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CBD Gel vs Bath Bomb: Which One Is Better for Muscle Recovery?

11/06/2021 12 MIN. READ Alyssha Bal
11/06/2021 12 MIN. READ Alyssha Bal


Three CBD Warmup Exercises

It doesn’t take an expert to conclude that CBD-infused gels and bath bombs have one thing in common: CBD. Before we put these skincare favourites head-to-head, it’s worth appreciating their main active ingredient: hemp-derived cannabidiol.

What Is CBD (Cannabidiol)?

We’ve already resolved the query: what does CBD stand for? But if the word ‘cannabidiol’ leaves you with more questions than answers, you’re not alone. Put simply, CBD is a natural compound that’s present in all cannabis plants, and may offer some potential wellbeing benefits. CBD manufacturers generally favour the hemp (or ‘industrial hemp’) subspecies of cannabis, due to its agricultural resilience, non-psychotropic chemistry, and fascinating botanical profile. As you may already know, hemp is effortlessly rich in cannabidiol molecules, making this plant the natural choice for CBD production.

CBD And The Law

If you’re living in a country or state where cannabis is a controlled substance, the concept of a legal cannabis compound may seem a bit hard to believe. However, CBD may literally fit the bill (depending on where you live, of course). 

In line with strict regulations, CBD is legal in the UK and pretty much everywhere in the European Union. To achieve this status, manufacturers must ensure that their CBD oils and extracts come from licenced hemp farms and contain an absolute maximum of 0.2% THC per product (since high concentrations of THC compounds might make you “high”). Now that you understand the general picture, it’s vital to refer to the laws where you live before making any CBD-related purchases or plans.

Why Is CBD So Popular?

Nowadays, news about CBD is spreading like wildfire. According to government-backed market analysts at Prohibition Partners, the 2021 European cannabidiol industry has an estimated value of £348.3 million, and this figure has been forecast to grow at an annual rate of almost 70%. Suffice it to say, CBD is incredibly popular. But why?

According to word-of-mouth, some CBD users suggest that cannabidiol helps them feel better when facing common discomforts and unwanted symptoms. As far as scientific evidence goes, a 2020 literature review by Larsen and Shahinas indicates that some possible CBD benefits may potentially include: 

  • Impacting some symptoms of inflammation and pain
  • Improving your sleep and self-perceived wellbeing
  • Affecting some symptoms of stress and anxiety
  • Its relatively well-tolerated and non-addictive chemistry

  • It’s also useful to note that CBD is particularly popular among athletes and wellness-conscious individuals. This hemp compound has attracted an impressive lineup of famous supporters - from music moguls such as Will.I.Am to US Open champion Lucas Glover and former NBA All-Star Lamar Odom. 

    Before exploring the potential uses of CBD for muscle recovery, let’s explain what we mean by ‘CBD topicals’.

    An Introduction to CBD Topicals

    While some manufacturers stop at CBD oil - a mixture of CBD extract and plant-based carrier oils that you can consume sublingually (under your tongue) -  other brands aim to keep things fresh and exciting. There are a wide variety of ways to experiment with cannabidiol - from eating edibles to inhaling vapours. You may also be able to consume CBD via your skin by using hemp-themed skincare (aka, CBD topicals)

    It’s always best to perform a quick patch test before incorporating any new cosmetics into your routine. To do this, apply a small amount of the product to your skin, and allow roughly 24 hours to look out for any possible signs of irritation.

    Let’s take a look at two of our most popular CBD topicals for active people:

    What Is CBD Gel? 

    As you may be able to guess, VAAY CBD Sport and Active Gel is a smooth and transparent cream-like substance containing alcohol, emulsifying agents, fragrant plant extracts, and (of course) CBD oil. Due to its lightweight nature and portable packaging, you can quickly rub this gel into your skin in many different contexts - whether you’re at the gym, working at your desk, or on an outdoor adventure. We have plenty more to say about CBD gel in just a moment, but first, let’s introduce another sporty topical. Keep in mind; this one might come as a bit of a surprise.

    What Are CBD Bath Bombs?

    We know what you’re thinking: Aren’t bath bombs those fizzy, candy-scented cosmetics that turn your bath water pink and sparkly? You’ll be glad to hear that VAAY Lavender CBD bath bombs are a much more natural, deluxe, and straightforward affair. As the product crumbles and dissolves, your bath becomes infused with cannabidiol, shea butter, and other plant-derived substances. Combined with a soothing soak in the tub, CBD bath bombs may be a natural opportunity to help your mind and muscles adjust and relax after a stressful day or intense workout. 

