly during the placebo sessions, which is in agreement with the normal circadian rhythm of this hormone.

The present results suggest that CBD interferes with cortisol secretion.

What does this mean for strength development?

Cortisol is a steroid hormone, popularly referred to as the stress hormone of the body.

It is produced in humans within the adrenal gland and is released in response to stress and low blood-glucose concentration. It functions to increase blood sugar through gluconeogenesis, to suppress the immune system, and to aid in the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. It also decreases bone formation. As a general statement, we all want to reduce the amount of cortisol being produced by our bodies.

From a 50,000 ft view of stress, there are two main types Eustress & Distress. Distress is the unproductive type of stress that we want to try to minimize in life, there are many forms of distress, including chronic stress that may be caused by work, money problems, family issues, relationships, socioeconomic status, depression. The longer we deal with these issues without resolve, the more negatively the body is affected. Chronic stress is not healthy for the body. Our body is trying to fight or run from a problem that can’t be solved the caveman way.

Not all stress is bad however, this is where Eustress enters the picture. This is generally short term and has a positive effect on the body. It is motivational, we feel it is within our capabilities, it feels exciting and can improve our performance. Examples include, promotion at work, buying a house, exercise, competitive sports, taking a vacation, education.

Although stress can have positive and negative effects, whether you’re exercising or struggling with work, cortisol is being released and accumulating in the body.

Eustress creates a “seize-the-day” heightened state of arousal, which is invigorating and often linked with a tangible goal. Cortisol levels return to normal upon completion of the task. Distress, or free-floating anxiety, doesn’t provide an outlet for the cortisol and causes the fight-or-flight mechanism to backfire. – Christopher Bergland

It’s important that cortisol be managed as well as can be, since modern life seems to be cortisol inducing. Not only does it affect our mental and physical well being on a day to day basis, but this state also has negative effects on performance and recovery. A short list of the negative outcomes from chronically elevated cortisol levels include:

  • Suppressed immune system
  • Depressed levels of testosterone
  • The body enters a catabolic state (this one is because the body prepares its resources for rapid mobilization to take immediate action in the fight or flight response)
  • Increased risk of injury
  • Increased fatigue
  • Negatively affect sleep, sex drive, bone & ligaments
  • Increase inflammation markers

In summary:

A literature review of hormonal responses to exercise by Steinacker et al. (2003) suggested that with glycogen deficiency, cortisol levels are elevated and induce a “myopathy-like state” in skeletal muscle.

Myopathy is defined as a disease of the muscle in which the muscle fibers do not function properly.

The solution:

There are a lot of ways to minimize the stress in your life, which can include, but not limited to:

  • Improve sleep, both quality and quantity
  • Increase vitamin B, D & calcium
  • Ingesting 4+g of BCAA & 6+g of glutamine post exercise can decrease cortisol
  • Increasing vitamin C levels by 1g daily
  • CBD supplementation
  • Generally healthy lifestyle (duh)
  • Higher levels of carbohydrates in the diet
  • A deeper and not so simple tactic is to also look at your life and remove or minimize external stressors




How Cortisol Effects Performance


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