Cryotherapy, an unconventional treatment involving subzero temperatures, has gained popularity over recent years for its purported health benefits. The freezing temperatures target specific areas of the body for various health claims, from relieving pain and inflammation to speeding up recovery from workouts.
While many cryotherapy enthusiasts assert that this cold treatment can also aid in weight loss, scientific research remains limited. Before diving into whether cryotherapy may help you shed extra pounds, it’s important to understand precisely what this therapy entails.
What is Cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy is a treatment method that involves exposing the body to extremely cold temperatures for short periods. It’s not a new treatment considering its first use dates back to 1883. It works by freezing fat cells, damaging nerve fibers and surrounding tissue, reducing blood flow to targeted areas, and limiting inflammation and swelling.
When exposed to the cold temperatures of cryotherapy, blood vessels in the targeted area constrict. That reduces blood flow and minimizes inflammation. It can also temporarily relieve pain by freezing and numbing exposed nerves.
There are several types of cryotherapy:
- Targeted cryotherapy uses ice packs to numb and reduces swelling in specific areas; tissue treatment cryotherapy freezes and kills damaged or diseased tissues.
- Whole-body cryotherapy exposes the entire body to very cold temperatures, usually in a cryotherapy chamber. Athletes use whole body cryotherapy to speed up recovery from workouts and injuries. Also read: Does Chiropractic Care Aid In Weight Loss?
Can you lose weight with cryotherapy every day?
Freezing fat away seems like it would be an easy way to shed pounds, but is cryotherapy actually effective for weight loss?
Cryotherapy involves exposing your body to extremely cold temperatures for a short period. While this can potentially help in several ways, losing weight isn’t as simple as just hopping in a cryotherapy chamber.
Here’s how cryotherapy may help with weight loss:
- It Can Boost Your Metabolism
Exposure to cold temperatures during cryotherapy forces your body to work harder to raise its core temperature again after the session. This increased thermogenesis requires your body to burn more calories, revving up your metabolism for a while following the treatment.
While in the cryotherapy chamber, your muscles begin to shiver and contract rapidly to warm your body. This non-shivering thermogenesis demands energy, which your body obtains by metabolizing calories and fat.
Some research suggests that a single cryotherapy session can boost your metabolic rate by up to 15% for several hours after treatment. With consistent cryotherapy exposures, your metabolism may receive a marginal but cumulative boost over time.
However, the impact of cryotherapy on metabolic rate is unlikely to be substantial enough to produce significant weight loss on its own. A boosted metabolism of even 15% for a few hours will likely equate to burning only a few hundred extra calories. A combination of cryotherapy, diet changes, and exercise is necessary to lose weight.
- Improves Fat Burning
Cryotherapy is thought to activate Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT), a type of body fat that burns calories to generate heat. When exposed to cold temperatures, BAT is stimulated to produce heat by burning white fat stored in your body. Also read: Can You Really Lose Weight On A Bath Tub?
Studies have found that cryotherapy can activate BAT and increase “fat-burning” hormones like norepinephrine levels. This activation of BAT may provide a very slight increase in fat burning following cold exposure. However, research also suggests that people with more BAT do not necessarily lose weight faster.
While cryotherapy could marginally improve your body’s ability to burn fat, the impact is likely minimal on its own. True substantial fat loss requires a calorie deficit created through dietary changes and exercise.
Consistent cryotherapy, though, may offer a slight supplementary boost to fat burning when utilized as a part of a broader healthy lifestyle. But it cannot “freeze the fat away” without other efforts to manage caloric intake and expenditure. Read: How Does Liquid IV Help You Lose Weight?
- Fat Cell Destruction
Cryotherapy was originally used to treat various medical conditions by destroying abnormal or diseased tissues. This is still a major application today.
When it comes to weight loss, the focus is on destroying fat cells, especially those around the abdomen and thighs. During a cryotherapy session, the entire body or specific areas are exposed to extremely cold temperatures, often below -100 degrees Fahrenheit.
This extreme cold begins to damage the fat cells in the targeted area. The cell membranes rupture, and the cells start to die. As the fat cells die, an inflammatory response is triggered. The body sends macrophages to the area to phagocytose and eliminate the dead fat cells.
