It’s easy for most of us, especially as athletes, to be constantly focused on the training hustle. After all, any sport is about pushing yourself to the limit and training your body to handle whatever is thrown at it. Focused on the mindset of the more the better, we usually keep pushing beyond our body telling us to slow down.
I know, we’ve all heard time and again about how important recovery is. It’s easy to brush off when you’ve been in the game for a while, but I can tell you that avoiding recovery is a road you definitely don’t want to go down. Many of you aren’t aware that a few years ago, I pushed myself straight into burnout by over training and not prioritizing recovery. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my testosterone levels were shot. This was also around the time my wife and I were attempting to get pregnant, and because of the stress on my body, it wasn’t happening. I finally ended up seeing a doctor that told me in short terms to start making rest a top priority.
Interestingly, he also advised something I’d never heard of before, and it turned out to be one of the key breakthroughs that finally helped restore my testosterone levels enough for my wife and I to get pregnant. It’s called Red Light Therapy, and its use as a recovery tool to heal and repair tissue has exploded over the years.
Red Light Therapy: What Is It?
Red light therapy (RLT) involves painless light sessions (in fact, you actually won’t feel the treatment at all) that move red wavelengths of light through your skin. These wavelengths, which break down into smaller light particles called photons, can penetrate about 10 mm below your skin’s surface, where they start working all types of regeneration magic in your body.
Red light therapy was first developed by NASA for plant growth experiments, but they quickly realized it could also be used for preventing and treating cancer and reducing the effects of chemotherapy. Since this discovery, research has revealed it can help heal wounds, boost your immune system, repair tissue, increase circulation, and more. [*]
Many of the benefits of RLT are perfect for aiding recovery, which is why myself and many others see such awesome results from using it. In fact, numerous studies done specifically on athletes show RLT can help accelerate recovery times. Lets go into how it works for muscle and tissue recovery, and also how you should use it for maximum benefits.
Benefits of Red Light Therapy for Recovery
Helps Repair Tissue
Red light therapy is often used in hospitals or dermatology centers to help heal wounds and repair damage to tissue. Red light waves penetrate deep into tissue and stimulate regenerative processes by encouraging cells to repair themselves. This is different from other laser therapies you may have heard of, which slightly damage skin or tissue to stimulate new growth. Instead, red light therapy skips this step and gets straight to healing damaged tissue. [*]
This is where RLT can really shine for muscle recovery, since when we train we create microscopic tears and damage in our muscle fibers, which then growth back stronger. Red light therapy could potentially stimulate this process even more, enhancing the recovery process.
Studies show it can also help repair damaged connective tissue, which is helpful if you have sore joints or tendons following a rough session. [*] In fact, it’s now being used on Rheumatoid Arthritis patients due to its ability to help repair damaged and inflamed joints and reduce pain. [*]
Reduces Muscle Fatigue and Pain
Studies show RLT can also help prevent muscle fatigue by helping our mitochondria, which are the energy producers in our cells, produce energy more efficiently. When we train, our muscles use a ton of energy during and after the process, and if our mitochondria are stimulated to provide that energy quicker and more efficiently, it could result in less fatigue. [*]
Alongside this, research shows RLT can actually help grow muscles while reducing delayed-onset muscled soreness (aka, that soreness two days after a workout that makes it hard to roll out of bed). [*]
Increases Circulation and Reduces Inflammation
Have you ever worked with a foam roller to try and break up knots or areas of tension following a session? One of the main reasons foam rollers are so great for recovery is because by breaking up knots, they allow fresh, oxygenated blood and nutrients to flow freely into muscles.
RLT works in a similar way, except it goes even deeper. The red wavelengths work at a cellular level to boost circulation and reduce inflammation so that more can flow to your muscles and joints, which can improve healing and reduce pain. Studies also show it can reduce levels of lactate in your blood, which is one of the causes of that fan next-day soreness. [*]
Where to Get a Light Therapy Session
You may have seen many spas or gyms offering red light therapy, or low-level laser therapy (LLLT) as it’s sometimes called, to help tighten and tone skin. However, to get better effects, you’ll have to visit a dermatologist or purchase your own panel online. Usually it takes several sessions to start to reap the benefits, so keep this in mind when you book.
Red light therapy is well tolerated by most people, and most reported side effects have been from receiving too high of a dosage per session. It’s recommended to visit a reputable spa or office specializing in light therapy at least for you first few sessions before investing in your own panel.
Bottom Line: Light Therapy Can Speed Up Muscle Recovery and Prevent Soreness
Many athletes around the world have mentioned using red light therapy to help improve recovery and performance. And don’t think you have to be a pro athlete to use RLT – the benefits extend to anyone.