    Now that you understand the essentials of CBD and some helpful skincare outlines, let’s get into our main deciding factor: muscle recovery.

    Muscle Recovery: What’s The Story?

    Muscles are the dense, protein-rich structures that help us maintain our posture, move around, and exert physical force. Your body contains over 600 muscles (three times more than the number of countries on Earth). Physical activity often introduces mild conditions of stress that enable muscle growth and ‘gains’ to occur. At its most basic level, muscle recovery (or sports recovery) is an essential process of post-exercise adjustment that involves:

  • Resting
  • Rehydrating and refuelling with adequate nutrition (aka, keeping your diet balanced and enriched)
  • Regeneration (the natural growth and repair processes that occur in your body)

  • While physical activity often brings us a deep sense of achievement (and a brief surge of feel-good hormones), it’s not uncommon to experience discomfort in the hours and days that follow. According to Olivier Dupuy and others, some to-be-expected side effects of exercise include fatigue, soreness, microscopic muscle damage, and a temporary spike in inflammation levels. Prolonged exposure to these stressors without adequate recovery can end up doing more harm than good, so it’s vital to incorporate rest into your workout routine. 

    Why Is Rest Important?

    On a physiological level, rest (i.e. ceasing or slowing down your activities) engages your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), a network of cells that naturally helps you relax and regain strength. This process enables some of your body’s inbuilt healing mechanisms to start working - whether you’ve sustained normal wear-and-tear, or more significant exercise-related injuries. A wide variety of cells and structures are involved in muscle growth and recovery, such as:

  • Macrophage cells (which clear away old muscle tissues and waste fluids)
  • Myoblasts (which create new muscle fibres)
  • Fibroblasts (which help to attach these fibres to your bones)

  • Any exercise is technically a form of stress, and taking some well-deserved downtime can make a huge difference when it comes to your self-perceived sense of balance and wellbeing. According to a 2008 study involving twelve active men, intense workouts may potentially trigger a short-term spike in your circulatory cortisol (stress hormone) levels. In some cases, excessive exposure to cortisol can cause feelings of agitation and sadness (as well as a general sense of being overwhelmed) to accumulate. On the other hand, a self-care oriented recovery plan may influence your oxytocin levels (the hormone associated with comfort and affection).

    Common Fitness Habits That Can Support Your Muscle Recovery

    Proper Nutrition and Rehydration

    Have you ever felt so ravenous after a workout that you ended up eating large amounts of high-carb, high-fat foods (and regretting it shortly after)? If so, you’re not alone. Since intense exercise ‘raids’ our fluid and energy stores, it’s best to replenish yourself with a nutritionally balanced meal and plenty of water. Some ‘anabolic window’ researchers even suggest that the calories you consume within 30 minutes of exercising might support muscle growth more directly than anything you eat later on. 

    Stretching After Exercise (And Not Just Before)

    You’ve probably heard of the lactic acid (or, more correctly, ‘lactate’) that can build up in your muscles during periods of intense exercise. Technically, it’s a result of anaerobic respiration - a mechanism that occurs when your oxygen levels are low, and your energy supplies are limited. Stretching can help to activate circulation and increase the amount of oxygen in your muscles. Gently mobilising your body post-exercise may also help to reduce lactate buildup, which may, in turn, decrease some symptoms of muscle fatigue, soreness, and cramps. This technique is known as active recovery. On the other hand, skipping your post-workout stretches and staying still (i.e. passive recovery) might make you feel even more uncomfortable the next day. Check out our post-workout routine for tips and inspiration. 

    Maintaining Good Sleep Hygiene

    Don’t worry; we’re not talking about how tidy your bedroom is! ‘Sleep hygiene’ is a concept that first emerged in the 1970s, and explores how our daily habits and environments can influence our sleep patterns. Since a wide range of irreplaceable growth and repair processes occur during sleep, it’s essential to get a good night’s rest after exercising (and ideally, every night). Many experts suggest that limiting your screen time, avoiding late-night meals, and maintaining a consistent bedtime may help you sleep better. CBD sleep products may also be right or you. 

    But before we explore the potential benefits of CBD gels and bath bombs in closer detail, let’s consider the possible perks of CBD consumption from a fitness perspective.

