Use Red Light Therapy Before and After a Workout for Faster Recovery and Better Performance

A 10-minute red light therapy session before and after your workouts could be just as important for your performance and health as the warm-up and cool down. Top athletes know this little secret, which is why the US track team for the 2016 Olympics brought along a red light bed to help them train harder. 

Red light therapy before workouts for improved performance is not a myth but a scientifically proven reality. Lots of professional gyms and wellness spas have them today for this reason, but they are still very expensive per session. Imagine how much more you can gain by having your own red light therapy kit at home.

Red light therapy has many benefits for when you're working out, which mostly comes from its ability to boost recovery and stimulate faster cell activity and regeneration. 

RLT Boosts Recovery

A 2016 literature review was conducted to determine the effect of photobiomodulation in muscle tissue and prove whether it really gives an advantage in sports. The study measured fatigue, muscle damage, and the severity of delayed muscle onset muscle soreness (DOMS). 

DOMS is the pain and soreness you typically experience the day after an intense workout that feels like your body doesn't want you to move at all. While it is not completely understood, DOMS is thought to result from small tears in muscle tissue and inflammation resulting from the intense exertion.

The team carrying out the review concluded that photobiomodulation (of which red light therapy is a part) used as part of exercise training programs demonstrated positive effects including faster recovery, more efficient oxygen utilization, and less severe DOMS.

RLT helps with recovery in several ways.

  • Better oxygen utilization seems to be a result of RLT irradiation, during which cells are more active. This improves metabolism and cell repair
  • RLT is a minor form of stress on muscle cells that initiates a form of immune response. This activates the immune reaction that deals with post-workout injury, damage, and inflammation and thus speeds up recovery
  • RLT improves circulation and breathing, thereby supplying more oxygen and energy to muscle cells for faster regeneration and repair
  • A clinical trial on volleyball players showed that RLT has a significant effect in preventing muscle damage during exercise. Less damage means the ability to get back to training sooner

RLT Enhances Performance

Another trial conducted during the review above also strong evidence of increased performance after pre-conditioning (using RLT before the workout test). The mice being tested showed between 300% and 600% increase in muscle performance.

One important factor that the team pointed out was that exposure to RLT should not be conducted 3-5 minutes before starting as was previously though, but after about 1 hour all the way to 72 hours. It points out that red light therapy improves performance by reducing oxidative stress, increased metabolism, and increased muscle growth over the long term. 

Many other studies have been conducted on effects such as reduced fatigue, increased endurance, ability to perform more reps, ability to sprint faster, increase in grip strength, among others. The results all show that red light therapy indeed gives a performance advantage when used some time before workout.

Should You Use RLT Before or After Workout

One of the questions that have been troubling fitness experts and RLT enthusiasts alike is whether RLT is best used before or after the workout session. To date, there hasn't been any conclusive scientific evidence to support one or the other, but anecdotal evidence suggests that pre-treatment (RLT before workout) is best for improving performance while post treatment (RLT after workout) is perfect for enhancing recovery. 

It is important to realize that you will only realize the benefits of red light therapy after consistent use, usually after weeks of having 5 or 6 sessions a week. Thus, the question of using RLT before or after workout becomes secondary to that of how often you use it. If you stick to a daily routine, it won't really matter.  

Top Athletes and Celebrities Using RLT

Before Nike's Oregon Project folded under allegations of doping, it was one of the top teams in the world. Head coach Alberto Salazar was one of the first to adopt red light therapy to help his team train harder and faster. 

Today, many NBA pro teams and players are relying on Low-Level Light Therapy (LLLT, a variant of photobiomodulation and RLT) to give them an edge. "The athletes get a good response to them," says one Ralph Reiff, an executive director at St. Vincent Sports Performance (SVSP). 

The situation is the same when you go to the NFL, athletic teams, all the way to extreme sports such as free climbing, BMX,and paraskiing. The trend has certainly caught on and will continue to grow. 

Benefits of RLT During and After Your Workout

Having a home RLT setup has clear benefits for you whether you are a pro athlete or just going through a personal exercise regime. Some of the most immediate benefits you will reap include:

  • Less severe DOMS means you will have the motivation to continue with your exercise
  • A lower risk of injury will keep you safe and minimize downtime from common training injuries such as pulled tendons
  • You will actually feel better due to reduced inflammation and pain 
  • Red light therapy at home will give you increased endurance and pain tolerance so that you can push yourself harder and smash your PBs
  • When you do get injured, RLT will significantly increase the time it takes to heal and completely recover from the injury
  • Consistent use of red light therapy will trigger faster muscle growth, which means you will gain more muscle mass from the same amount of exercise
  • If you are just starting out on a weight loss journey, red light therapy can actually help you lose weight faster

However, as we have said, frequency of your red light therapy sessions is everything when it comes to getting the results you want. Getting a home kit allows you to get as much as RLT as is recommended to maximize these benefits. 

In a time when one clinical session could cost you upwards of $100, a home set up sounds like a very good investment. Visit our collection of RLT devices or contact us to choose the one that best fits your budget and needs.