Cryotherapy For Fat Loss?

As much as I would love to tell everybody that they can burn 500-800 calories in a three minute cryotherapy session, and lose many many pounds of fat, I just can’t get behind it.  I have yet to see or read any hard science or research proving this to be the case with cryotherapy. Many cryotherapy businesses and articles about cryotherapy make this bold claim stating that through cold thermogenesis, specifically shivering cold thermogenesis, this is possible.  And yes, cold shivering thermogenesis is possible from cryotherapy. As many of us have experienced it is very common to shiver through a whole cryotherapy session, but three minutes of shivering does not equate to 500-800 calories burned. I could almost be convinced that the calorie burn comes from the couple hours after a cryotherapy session, but again, I rarely find myself shivering after a cryotherapy session. That just isn’t how it works as the cold only penetrates about 1mm of our skin, which isn’t enough to cool the core to the point where the muscles need to contract and shiver to generate heat and burn calories in doing so.

Now, with all that being said, I do still think there is solid evidence indicating how cryotherapy can create non-shivering thermogenesis, help speed up our metabolism, and increase our brown adipose tissue (BAT) or brown fat; which is metabolically active, meaning it burns calories.  I briefly touched on this in last weeks blog when I talked about the many benefits caused from Norepinephrine.  Norepinephrine released from cold exposure increases a protein in our bodies called uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1).  UCP1 “uncouples” the mitochondria, which is what produces energy in our cells.  Mitochondria are held together or coupled by negatively and positively charged electrons which came from the energy created from the calories in the food we eat. So when UCP1 uncouples the mitochondria and breaks the positive and negative ion bond, the mitochondria responds by re-establishing that bond which requires it to transport electrons from stored fat.  This process is called fat oxidation and produces heat as a byproduct. This is basically how the “brown” adipose fat tissue is created. In other words, the UCP1 is turning white non-metabolic fat into brown metabolic fat by producing more mitochondria in fat tissue. The more brown adipose fat we have the more fat our body will burn.  Brown fat is inversely related to an individuals body fat percentage.  So the more brown fat someone has, the lower their body fat percentage should be.  Pharmaceutical companies are actually trying to find ways to increase brown adipose fat tissue in adults in the hopes that it would help people to become slimmer. But there is a catch, and this is what will keep cryotherapy in business, BAT has to be activated in order to do something.  How do we activate it? Cold exposure!  So continued intermittent exposure to cold like cryotherapy will not only continue to increase BAT, but will also activate it, and assist in burning more “white” fat; the fat we don’t want on our bodies.

Beyond the cold thermogenesis, do I think there are other factors at play to help someone burn fat from cryotherapy? Absolutely, but they are more directly correlated to some of the other proven benefits that one receives from cryotherapy, like improving sleep quality. A healthy diet and regular exercise should be a part of anyones lifestyle if they want to lose fat. If getting a great nights sleep helps your body repair and recover, it means you’re going to have more energy. It’s also going to help maintain your motivation to exercise, and increase the intensity of your exercise. Then you’re naturally going to be burning more calories and hopefully losing fat. According to a recent study, getting the proper amount of sleep also plays a huge role in burning fat. When our bodies are tired from lack of proper sleep our metabolism will slow down to conserve energy. In a recent study a group of people who slept 8.5 hours burned an average of 400 more calories than a group who only slept 5.5 hours, which seems to be the norm with most people.  That’s 2,800 calories in a week! Assuming those burned calories went to burning fat, you would burn almost a pound of fat in a week from just getting 3 more hours of sleep!

Studies are also showing that chronic inflammation is a major contributor to weight gain and obesity. So reduce that inflammation which cryotherapy is well known for, then hopefully help fight the battle of losing fat as well.

