The Benefits of Cryotherapy for Athletes
The fact that Cryotherapy has many athletic benefits is nothing new, Lebron James, Floyd Mayweather, Michael Phelps, The list of Top athletes using it is swelling rapidly. In fact, it’s growing by around 10% a year.
Cryotherapy has a wide range of benefits in multiple different fields
- Health & Beauty
- Medical Recovery
- Athletic Performance
click here for a full list of Cryotherapy Benefits, as this article is going to focus primarily on the athletic benefits, and their performance enhancing qualities for athletes the world over.. You can also find an exhaustive list of Supporting Research Here.
The Athletic Benefits of Cryotherapy can be broken down into roughly 4 things.
- Recovering Faster
- More Energy
- A Stronger Immune System
Most of these things are triggered through key hormone releases, which we’ll break down in concise detail later.
Why Every Athlete Needs Whole Body Cryotherapy!
While working out is important to stay healthy, the recovery process used after is just as important and in fact this is where cryotherapy can offer the most in the way of athletic benefits. Pushing ourselves physically but not allowing our bodies the time to rest and heal takes a toll on our overall health and makes it more difficult to have the motivation to keep pushing. Whether your pain stems from a rigorous workout regimen, physically active lifestyle or demanding work schedule. Why do Athletes use Cryotherapy? it's one of the best ways to give your body the boost it needs to get back to your workout routine.
The all natural treatment of Cryotherapy has been used for recovery and athletic benefits worldwide for over 40 years. By submerging your body in a chamber full of air which has been cooled with cryogenic technology, your body becomes exposed to a wide variety of positive effects. The -300°F climate promotes vasoconstriction, which flushes the extremities of blood helping blood flow and reducing inflammation in the muscles. This is an effect caused by the body’s natural reaction to the extreme drop of temperature.
Why Athletes Use Cryotherapy
torturous ice baths have been the traditional method of recovery for athletes, something you have to endure for twenty minutes. Cryotherapy is becoming the new norm for sports team all over the world. There are certainly less screams heard all around the world as well.
Considering that regular use of cryotherapy cuts recovery times down dramatically and allows athletes to train harder and more frequently, it is no wonder athletes can’t get enough of it.
Speaking of recovery time the cryotherapy session lasts only three minutes. This is all the time that it takes which on an unrelated note makes it extremely easy to fit into even the most chaotic of schedules. Cryotherapy is so popular that some celebrities have even purchased their own cryosaunas to be installed in their homes.
Cristiano Ronaldo even bought a personal cryotherapy chamber to use in his house for recovery. The Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves all have cryotherapy chambers installed in their training facilities to use before and after training in order to recover more efficiently. Sports teams have even been known to use localized cryotherapy during games to reduce inflammation of injuries for athletes to stay in the game.
If an Athlete has any sort of injury cryotherapy works to reduce the inflammation which allows for the body to heal itself and stay away from harmful painkillers. Athletes use cryotherapy for a number of reasons:
- Jump start immunity
- Release endorphins for better sleep
- Reduce inflammation
- Be able to train harder since they are no longer in pain
- Quick energy boost
With all of the daily stressors of life taking its toll on our bodies, a holistic side effect free approach like Cryotherapy is one of the best ways you can take care of yourself.
Check out The Science of Cryotherapy for yourself
The 2 Biggest Benefits for Athletes
Though the Athletic Benefits of Cryotherapy are many, there are 2 athletic benefits in particular that are key to athletic performance (there is arguably a 3rd but we’ll get to that later)
The first is Vasoconstriction, your body pulls blood from your outer extremities to your inner core in order to protect your internal organs from the cold. The idea is to sacrifice your limbs in exchange for the good of the body (This is how Hypothermia happens in normal uncontrolled cases). In doing this your body pulls the hormones and blood in swollen areas back to your core-effectively reducing swelling & Pain (since some of the hormones active in a swollen area actually cause your nerve ending to be more sensitive).
The Second main benefit is the Hormonal Response of the body to the extreme temperatures in the Cryochamber. Your body anticipates that some form of damage will be done, either to your extremities, or worse to your internal organs. Because of this it preemptively releases several hormones known for their tissue repairing benefits, such as Insulin (this is also why Cryotherapy can help diabetes patients).
More importantly though it allows you to get back to the gym sooner without the fear of overtraining holding your back, and with that, you can train even more, and further your athletic Performance.