Over time, with repeat fat-freezing cryotherapy (cryolipolysis) sessions, more and more fat cells in the targeted area are damaged and destroyed. As these fat cells are eliminated, the volume of fat tissue begins to reduce. This can give the appearance of contouring and spot fat reduction.
However, it’s important to note that not all fat cells are destroyed through cryotherapy. Researchers estimate that only around 20% of fat cells may be eliminated with each session. And the body does retain the ability to generate new fat cells. Read Here: How Much Weight Can You Lose By Vaping?
So cryotherapy aims to gradually reduce body fat by destroying a portion of existing fat cells during each session. With consistency over time, the cumulative effect can lead to visible body contouring changes. But the results are generally considered modest, and the process is slow.
- Reduces Inflammation
Cryotherapy has been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body. The cold temperatures during treatment constrict blood vessels, reducing blood flow to inflamed tissues. This decrease in blood flow then helps limit the influx of inflammatory cells and the release of cytokines that promote inflammation.
Chronic low-grade inflammation in the body is associated with numerous health conditions like obesity, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disorders. Excess inflammation can also promote weight gain by interfering with how your body breaks down fats and uses insulin.
So by reducing inflammation, cryotherapy may potentially aid weight management over time. In studies, cryotherapy has been found to decrease inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein and interleukin-6. This reduction in inflammation could theoretically help your body utilize fats and sugars more efficiently.
However, inflammation is just one factor involved in weight gain. So, a caloric deficit through diet and exercise is still required to lose weight. Cryotherapy’s anti-inflammatory effects may provide a supplementary benefit but are unlikely to deliver significant weight loss on their own.
- Speeds Up Workout Recovery
Cryotherapy can help speed up recovery from intense exercise through its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. The cold temperatures during treatment help reduce swelling, muscle soreness, and joint pain after a strenuous workout.
Faster recovery allows you to exercise more frequently and with a greater intensity, both of which are important for weight loss. More and harder workouts mean you burn more calories and continue creating a caloric deficit over time.
Studies have found that cryotherapy after exercise can reduce inflammation, decrease muscle damage, and improve range of motion. Athletes frequently use cryotherapy to recover quickly and resume training.
While cryotherapy won’t help you lose weight, faster recovery times may facilitate weight loss by allowing more frequent and intense exercise sessions. Used in addition to a proper diet, consistent workouts enabled by cryotherapy could potentially aid in creating a caloric deficit and promoting fat loss.
How Much Weight Can You Lose From Cryotherapy?
While cryotherapy may provide some benefits that could potentially aid in weight loss, it is unlikely to produce substantial weight reduction on its own. Most of the research so far suggests that cryotherapy alone is unlikely to produce more than 1 to 2 pounds of weight loss per week at most.
A single cryotherapy session can burn between 500 to 800 calories in the hours following treatment. This is due to an increased metabolic rate as the body works to raise its core temperature again. However, even burning 800 extra calories daily only translates to around 0.5 to 1 pound of weight loss per week.
Consistent cryotherapy exposures have been found to boost metabolic rate up to 15%, but this would likely equate to burning only a few hundred extra calories. This amount of calorie burn is unlikely to produce significant weight loss.
So, to see real weight loss results from cryotherapy, it should be used with a calorie-controlled diet and regular exercise. Cryotherapy alone is unlikely to be effective for significant, long-term weight loss.
Most experts recommend 1-2 weekly cryotherapy sessions (combined with diet and exercise) for those seeking weight loss benefits. However, there is no definitive dosing advice due to the limited research in this area.
Cryotherapy will definitely provide some benefits that will aid in weight loss. However, it is unlikely to produce substantial weight reduction on its own. A combination of a healthy diet, regular exercise, and lifestyle changes is still necessary for true, effective weight loss.
Cryotherapy shows the most promise as an adjunct therapy to aid in weight loss when utilized in addition to proper diet and exercise regimens. Consistent cryotherapy exposures may provide supplementary benefits like a temporarily boosted metabolism and slight improvements in fat burning. However, real lifestyle changes focused on diet and exercise are still critical.