Anybody who has ever tracked their burned calories during a workout knows how hard it is to burn 800 calories, and burning 500-800 calories from one three-minute cryotherapy session just seems ridiculous to me, and is a wild claim that I won’t get behind until I see solid proof.  However, I can absolutely get behind cryotherapy helping with fat loss. Even with my own personal experience after about a month of me starting to do cryotherapy, I did notice myself to get noticeable leaner.  But I would be more inclined to credit that to the improved sleep and increased energy which then played a role in my workouts becoming significantly better.  There is no holy grail to instant fat loss, cryotherapy included, but it can be a very effective tool to aid in ones fat loss journey. 



“Cold Shocking the Body” by Rhonda Patrick Ph.D.

“Sleep More, Burn More Fat”, Woodson Merrell MD, Psychology Today

“Yes, Even Human Brown Fat Is On Fire” Barbara Cannon & Jan Nedergaard, Jan, 24 2012

It All Starts With Norepinephrine

The molecule structure in our logo is the molecular structure of norepinephrine, and so it seems very fitting and appropriate to make the first Cryoworks blog post about Norepinephrine. I am sure a lot of the people who have already been into Cryoworks have heard me talk about Norepinephrine.  “Norepinephrine this and norepinephrine that.” It essentially plays a key role in most of the main benefits derived from cryotherapy, and it’s the physiological start button, or first ingredient that starts the chain reaction of physiological responses that the body experiences from exposure to cold. It all starts with norepinephrine, and without it we wouldn’t be experiencing any of the awesome benefits that cryotherapy can provide, including reduce inflammation and pain, speed up metabolism, improve mental alertness, improve mood, and even possibly slowing down neurodegeneration, thus why I wanted to integrate it into our logo.

What is Norepinephrine?  It’s both a neurotransmitter and a hormone from the catecholamine family. It’s function, or purpose is to trigger the body and brain for action when exposed to danger or stress. Or in other words, it triggers our fight or flight response.  And that’s right, extreme cold is enough of a stress and potential danger to trigger this response. This fight or flight response increases the amount of oxygen to the brain and makes us think more clearly and gives us that mental sharpness that we experience from cryotherapy.

Norepinephrine decreases something called tumor necrosis factor alpha or TNF-alpha. TNF-alpha increases inflammation in the body.  It has also been associated  with just about every human disease ranging from type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, depression, and even cancer.  So a big boost of norepinephrine can significantly reduce TNF-alpha which in turn reduces inflammation in the body and helps prevent disease. 

There is a protein in our body called UCP1 which actually breaks the bond of mitochondria in our body that is actually storing energy that comes from the food we eat. When the bond of mitochondria gets broken, it then tries to reform the bond and in doing so, pulls energy from stored fat.  This process is called fat oxidation and it produces heat as a byproduct. Norepinephrine actually increases UCP1 which increases our metabolism. So by increasing the UCP1, our bodies then can produce more mitochondria in adipose fat tissue.  This is were BAT (brown adipose-fat tissue) comes from.  The fat oxidation process actually browns the white fat tissue which isn’t as metabolically active.  To simplify what all this means, we can actually increase our brown adipose fat tissue, which causes us to burn more fat in our body. Again, this is all happening from the increase of norepinephrine produced by the exposure to extreme cold.

So how much norepinephrine are we generating during a cryotherapy session? A study was done that compared a group of people who immersed themselves in cold water at 40ºF for 20 seconds to a group who did whole body cryotherapy for two minutes at -166ºF three times a week for 12 weeks.  The study found that in both groups plasma norepinephrine increased 200-300%.  In addition to that, the amount of norepinephrine release didn’t ever reduce from continued sessions. So each session was providing the same amount of norepinephrine each time.

Norepinephrine is the first link in a chain of reactions that provide all the amazing benefits of cryotherapy. Some of those benefits generate even more additional “side affect benefits”, but it’s all originally happening from the initial dramatic release of norepinephrine.  Without that signifcant production of norepinephrine we wouldn’t be able to experience the benifits of reduced inflammation, reduced pain, increased mental alertness, improved mood, increased metabolism, or even the prevention of much more serious diseases associeted with inflammation.  

Source: “Cold Shocking the Body” by Rhonda Patrick Ph.D. 

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