Could CBD Workout Clothes Possibly Work?

Workout clothing infused with CBD

Acabada’s products come with a hefty price tag — and a lot of thorny questions. Image Credit: By Maridav on shutterstock.

From sports drinks to protein powders to fitness supplements, workout warriors have no shortage of choices when it comes to soothing sore muscles with CBD. Now, they have a wearable option as well: CBD-infused activewear. 

New York-based Acabada Active recently unveiled a line of sustainably-made sports tops, bras, and leggings with fabrics that are infused with up to 25 grams of CBD isolate (though most items seem to contain far less — their sports bras, for example, have just 4 grams of CBD). The products are now available through Acabada’s website.

But how exactly are CBD workout clothes supposed to work? According to Acabada’s website, the secret is the “microencapsulation” technology used to make the clothes. Tiny capsules — which are “strategically placed to align with major muscle groups” — of CBD are embedded into each garment after being coated with a protective shell that is supposed to prevent the cannabinoid from evaporating or being contaminated. When the person wearing the garments starts to move, creating friction, these capsules begin to break down and release CBD into the skin.

In the highly competitive CBD industry, Acabada seems to have found the rarest of gems: A previously unoccupied niche. No other brands are currently making CBD-infused workout clothes, which Acabada’s CEO and co-founder, Seth Baum, saw as a golden opportunity.

“While typical CBD products such as tinctures and edibles are growing exponentially in popularity, we began to envision a product that addressed health and wellness through a different lens. By physically infusing CBD into our garments, our product lives at the intersection of fashion, fitness, and wellness,” Baum said in a recent press release. 

It’s an intriguing thought, but Acabada’s products come with a hefty price tag — and a lot of thorny questions. Tank tops and sports bras run for $120, their leggings are $160, and their jackets and jumpsuits $250 — and we can’t be sure they actually work.

Here’s the Problem With CBD Workout Clothes

One of the biggest issues with Acabada’s infused activewear is that it doesn’t actually stay infused for that long — the brand’s website says each garment retains its CBD for up to 40 washes. That might sound like a lot, but assuming you wash your workout clothes once a week, you’ll hit that number in under a year (and that’s assuming the “40 washes” estimate is accurate, which is a big assumption). 

And even before you wash your CBD workout clothes for the first time, it’s uncertain whether they can deliver enough CBD to make a noticeable difference. While a 2017 in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoids Research found that there’s no universally effective CBD dosage for humans — as this depends on factors like age, metabolism, and the condition being treated — the majority of human subjects in studies take between 20-1,5000 mg per day. Most of Acabada’s products contain far less than this (their Mercer Tank, for example, has 6 mg), and it’s not clear if that full amount will be deposited every time you exercise in the clothes, since the brand provides no “serving size” information on its website. 

The problems with CBD activewear’s delivery method go deeper — or rather, don’t go deep enough. While Acabada is correct that studies show CBD can be effective at treating pain and inflammation, it’s unclear whether topical delivery is the best way to do so. The main issue is that topical CBD may be unable to penetrate the inner layers of the skin to reach the sore muscles and tissues below. 

Some brands (like Acabada) are using nanotechnologies to try to solve this problem — as Baum told Allure, “Once the CBD is released from the fabric and has made contact with the wearer’s skin, it acts exactly the same as applying any other type of topical CBD cream or gel. The microencapsulation delivery method has been tested and proven effective for over 15 years, with documented results to back up these findings.” However, those tests haven’t focused on CBD specifically, so there’s still no scientific consensus that Acabada’s solution is truly effective. 

And then there’s the matter of the CBD itself. Acabada touts its product as being 100 percent free of THC, and since they use a CBD isolate, this is probably true (unless the CBD they’re using is mislabelled or contaminated, which is an unfortunately common issue). However, CBD isolates are less effective than other types of CBD oil, such as full spectrum varieties, because they’ve been stripped of all the other therapeutic compounds found in the cannabis plant. 

While Acabada could perhaps be commended for finding a fresh spin on the CBD craze — and creating a new way for wellness-conscious millennials to spend their money — there’s simply not much of an argument to be made for choosing infused activewear over more mainstream products.

As Dr. Michael Fredericson, sports medicine physician at Stanford Health Care, told Allure, an old-fashioned CBD topical is a smarter (and more cost-effective) option for most people. “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,” he said.

Alexa Peters
Alexa Peters
Alexa Peters is a Seattle-based freelance writer who covers wellness, culture, and music. Alexa’s work has appeared in Leafly, The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, Thrillist, and in Audiofemme, where she is a regular music columnist.

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