CBD-Infused Clothing Claims to Prevent Soreness Before It Starts, But Does It Work?
From topical ointments and oral tinctures to chocolates and gummies, CBD — a non-psychoactive component of cannabis said to relieve pain, headaches, and even anxiety and depression — comes in many forms. And now, apparently, there’s also CBD-infused clothing.
Last month, Acabada Activewear launched the first brand of workout clothes that contain CBD, which supposedly helps “fight soreness and promote healing before activity even begins.” Here’s how they say it works: CBD droplets (which are wrapped in a polymer coating to protect it from evaporation) are embedded in the fabric, and then released onto the skin with friction and movement. According to the website, the CBD’s effects last through 40 wash cycles.
While built-in pain relief would be a nice addition to a workout, some experts say there’s not much scientific premise to the theory that CBD in clothes can actually reduce pain. And because, like many other supplements, it isn’t regulated by the FDA, not all CBD is effective — or even safe.
“There’s no evidence to show that over-the-counter doses and availability of CBD actually treat many of the symptoms people are complaining about,” says board-certified emergency department physician Darria Gillespie. “There’s no way to know if you’re getting too much or too little, or what else is in the product.”
There’s some research showing CBD may be effective for certain conditions — for example, it’s been shown to reduce seizures in children with epilepsy, and that it has an anti-inflammatory effect — but there’s no way to tell how effective or safe over-the-counter CBD products will be. According to 2017 research, nearly 70 percent of CBD products studied were mislabeled. While some products contained more or less CBD than they claimed, around 20 percent contained THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana).
“The biggest risk is that so many CBD products are contaminated with other things,” says Gillespie. “I really wonder if the people who say they’re getting great benefits from their CBD products are getting a benefit because they’re actually getting a little bit of marijuana.”
When it comes to infusing sports bras with CBD, Gillespie says her biggest concern is the lack of regulation. There’s no way to determine how much CBD will be released, not to mention if the CBD itself will bring any positive effects. “When we do things where we release medications into your bloodstream, we know exactly how much someone is going to absorb over a given time point. With activewear, there’s absolutely no way to regulate how much someone will get,” she says.
And then there’s the issue of whether we actually need CBD during or after workouts. Michael Fredericson, a sports medicine physician at Stanford Health Care, says topical CBD can be an effective anti-inflammatory treatment for sore muscles or joints, but applying CBD during or after a workout may not actually be all that helpful.
Inflammation does come with soreness, but Fredericson says covering the inflamed muscle area with an anti-inflammatory agent can prevent muscle tissue from repairing itself and getting stronger. “If you immediately blunt the inflammation that occurs, you’re not really going to benefit from that workout,” he says. “Some of that inflammation is helpful for getting you stronger.”
Other types of pain during and after workouts aren’t so beneficial, like joint pain from arthritis or an injury. For this kind of inflammation, Fredericson questions whether wearing CBD is the best solution. While Acabada claims its products cover the major muscle groups, topical ointments and salves are more targeted — plus, you can control how much you’re using. “You just put the ointment right where you need it, and you know it’s going to go right to that area. That makes a lot more sense to me,” Fredericson says.
Rather than relying on potentially ineffective (and expensive) CBD-infused workout wear for a pain-free workout or faster recovery, it may be smarter to focus on how you exercise. “The most effective way to prevent injuries during exercise is to start with a proper warm-up, listen to your body, focus on proper form, and allow time for recovery,” says Amy Shafer, Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Manager at The University of Tennessee Medical Center.
For a gentle and pain-free workout, Shafer suggests beginning your exercise routine with gentle movement to increase lubrication around the joints and boost blood supply to your muscles and finishing with a 5 to 10-minute cooldown to jump-start recovery. In addition, if you have any pain before you exercise, try to lay off that particular area for a few days.
Most importantly, always stop working out if something doesn’t feel right. “Continuing to work through joint or muscle pain can lead to using incorrect form, which not only makes the exercise less effective, but also increases your risk of further injury,” she says.
CBD has become the buzzy ingredient of the moment, and it's in everything from food, to toothpaste, to now, clothing. Activewear brand Acabada claims that infusing its clothing with CBD can prevent soreness and help wearers heal from exercise more quickly, but is it true?