May 18, 2022 8 min read
Professional athletes and fitness enthusiasts use red light therapy, also known as low-level light therapy (LLLT), to reach optimum performance by growing muscle, delaying the onset of tiredness, and increasing muscle recovery. The debate is whether red light treatment should be used before or after a workout.
We'll break down the advantages of red light pre-and post-workout treatments so you can make an educated selection depending on your objectives and prevent and treat damage.
The science behind red light therapy before, during, and after a workout.
Red light treatment has improved physical performance in hundreds of peer-reviewed clinical investigations. This includes gains in strength, speed, endurance, and faster muscle recovery after tough training and a quicker return to play after an accident.
The most important issue is whether red light treatment is better used before or after a workout. Here's the science behind these techniques, as well as alternative possibilities.
Before a workout, use red light therapy.
Researchers from Sau Paulo, Brazil, determined in a 2015 meta-analysis that red light applied before exercise improved time-to-exhaustion, number of repetitions, and hastened post-exercise recovery.
In a 2012 research, 22 untrained male runners were given either NIR light treatment or a placebo five minutes before an exhausting progressive-intensity running test. Exercise performance was improved, and exercise-induced oxidative stress and muscle injury were reduced in the therapy group.
Sixteen male athletes were divided into four groups in a 2018 research. Before exercising, three of the groups got red light therapy at various intervals, whereas the control group received no treatment. Compared to the control group, all treatment groups reported considerably less weariness.
In the same year, Brazilian researchers ran a study with 48 male volunteers. Over 12 weeks, some of the participants were exposed to the red light before exercise, while others were exposed to a placebo. Compared to the post-workout and placebo groups, pre-workout light therapy treatments resulted in substantial improvements in strength and muscular development. According to the experts, the therapy might also help with post-injury strength-building rehabilitation.
Previous research examined the impact of red light on muscular exhaustion in 10 professional volleyball players. The low-level light treatment administered shortly before intensive biceps workouts delayed the onset of skeletal muscle fatigue and reduced post-exercise blood lactate levels.
Red light treatment before knee workouts resulted in statistically significant increases in knee extensor muscle thickness and peak power output, according to a 2015 research of 30 males in Brazil.
In a 2018 research on neuromuscular exhaustion, twenty male elite cyclists participated. Before the time-to-exhaustion cycling tests, the treatment group received red light therapy. Maximum oxygen uptake, maximum power output, and time-to-exhaustion tests demonstrated that those treated had improved exercise tolerance.
Researchers from Brazil did a study in 2017 to see how red light treatment affected the grip strength protocol in healthy people. Handgrip strength improved statistically significantly in those who were treated.
A 2008 research of 12 male professional volleyball players executing bicep curls found a meaningful difference in the onset of muscular fatigue and weariness. The red light treatment group completed 8.5 more repetitions on average than the control group.
Using Red Light Therapy While Working Out
Only a little research on the effects of red light during exercise has been conducted since it is not practicable to provide light therapy during most exercises. On the other hand, LED light treatments might be used safely during treadmill, stair stepper, or stationary bike exercises.
In a 2018 research, 15 male recreational runners took part. During running tests, physiological and performance factors such as rate of perceived effort, running economy (efficiency), speed, total time-to-exhaustion, and total distance traveled were monitored. The treatment group outperformed the control group by a wide margin in these tests.
30 postmenopausal women took part in a 2014 study conducted by Brazilian researchers. Ten of the ladies got red light treatments during treadmill training, ten performed the treadmill without red light, and ten did neither exercise nor get red light therapy. The treadmill/red light group had more power and weariness quadriceps than the other groups.
Using Red Light Therapy Before, During, and After Your Workout
Only one research looked at the effects of red light during and after exercise due to the impracticality of using it during most forms of activity. Knee flexion strength was measured in minor research done in 2014. The treatment group received NIR light therapy between sets and after the final set of exercises. Those who received NIR treatment outperformed the placebo group regarding strength increases and muscle fatigue resistance.
After a workout, use red light therapy.
According to one research, post-workout light treatment is a simple method to speed recovery, but it may also boost performance.
I was stimulating the quadriceps muscles with red light immediately after an exercise resulted in decreased muscle damage and soreness and enhanced muscle growth, healing, and athletic performance, according to a 2016 research on identical twins.
In a 2011 study conducted by researchers from Brazil and the United States, 36 guys with beginning to moderate physical exercise habits took part. Compared to strength training alone, the research found that red light applied immediately after a leg-press exercise improved muscle function.
Before and After a Workout, Use Red Light Therapy
When you use red light both before and after an exercise, you get better outcomes than if you simply use it before or after.
A 12-week treadmill training research with 77 participants was conducted in 2018. Before and after exercise, one group received red light; one group received red light before and placebo after exercise; one group received a placebo before, and red light after exercise; and one group received a placebo before and after exercise. Participants who were exposed to the red light before and after treadmill exercise reported an increase in time to fatigue and oxygen consumption and a decrease in body fat.
How Can Red Light Therapy Help You Perform Better As An Athlete?
Red light treatment can speed up the recovery of muscles that have been subjected to a lot of stress. Pain reduction, muscle rehabilitation, bone and connective tissue repair after sports-related injuries, and increased strength, speed, and endurance have all been shown in clinical studies.
Red light can help you enjoy your sport at its best, whether you're a top athlete practicing for the competition, a fitness enthusiast trying to shape and tone your body, or a weekend warrior looking to boost muscular performance.
After a workout, red light therapy promotes faster muscle recovery.
Muscle damage caused by exercise is typical of every workout; activity generates tiny rips in muscular fibers, which are then repaired, resulting in muscle development. The quicker your muscles recover after a workout, the sooner you may return to your preferred exercise intensity while reducing your chance of injury.
