How Below-Zero Temperatures Transform Your Health: A Simple Guide to Cryotherapy
Chances are, you’ve already heard about cryotherapy somewhere else on the internet or in the news.
But… What exactly is cryotherapy? How does cryotherapy work? What does cryotherapy do? How cold does cryotherapy get? Of course, you want to know everything.
No sane person engulfs their body in a plume of freezing nitrogen gas without knowing why first, right?
Don’t worry! I took a look at the science behind it and put all the important stuff here.
In a rush? Skip to the end for an image on my quick run-down!
While cryotherapy can’t make you a 2019 NBA champ or land you a spot in Brad Pitt’s heart, it definitely proves beneficial for lots of other things. I mean, there’s gotta be a reason why Curry went all year without an injury and Jennifer Aniston still looks 25.
Bad jokes aside, let me explain the actual process behind jumping into a whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) machine.
WBC uses nitrogen gas to create a space as cold as -250°F.
While it sounds deadly, the low temperature for such a short period of time is actually safe to handle. Luckily, you’re only in the machine for up to three minutes. In my experience, the nitrogen produces a less-invasive, dry-feeling cold. At least for me, the sessions are a lot less uncomfortable than they seem.
This doesn’t mean that you won’t shake or shiver. In fact, you will freeze your butt off the first time around. However, it’s pretty normal for people to shiver less as they quickly adapt to the subzero temperatures. According to this study, cryotherapy induces two kinds of thermogenesis, which is basically just a fancy word for the process by which your body produces heat.
The first type of thermogenesis is simply shivering. Your body contracts its muscles in response to the cold as a way of warming you up. Shivering might help when its forty degrees out, but not so much when you’re exposed to air colder than Antarctica.
The second kind of thermogenesis (produced as a result of WBC) works on a stronger, metabolic level. This non-shivering thermogenesis forces your body to adapt to the cold by actually transforming the type of fat your body uses.
It works by creating more mitochondria in fat tissue. When this happens, our typically white in color fat tissue turns into what’s known as, “brown fat.”
This brown fat is going to work better at converting the food you eat into body heat. If any of this sounds confusing, that’s because it is.
In a nutshell, WBC converts your body’s fat storage into a more metabolically useful tool. By amping up your metabolism, a single WBC session can cause you to burn around 500-800 calories!
The intense caloric-burn fueled by a single cryo session is not the only thing that makes it a valuable weapon in your fitness cabinet.
I recently studied a long, but interesting podcast about cryotherapy by longevity expert, Dr. Rhonda Patrick. In it, she explains that cryotherapy has been seen to improve performance in elite runners by around 20%, while also inducing quicker muscle recovery.
Whole-body cryotherapy does this when it sends your body into the fight-or-flight response. This triggers the body to produce more norepinephrine which, according to this study, aids in lowering levels of inflammation. Overall, the process is ideal for faster muscle repair and even for building stronger muscle.
Dr. Patrick goes on to explain that exposure to cold temperatures increases the expression of PGC-1 alpha in muscle tissue, ultimately making your muscle fibers more resistant to fatigue. This type of muscle created by PGC-1 alpha is commonly known as “slow-twitch” tissue. They’re the kind of muscles that bodybuilders dream of because they can help you lift for longer periods of time. Cryotherapy can be a great addition to your workout routine to increase your endurance.
I love cryotherapy because of the improvement I’ve seen at the gym, but another thing I can’t resist is the peace of mind it’s given me since I started using it back in 2016.
The first thing that I notice when I jump out of the cryo machine is that my mind is instantly energized. I not only think a little clearer, but I can always tell I’m in a better mood too.
I knew it wasn’t the placebo effect! It turns out that higher levels of norepinephrine (induced by WBC) can prove beneficial not only to your physical health but your mental health as well.
When norepinephrine levels are low, the result is often depression or anxiety. Cryotherapy increases norepinephrine activity, which then inadvertently produces a serotonin and dopamine release in the brain. Many studies have focused on the use of cryotherapy as a treatment for mood disorders.
The physical and mental relieving properties of whole body cryo are joined together by the endorphin rush that WBC stimulates. Elevated endorphins contribute to a nice mood boost, while also reducing your perception of physical discomfort. This study compared endorphins to morphine in their ability to numb the pain. Tired of taking pain meds? A lot of our clients at the CryoBar use cryotherapy in place of prescriptions.
Further studies have also suggested that cryotherapy can attack the source of many painful ailments by aiding in strengthening your immune system.
Sometimes our own immune system causes our body damage by constantly firing immune cells at areas of inflammation, which can lead to tissue damage. Accelerated norepinephrine reduces the over-activity of immune cells.
Ever heard of glutathione?
Glutathione is essential in supporting your immune system by helping to create powerful antioxidant enzymes. It plays a vital role in protecting you from autoimmune diseases, age-related diseases, cardiovascular disease, and more. We produce this naturally. Some people ingest glutathione as a supplement because, as we get older, we produce less and less of it.
What many people don’t know is that it doesn’t matter how much glutathione you have or ingest if your body is not equipped to use it. Cryotherapy enhances your body’s ability to use glutathione proteins and actually benefit from them. According to this study, it only took 5-10 days of cryotherapy sessions to activate glutathione transporting benefits.
Cryotherapy might be the key to a long-term, healthier you.
At this point, I think I’ve already blogged your (ear?) off with the awesome benefits of cryotherapy. There’s just one more thing I have to rave about, though.
Cryotherapy is going to give you the best sleep of your life! Maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but I this it’s appropriate. I’ve struggled with sleep issues for as long as I can remember. Before I began doing cryo consistently, 90% of the time I’d be awake between 2 and 4am on a weekday (As though I didn’t have hours of intense lectures and work to attend that day).
On the days that I do WBC, I can almost guarantee I’m gonna sleep like a baby. Apparently, I’m not the only one. In this study, a group of physically active men who experienced 3-min WBC saw improvement in their sleep patterns as well.
Of course, you’re not going to have all of these benefits the first time around. Most people will have to expose their bodies to WBC temperatures consistently to see profound physiological changes. The protocol is typically 2-3 times a week for about three weeks. At this point, your body will have had significant metabolic and hormetic responses to the cold. After that, you’ll want to maintain the benefits by continually exposing yourself to WBC at your own body’s preference.
If you’re already convinced (and maybe even if you’re not) come check out whole body cryotherapy at the CryoBar to experience the benefits for yourself. While you’re there you can even explore our other cryotherapy services, such as (my second favorite thing ever) the cryo toning facial, or a localized cryotherapy treatment.
You can book your appointment here.
The CryoBar also offers an awesome deal for new clients so that you can get your first chill for $40, or buy a package of four chills for $160! It’s the perfect way to start your cryotherapy journey.
Here are my key takeaways from today’s blog: