Today I tried out cryotherapy. Being a Sports Nutritionist, this is something that I've heard a lot about, understood the physiology of why it can be beneficial, but quite honestly... I was super irrationally scared to try it.
In 2013 when I was still in school, I trained for the L.A. Marathon. It was 8 months of highly inflammatory running habits and eating foods that didn't support my recovery (hello bottomless dishes of nutrient empty nachos and pasta). I definitely didn't train the right way. And as a result, my body was always achy, my knees clicked, and I often found myself taking naps - which I never take naps. I was able to keep the aches and pains at bay with constant icing and ice baths. This high inflammatory state not only effected me physically ~ I was also at an all time low with my anxiety, too. Inflammation has been found to be the major causing factor in almost every chronic disease. Leading a healthy lifestyle, properly training and recovering, and working on your mindset are all the biggest factors for keeping your inflammation down.
However, athletes and those training for big races (like a marathon or triathlon), are inevitably going to have higher levels of inflammation due to the constant exercise. When your muscles are under stress - like during and after a workout - this can lead to increased inflammatory levels. If you're exercising for 45 minutes to an hour per day, up to 5 days per week, excessive inflammation from your workouts may not be a huge concern.* However, if you're training more than this, than icing is definitely a tool that you need to be utilizing. Now, if you aren't too keen on jumping in a bath tub literally filled with ice cubes for 20 minutes at a time, then Cryotherapy may be for you.
What is Cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy uses dry air that reaches levels below −100°C in order to reduce your surface temperature, shuttle your blood flow to your core, and increase the output of norepinephrine. This process is meant to decrease inflammation and bring oxygen and nutrient rich blood back to your muscles after the session in order to boost muscle recovery.
How it can help you
Cryotherapy has been shown to help increase flexibility and speed up recovery between workouts. According to the cryotherapist, you can even do a session prior to your workout in order to decrease inflammation from your exercise and reduce muscle soreness.
Things to know
The boost of norepinephrine can decrease stress and anxiety levels - however, it's also a hormone utilized in the body's stress response - think fight or flight. Because of this, I would recommend doing your cryotherapy in the morning or early afternoon so that it doesn't disturb your sleep.
Should you do it?
As someone who has done ice baths and icing, cryotherapy is definitely an easier experience. The entire process takes about 3 minutes and you don't feel as cold as you would by taking an ice bath. Like I mentioned above, unless you're an athlete exercising multiple times a day or experiencing chronic inflammation daily, regular icing can do the trick as well.
*IMPORTANT NOTE: Inflammation is commonly thought of as something that occurs from physical stress, like working out. Although this is true, it's not the only form of stress. Your body is under stress if your diet is high in simple sugars, processed foods, hydrogenated fats, non-organic produce, and meats with antibiotics and hormones. You can also have high levels of emotional stress (see my post on how to do your own DIY Wellness Retreat HERE) and environmental stress from pollution, EMF exposure and toxins. That's why it's essential to make sure that you cover all aspects of inflammation in order to reduce your risk of various chronic diseases, improve your sports performance, and assist with weight loss.
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