    The Potential Benefits of CBD (Cannabidiol) For Muscle Recovery

    As we’ve reviewed so far, minor wear-and-tear is a standard (and ultimately positive) component of exercise - whether you’re a professional athlete or a brand new gym member. However, fitness is no walk in the park. Suppose you’re on a mission to gain muscle and build strength. In that case, you’ll know that the road can be rocky - from the unavoidable aches and pains that come from exercising, to the emotional toll of persevering to challenge yourself and unlock your new personal best. Is CBD a supplement that can help you on this journey? 

    Here are some of the possibilities that motivate people to try cannabidiol:

    CBD Might Impact Your Natural Muscle Function

    According to a 2019 study involving rodents, CBD may possibly interact with the transient receptor potential channels (TPI channels) in your body - networks of membrane proteins. But what do TPIs do?

    Some experts suggest that TPI channels affect your contractions and help your muscles exert force while performing tasks. The extent to which CBD may engage with these channels is not yet known. However, some researchers suggest that cannabidiol might affect your body’s natural response to symptoms of muscle damage and some signs of stress-triggered muscle loss. 

    The study we’ve mentioned above suggests that CBD consumption may potentially:

  • Impact the regular locomotor activities in your muscles
  • Affect some of the natural growth and repair processes that occur in your body
  • Influence some mobility-related signs of inflammation (such as stiffness)

  • Can CBD Affect Your Inflammation Symptoms, Mood, and More?

    As we know, temporary inflammation (most commonly evidenced by swelling and increased blood flow) is a typical and often uncomfortable consequence of working out. Likewise, mood-related struggles such as stress and anxiety can involve physiological changes that can cause your muscles to become tense and more prone to soreness. While exercise releases feel-good endorphins, committing to a workout plan can be both physically and emotionally hard-going: no pain, no gain, as they say. But can CBD help you to ‘bounce back’ after intense physical activity?

    According to Jamie Corroon and Jake Felice, CBD molecules may potentially interact with one of your body’s essential cell-signalling systems: the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Some scientists indicate that the ECS plays a core role in regulating your mood, immune response, and many other mechanisms necessary for survival and wellbeing.

    As a result of its possible interactions with ECS receptors, CBD might potentially:

  • Reduce some signs of inflammation
  • Help to decrease some symptoms of anxiety and possibly depression
  • Improve your sleep (and thus, your natural muscle recovery process)

  • For more information on the ECS and how CBD might affect it, you’ll love our exclusive VAAY magazine article: The Endocannabinoid System and Cannabidiol.

    So, How Long Do CBD Topicals Take to ‘Work’?

    Since CBD topicals make contact with your skin membranes rather than your airways or digestive system, you may need to allow at least 45 minutes for any potential CBD absorption to take place. As we’ll discover shortly, you can incorporate CBD gels and bath bombs into different sports recovery techniques that might influence your sense of wellbeing and how your muscles feel. As you may have already guessed, the methods we’ll focus on are CBD massage and bathing. Keep reading to learn more!

    CBD Gel and Massage For Muscle Recovery

    A massage doesn’t need to take a long time to be effective. Showing your tired muscles some extra care can even take as little as five minutes. Whether you enjoy deep tissue strokes that release general stress and ‘knots’, or a more targeted sports massage, CBD gel might just give you goosebumps (the good kind).

    What Can CBD Gel Bring to Your Massage Game?

    Due to its slick texture and refined formula, CBD gel glides over the skin with minimal effort and without any unwanted greasy residue. Chemically speaking, gel particles are reasonably small and easy to absorb. When cannabidiol molecules are suspended in this type of formula, it might enable any potential CBD absorption to occur more quickly. 

    Beyond CBD, VAAY’s hemp-based gel also contains:

    Cooling Menthol and Other Terpenes

    Put simply: terpenes are fragrant plant compounds that typically have distinctive aromas and an exciting range of potential wellbeing benefits. Some studies suggest that athletes can use menthol (a chemical that gives mint its… well, minty taste!) as a natural cooling intervention that may impact their exercise capacity and symptoms of post-workout muscle soreness. Likewise, limonene (a hemp terpene with a ‘lemony’ scent) might affect some signs of inflammation and muscle fatigue.

    Soothing Essential Oils 

    Essential oils derived from plants such as clove and red pepper may stimulate your skin with warming sensations that might help to ‘distract’ you from deeper feelings (such as pain signals). A study by D Soyka and others suggests that eucalyptus oil may help relax your muscles and mind.

    Does Massage Help Muscle Recovery?