According to a 2014 research, red light therapies helped muscles recover faster after "damaging eccentric activity" (bicep curls using the non-dominant arm). Up to 96 hours after exercise, muscular pain, weakness, and range of motion limitation were dramatically reduced.
High-level rugby players were monitored during an anaerobic fitness test in a 2016 clinical investigation. The athletes exposed to red light improved their sprint times significantly and delayed the onset of real and felt muscle tiredness.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness Can Be Prevented With Red Light Therapy
Every exercise has the risk of post-workout soreness, which may lead to a loss of desire and a break in exercise routines. The pain and stiffness that affects muscle tissue 24 to 72 hours after a new activity is known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It's the type of discomfort that makes you exclaim, "I'm suffering in muscles I didn't even know I had."
Preventing muscle tissue soreness after an exercise is critical for returning to your activity without discomfort and without waiting days or even weeks for muscles to recuperate.
The use of red and near-infrared light therapy has been demonstrated to reduce DOMS in studies including 27 people, such as this one from 2006. The trial lasted five days, and the NIR therapy group saw a substantial reduction in DOMS discomfort compared to the sham treatment and control groups.
Sports Injuries Can Be Healed More Quickly With Red Light Therapy
Many individuals believe that contact sports are dangerous. Overuse injury, joint discomfort, nerve pain, muscle injury, and connective tissue damage may all occur in non-contact and non-impact activities like cycling or yoga.
Whether you've been sidelined due to overtraining or muscular problems, most therapies aim to get you back to your sport as soon as possible.
Combining red light therapy with traditional therapies such as RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) and other doctor-prescribed treatments may help recover common sports injuries such as:
Runner's knee, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, iliotibial band discomfort, hamstring pulls, plantar fasciitis, hip pain, and stress fractures in the foot are common injuries associated with running.
Shoulder impingement (swimmer's shoulder), patellar tendon damage in the knee, and back sprains and strains are all caused by weight training.
Knee discomfort, Achilles tendinitis, lower back strains, and neck strains are common cycling injuries.
Shoulder impingement, inflammation, rotator cuff tendonitis or tears, cartilage tears surrounding the shoulder, neck discomfort, low back pain, and bicep tendonitis are common swimming injuries.
Rotator cuff tears, knee injuries, low back sprains, and muscle sprains and strains are common injuries in baseball and softball.
Tennis elbow, knee injuries, rotator cuff tendonitis, wrist strains, back discomfort, and Achilles tendon strains are examples of tennis injuries.
Many professional athletes are taught to fight through pain regardless of how much it hurts, contributing to persistent inflammation and a delayed healing response. Because of its longer wavelengths, NIR light is particularly effective in reducing chronic inflammation in muscle, connective tissue, and even bone.
NIR light facilitated much quicker muscle healing and return-to-play after only a few sessions, according to a 2016 research involving injured university athletes. According to the study, NIR light increased blood flow, decreased inflammation, calmed muscular spasms, and lowered the number of times subjects reported experiencing pain.
Achilles tendinitis is a common complaint among runners, bikers, and other sportspeople. A 2006 research looked at the effects of NIR light therapy on seven individuals with bilateral Achilles tendonitis and found that after treatment, there was much-reduced inflammation and a greater pain threshold.
The Effects of Red Light Therapy
The use of devices with LED bulbs that emit red and NIR wavelengths of light onto the skin is known as a red light treatment. Light's "therapeutic window" is defined as 630 nanometers (nm) to 850 nm for red/ NIR treatment.
This therapeutic approach provides a plethora of health benefits for the human body. The advantages are felt at the cellular level, where normal biological processes in the treated regions are stimulated.
Cellular Energy Enhancement
Mitochondrial dysfunction refers to a cell's mitochondria (energy-producing organelles inside the cell) being unable to create adequate cellular fuel. These cells are more susceptible to oxidative stress, recover from injury more slowly, and fail to reproduce.
The interaction of red and near-infrared light with photoreceptor molecules in mitochondria boosts energy synthesis in the cells.
Cells that execute their specific jobs optimally (and effectively multiply and undertake cellular repair) contribute to quicker muscle healing and enhanced muscular performance in damaged or inflamed muscles.
Reduced Inflammation in the Long-Term
Acute inflammation is a short-term healing reaction that occurs when the immune system is functioning properly. On the other hand, chronic inflammation is unhealthy; it leads to a variety of bodily tissues, including oxidative stress, which is caused by an imbalance in the body's free radicals and antioxidants.
According to a 2018 research, red light treatment decreases oxidative stress in muscles by altering mitochondrial metabolic energy pathways. When light photons drive mitochondria to make more adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the mitochondria have greater resources to fight oxidative stress, which aids muscle recovery.
Blood Flow Increase
Increased blood flow has been proven to be stimulated by red light. Increased circulation of the circulatory and lymphatic systems means more nutrients and oxygen are given to cells and more effective clearance of waste products that might obstruct muscular performance and recovery.
Researchers from Slovenia examined the impact of red wavelengths on wound healing in diabetic and non-diabetic individuals in a 2017 study. The research found that treating diabetic and non-diabetic study participants with red and NIR light three times a week for eight weeks boosted blood flow.
Collagen Production Increased
Collagen is a protein most generally linked to good skin tone, although it is also found in muscle and connective tissue, including cartilage. Collagen type I is found in bones, tendons, ligaments, and skin; collagen type III is located in cartilage; and collagen type III is present in muscles and organs.
Collagen formation may be stimulated to help mend microtears in muscles and bigger traumatic damage to muscle tissue, such as tears and blunt trauma.
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