They're (mostly) legal, but are they actually great for athletes?

A muscle-soothing alternative to ibuprofen. A deep-sleep aid. A pre-race anxiety buster. These are just some of the expansive “benefits” attributed to CBD edibles for athletes. All these promises without the drawbacks of smoking, abuse potential, or the psychoactive effects of marijuana. Of course, because of its close relationship with the notorious weed, many still wonder about CBD’s legal status, and whether it’s really safe to ingest.

Much of the CBD used in commercially available products is gleaned from industrial hemp, a plant in the cannabis family that is now legally grown on American soil courtesy of the 2018 Agriculture Improvement Act—a law that removed hemp-derived CBD as a controlled substance. The upshot is that most states allow you to sip CBD-laced tea without worry of the DEA knocking on your door.

Hemp-derived CBD was also removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances last year, which has led to a huge influx of CBD-laced products targeting athletes, marketed as NSAID alternatives with promises to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and improve sleep. And the WADA ruling trickles down to USAT—the governing body that can technically test any of its members at any race. You can now blend CBD-spiked protein powder into your post-training smoothie and fuel up on a CBD energy bar.

But buyer beware: CBD-laced products with claims that they’re intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of diseases must go through the FDA drug approval process before they’re released to market. Many companies skirt this expensive process by massaging their marketing verbiage, and touting their products as supplements, rather than a food or drug. In other words, those grand label claims have probably not been put to the FDA test.

To date, there are few peer-reviewed clinical studies that validate a role for CBD in improving athletic performance or health. When it comes to CBD products, anecdotal evidence from hard-training athletes (and that broadcasted by the CBD industry) seems to have greatly outpaced any hard science.

As for dosage, there have been no studies on recommended amounts for a given ailment. Guidelines suggest starting less than 20 mg a day and working your way up from there if a product is well tolerated. But labels aren’t always so truthful: A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that a significant amount of CBD products sold online contained differing concentrations of CBD than their labels indicated—and some were even tainted with THC.

In short, don’t count on CBD edibles for athletes to be a cure-all. Smart training and sound nutrition are still going to get you to the finish line faster than any CBD candy can. But it is gaining popularity as a replacement for over-the-counter drugs with possible health side effects.

CDB Edibles for Athletes

CBD Edibles for Athletes

Sunday Scaries Gummies

Amazon.com; $40

CBD Edibles for Athletes

Floyd’s of Leadville Recovery Protein

Floydsofleadville.com; $40

CBD Edibles for Athletes

Coromega Max

Coromega.com; $60

Hakuna Awaken Hemp Roast

Hakunasupplycbd.com; $10

RE Botanicals Hemp 25 Classic Tincture

Rebotanicals; $80

Tillman’s Tranquils Mints

Tillmanstranquils.com; $56

PLNT Blend Turmeric + Ginger

Plntblend.com; $24