If you have any questions on why Athletes Cryotherapy feel free to message us on the contact page, and if you’re looking for additional articles to read we recommend How Often You Should Use Cryotherapy
Another reason why Athletes use Cryotherapy has to do with Energy Production. You see, when your in the Cryochamber your body is forced to make a rapid adjustment and produce heat to keep you warm.
It does this in 2 ways, the first is by shivering. The muscles tense and release, generating heat in the process. The Second, is through your metabolism, you see your body has 2 kinds of fats it uses, the first is white fat, the common oily substance we all fight to keep off us, the second is what’s known as “Brown Fat” which is essentially a more readily usable form of white fat-your body must immediately use this special storage to keep you warm, and since you have less of it after your session, your body is forced to make more, moving some of the less useful white fat into the more mitochondria dense brown fat.
Now well take a moment to go over some of the more key benefits of cryotherapy again in depth.
Athletic Benefits (4 Reasons)
Inflammation is the body’s way of eliminating the cause of cell injury, ridding the body of dead cells and initiating cell & tissue repair mechanisms. Inflammation has been proven to not only be a key cause for the aging process, but to also be behind at least 80% of all disease.
When you’re injured chemicals are released into the blood to protect your body from foreign substances. This release of chemicals increases the blood flow to the area of injury or infection, and in the process causes swelling.
While this is a natural reaction of the body intended to help with the healing process, it frequently makes things worse by causing excessive swelling, further bursting veins and causing additional swelling, as well as releasing hormones that cause nerves to be more sensitive which in turn cause more pain (again this is a natural function of the body to keep you from further using and damaging the injured area).
There are many cases such as with rheumatoid arthritis, or even with general lifting (your muscles are torn when you lift), where too much inflammation can occur, and be detrimental instead of beneficial.
Cryotherapy Helps inflammation and pain by bringing your body to an extreme temperature, and eliciting a response from your brain, signaling it to pull the blood from your extremities to your internal organs. Why would it do this? Because your internal organs are the last thing you want to shut down. Your body will sacrifice fingers, toes, and other less important parts of the body before it lets the most vital organs get completely shut down, this is why frostbite occurs primarily first in those respective areas. So by retracting the blood back to your internal organs, you eliminate the excess blood in areas of swelling, and in the process reduce pain.
In addition to this a neurotransmitter and hormone by the name of Norepinephrine which has key inflammation reducing properties, acts to inhibit the inflammatory pathway by decreasing TNF-alpha, a molecule that increases inflammation, as well as reducing other inflammatory cytokines that are key players in causing inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.
In addition to reducing inflammation in the arsenal of athletic benefits cryotherapy offers; and in the process preventing excessive swelling from bursting veins and causing additional damage, Cryotherapy also elicits a response in the brain that causes it to release hormones into the bloodstream. Why? Because your body believes itself to be in extreme danger of freezing. This is the reason your body takes precautions by pulling blood from your extremities to your core. It does this in order to keep it warm and protect the most vital organs. In addition your body also releases hormones with the intention of repairing anything that might have been damage.
Because your blood is pulled to your core, those same hormones are also primarily in your core during Cryotherapy, this is why Cryo-technicians ask you to ride on a bike or elliptical for a few minutes after your session-because they want your blood to get flowing, and reach the area the injured area so it can help it heal.
Cryotherapy increases your energy levels in 2 ways, by increasing the amount of Brown Fat you have, and by helping your body produce Mitochondria
When the body is exposed to cold, its response is to produce heat. It does this by increasing it’s metabolism to warm the body back up. This process is called thermogenesis. Thermogenesis happens in one of two ways. The first is through muscle contractions which result in shivering — this produces heat. The second involves the body transferring white adipose tissue cells into the more mitochondria-dense & more metabolically active brown adipose tissue cells. The more Brown Adipose Tissue your body has, the more fat your body will burn.
In addition to boosting your metabolism and with it energy production, your body also burns 500-800 calories over a 75-90 minute period of time, while it works to warm you back up to a normal temperature of 98 degrees.
4. Immune System
Regular cold exposure has been shown to increase white blood cell count, increase cytotoxic T lymphocytes (active in killing cancer cells) and increase other beneficial immune cells as well.
Cold exposure has also been shown to activate invaluable naturally occurring genetic anti-oxidizing systems (these are much more powerful than supplemental antioxidants). which helps to destroy self-harming substances that your body produces during several processes including metabolism, this harmful substance is know as Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS).
One important thing to note here is that in regards to anti-oxidizing enzyme activity, it was shown to take multiple sessions of whole body cryotherapy to activate these enzymes. AKA the more cryotherapy sessions done, the more activation of these beneficial enzymes.