If you love training, and especially if you're a professional athlete, you are probably always on the lookout for ways to improve your athletic performance. Your overall performance is affected by many factors. Diet, hydration, the health of your muscle tissues, and your sleep quality are just some of the main ones.
Red light therapy has long emerged as one of the most efficient forms of supplemental therapy for anyone looking to enhance athletic performance. This is because therapy with red and infrared light helps resolve post-workout muscle soreness, aids the muscle recovery process while stimulating cell regeneration and helps your body to produce more energy.
What Is Red Light Therapy?
Photobiomodulation is a group of therapy methods which all include the use of light. Red light therapy is a treatment that is also called low level laser therapy. The name stems from the fact that unlike conventional laser therapy, red light therapy does not use any heat, and does not cause damage to the tissue.
Red light therapy uses LED lamps which emit red and near infrared light wavelengths. These frequencies of light are chosen specifically because they penetrate the body at optimal depths to reach muscle tissue as well as bones, joints, and even internal organs.
Some forms of light therapy only work with photosensitive medication, however, the photochemical and photo physical reactions in red and infrared light therapy occur solely with the use of the light therapy device, with no medication involved.
Red light therapy works through several different mechanism in the cells and the tissues.
Is Red Light Therapy Good for Athletes?
Red light therapy is an effective treatment which contributes to overall muscle health. There are several ways in which an athlete can benefit from LED light therapy.
How Does Red Light Therapy Work for Muscle Recovery?
During a workout, the human muscle tissue gets damaged. This is not only normal, but necessary to increase muscle mass. These microtears of the tissue trigger an inflammation. As these micro injuries heal, muscle hypertrophy occurs. This leads to increased muscle strength.
Red light helps to speed up this recovery process and alleviates the soreness. This happens because it improves blood flow to the sore areas. With better blood circulation, the area also gets drained better, which helps with any swelling as well as the lactic acid build-up.
Enhanced ATP Production
ATP is an energy molecule that is produced in the cell. The mitochondria of the cell transform glucose from food into this molecule, storing energy in the bonds of the molecule. ATP energy is the form of energy that the cells can use instantly, by breaking those bonds.
Red light therapy supports mitochondrial health and boosts ATP energy production. It affects the proteins which play the key role in the process of cellular energy and oxygen production.
When red light boosts the proliferation of mitochondria, that results in higher overall energy levels and better oxygenated tissue.
How Red Light Therapy Improves Sleep Quality
According to the Sleep Foundation, not only can sleep quality affect performance, good sleep also accelerates recovery. This is because your cells and tissues rebuild while you sleep.
Another reason why you can promote healing with healthy sleep is because the immune system is more active while you sleep. During sleep, the human body produces cytokines - a type of chemicals which help the immune cells to decrease inflammation and heal the body.
Red and near infrared light regulates the patterns of your sleep by stimulating the secretion of melatonin.
One placebo controlled trial measured serum melatonin levels and endurance performance in a group of professional athletes who received 30 minutes of red light therapy every night for two weeks. Compared to the control group, the red light therapy group had improved sleep quality, higher melatonin levels and better performance.
Fascia Support With Light Therapy
Fascia is omnipresent in the body. You can think of it as casing - a thin membrane-like structure which envelopes every muscle, organ, bone and blood vessel. Apart from holding everything in place, fascia also has another important function - similar to the nervous system, it carries information in the form of energy.
However, unlike the nervous system, fascia operates on the principles of quantum physics instead of electrical impulses, and according to this systematic review, it has a cellular awareness and memory. Thanks to this, and fascia's presence in every single part of the body, messages on a fascial level travel instantly throughout the entire body.
Fascia is extremely important for sports performance. Not only does it encase muscle tissue, it is also responsible for your posture, muscle tone and balance. An injury of the fascia may result in muscle pain.
Red light therapy gives fascia the energy it needs to function properly. It can also accelerate recovery of the fascia through cell regeneration and improved blood flow.
How to Use Red Light Therapy Devices at Home
Red light therapy devices are commonly used at home nowadays. Since red and near infrared light don't have any negative side effects, home red light devices are safe and pleasant to use.
Whether you are chasing improved performance, or want to optimize recovery, you can do it with daily home-based red light therapy treatments.
Infraredi's red light devices offer a wide range of therapeutic benefits such as higher cellular energy production, faster tissue recovery and better blood flow. You can use pulsed or steady light, and adjust the intensity based on the duration of your treatments as well as the benefits you are looking to achieve.
Should You Do Red Light Therapy Before or After Exercise?
There is plenty of evidence and peer reviewed clinical trials which support the notion that red light therapy is effective both before and after athletic training.
In one of these placebo controlled trials, the subjects were treated with a combination of pulsed light and red LED light before exercise. They measured delayed onset muscle soreness and creatine kinase. Both of these showed lower values, which was a significant improvement in comparison to the placebo control group. The findings showed that light therapy improves muscular performance, prevents muscle fatigue and decreases muscle damage.
When used after exercise, low level laser therapy can stimulate muscle growth, reduce muscle inflammation and speed up the muscle recovery process. A study that followed the treatment of various injuries in athletes during the course of a year showed that the athletes who were treated with red light therapy had a faster recovery and were able to reach their optimal performance sooner.
If you are looking to enhance your performance, red light therapy might be your ideal training partner.
National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). Athletic Performance and Sleep.
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