    According to a 2020 study involving 1012 participants, a massage may have a significant impact on your self-perceived wellbeing and range of motion after intense exercise. As part of this research, athletic participants who received post-workout massages claimed to notice improvements in their flexibility and post-sport symptoms of muscle soreness. One possible reason for this may be that massage activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) - which may help to promote relaxation and aid natural muscle recovery processes. 

    To put a long story short, a CBD-infused massage might be a convenient and potentially enjoyable way to unwind after exercise.

    CBD Bath Bombs and Water Immersion For Muscle Recovery

    Earlier in this text, we touched upon the importance of staying hydrated throughout your exercise and recovery process. However, you may also find water immersion a helpful way to ‘let go’ of excess muscle tension and toxins. Understandably, the thought of taking a hot bath when you’re sweaty, overheated, and flustered may send you running for the hills. Here’s the good news: a CBD bath may be best kept as an evening ritual or something to enjoy during a period of rest and recovery without time pressure- meaning you can ‘cool down’ before the bath warms you back up again!

    What Can a CBD Bath Bomb Bring To The Equation?

    While the simple act of immersing yourself in water is likely to make you feel good by itself, a CBD bath bomb might just take post-workout bathing to a whole new level. Once your bath bomb has dissolved, you can unwind in a tub full of CBD-infused water and encounter cannabidiol from head to toe. As the steam rises from your bath, why not practice being present by taking some deep breaths and enjoying the moment? With a little extra mindfulness, you can make your CBD bath an immersive and soothing experience. 

    Lavender Oil (and Flowers)

    People have used lavender in foods, beverages, balms, and soaks for centuries. It’s one of the most popular essential oils on the planet - and for a good reason! According to a 2018 study, lavender may help to reduce some symptoms of muscle tension, stress, and anxiety. It might also impact your body’s natural response to tissue swelling (oedema) and decrease some of the discomforts caused by inflammation. As if these properties weren’t intriguing enough, lavender may also help to limit the growth of bacteria.

    Natural Moisturisers

    Did you know that friction and exercise-related fluid loss can sometimes cause your skin to lose some of its moisture temporarily? Premium CBD bath bombs contain natural skincare favourites such as shea butter, beeswax, hemp seed oil, and jojoba. These ingredients can help to temporarily ‘seal in’ moisture and influence your skin’s texture. Substances such as coconut oil may even offer some potential anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties.

    The Benefits of Water Immersion

    According to J Ingram and others, bathing in cool or cold water in the period immediately following an intense workout routine may potentially influence some symptoms of inflammation and affect the smoothness of your muscle mobility. These researchers also suggest that taking a comfortably hot bath the day after you’ve exercised may help reduce signs of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Many studies indicate that bathing can positively impact your circulation, tension levels, bones, joints, and even your mental health on a more general level. Sounds promising, right?

    CBD Gels vs Bath Bombs: Which Should You Choose?

    By now, you’ve probably noticed that CBD gels and bath bombs may potentially have a lot in common - aside from their textures, broader ingredients and methods of use. Both of these products are CBD topicals that may influence your post-workout comfort levels and potentially impact some symptoms of inflammation, stress, and muscle soreness due to their cannabidiol content. So, how do you decide which one to try? 

    The following observations can help you to make up your mind:

  • CBD gel is suitable for on-the-go use, and you can use it to massage your recovering muscles without the need for special preparation or privacy.

  • CBD bath bombs are an opportunity to enjoy some private me-time and help relax your body and mind via water immersion.

  • It’s possible to enjoy both products (as long as you’re mindful of your total CBD dosage- you may wish to start with a low amount of one product and gradually work your way up to using both).

  • For your peace of mind, you should always choose a CBD brand that can provide you with official documentation to support its ingredients (i.e. a Certificate of Analysis, or COA).


    In this article, we’ve reiterated that muscle recovery is an imperative process that promotes the growth and repair of protein fibres in your body. Intense workouts can be incredibly demanding on your energy reserves and muscle power, so it’s not uncommon to feel swollen, stiff, and tender after exercising. CBD might possibly influence some signs of inflammation, soreness, and stress - helping to reduce some of your discomforts. Furthermore, some early studies suggest that CBD may impact some of the natural muscle recovery processes that take place in your endocannabinoid system (ECS) and transient receptor potential channels (TRP channels). 

    CBD gels and bath bombs are two popular ways to consume cannabidiol topically (via your skin’s membranes). You may find that gels are more appropriate for portable and localised use, while bath bombs can be used as part of a more immersive, full-body relaxation ritual. 

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