More muscle growth with an infrared lamp? Discover the power of red light therapy

Infrared light therapy may be a well-known term, but its precise effect often remains vague. Although often associated with acne treatment, light therapy actually covers a wide range of treatments, ranging from skin conditions to mood and sleep problems. In this blog we mainly focus on light therapy in the context of fitness and muscle growth.

Various forms of light therapy have been used throughout history. Ancient Egyptians already believed in the healing power of sunlight. However, modern applications did not begin until the early 20th century, when a Danish-Icelandic physician pioneered artificial light therapy for skin conditions and other health problems. Over time, light therapy has been shown to have positive effects on mood disorders, mental health and physical well-being.

Only in the past 15 years has clinical research supported the positive effects of light therapy for athletes, especially the use of infrared therapy to improve performance and aid post-training recovery.

Red light therapy: How it works

The use of infrared lights by athletes, also known as red light therapy, is less well known than other forms of light therapy, but it has similar benefits.

Infrared light stimulates the mitochondria, 'the power plants of the cell', to produce more ATP, which powers most metabolic processes.

More energy sounds great, but it's actually the side effects of this energy boost that benefit athletes. An important advantage is the improved blood circulation to and from the muscles, which ensures that waste products such as lactic acid are removed more quickly and reduces inflammation. This helps reduce oxidative stress and scavenge free radicals.

Let's discuss the benefits of infrared therapy at each stage of your training: before, after, and how it affects your recovery.

Red Light Therapy Before Training

Pre-workout infrared light therapy can have significant positive effects, such as improving performance, reducing oxidative stress, reducing fatigue, shortening post-workout recovery time and reducing muscle damage. It can even help with weight loss and improve grip strength. A 2018 study in Brazil tested 48 male athletes for 12 weeks. The group that received infrared therapy before training showed significant improvements in strength and muscle growth compared to the other groups in the trial.

One of the notable effects of infrared lamps is increased blood circulation, which significantly affects fatigue, performance and oxidative stress. Infrared lights before training activate your mitochondria, improve your circulation and increase the effectiveness of your training, which contributes to a lower risk of injuries and an easier recovery after training.

Red light therapy after training

It is not surprising that infrared lamps have a significant impact on post-workout recovery. Research has shown that post-workout infrared therapy can reduce inflammation and muscle damage caused by exercise. Additionally, it accelerates muscle rehabilitation by stimulating cellular respiration, resulting in reduced injury healing time. An additional advantage of infrared lamps is that they stimulate collagen production. Not only is this something that cosmetologists have long been familiar with, but it also has a positive impact on injury recovery. Increased collagen production can lead to faster recovery in many cases. It's no coincidence that athletes who use infrared lights after their training sessions typically report increased endurance, faster recovery time and better training results.

Other Positive Effects of Infrared Lamps

We've already discussed that infrared lights improve circulation, energy, and collagen production (and their effects on our workouts and recovery), but infrared lights also reduce the production of cortisol, a stress hormone that in excessive amounts can contribute to lowered testosterone levels.

Optimal Use of Infrared Lamps in Your Training Routine

Red light therapy can be used effectively to optimize muscle growth. Here are some guidelines for using red light therapy for this purpose:

  1. Regularity and consistency : Use red light therapy regularly and consistently. A daily session can be effective.
  2. Exposure time : Exposure to red light for 5-20 minutes per session is usually sufficient. Longer sessions can improve results, but don't overdo it.
  3. Direct the light to the muscle groups to be treated : Position the light panel so that it reaches the muscle groups you want to stimulate.
  4. Before or after training : Red light therapy can be used both before and after training. Before training, it can prepare the muscles and help prevent injuries. After training, it can speed up recovery.
  5. Combine with training : Red light therapy works best when combined with regular strength training. It enhances the effects of the training.
  6. Stick to the treatment duration : Stay consistent with the treatment duration and do not adjust it too often. It may take several weeks to months before results are noticeable.

Note that individual results may vary, it is important to be patient and have realistic expectations when using this therapy for muscle growth.

Frequently Asked Questions about Infrared Therapy for Muscles

  1. What is infrared therapy? Infrared therapy uses infrared lights or lamps and is often used for conditions such as insomnia, depression, anxiety and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Furthermore, it has significant positive effects on training performance and recovery.
  2. What is the difference between near infrared light and regular infrared light? Near infrared light has wavelengths of 810-850 nm and penetrates deeper beneath the upper layers of the skin. Ordinary infrared light has wavelengths of 620-750 nm and usually only penetrates the upper layers of the skin.
  3. How does infrared therapy improve your workouts? Infrared therapy has been extensively researched and proven to increase performance, from endurance to muscle growth, and shorten recovery time.
  4. What are the effects of infrared light exposure on the body? Infrared therapy has been shown to reduce injuries, oxidative stress and recovery times. It also promotes performance, improves circulation, stimulates collagen production and increases cellular energy.

Sources

1. Pubmed - Effects of far-infrared radiation lamp therapy on recovery from muscle damage induced by eccentric exercise

2. Pubmed - Full Body Photobiomodulation Therapy to Induce Faster Muscle Recovery in Water Polo Athletes: Preliminary Results

3. Healthcare newspaper – what does an infrared lamp do for muscle pain?

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