Red Light Therapy Before or After Your Workout: Which is Better?
From carb-loading to protein shakes, athletes and fitness buffs are always on the lookout for ways to optimize their workouts, and ultimately, their results. And when it comes to nutrition and supplements, it’s not only important to track what you’re putting in your body, but when, as well.
But can the same be said for red light therapy? In other words, is red light therapy more effective before a workout, or after? The answer, while not black and white, largely depends on your goals.
What Is Red Light Therapy?
Also commonly referred to as photobiomodulation and low-level laser therapy, red light therapy is a safe, non-invasive procedure that uses natural red and near-infrared light to stimulate cellular activity.
These wavelengths are absorbed through the skin all the way to the mitochondria of the cell, where they produce a biochemical reaction leading to increased production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP acts like a vehicle, shuttling energy to where your body needs it.
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In addition, red light therapy reduces oxidative stress, which occurs when there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. This can lead to cell and tissue damage. Red light therapy stimulates antioxidant response within the cell, thereby reducing oxidative stress and limiting damage to muscles and other tissue.
Red light therapy has also been shown to increase circulation. Better blood flow means more oxygen and nutrients being transported throughout the body, as well as more efficient elimination of toxins and other waste.
Not only is it an effective treatment for a wide variety of issues affecting the entire body, it is also gentle, painless, has no known risks or side effects, and is safe to use every day. In fact, Rouge red light therapy panels are registered with the FDA as class II medical devices for the treatment of muscle spasms, muscle and joint aches, as well as pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.
For a closer look at the inner workings of red light therapy, as well as its countless benefits, give this article a read.
What Are the Benefits of Red Light Therapy for Fitness?
The laundry list of ways in which red light therapy can enhance your fitness and weight loss results is exhaustive. In fact, scores of studies have found red light therapy to effectively:
- Increase muscle mass;
- Increase muscle strength;
- Increase endurance;
- Delay the onset of muscle fatigue during workouts;
- Increase oxygen uptake and decrease shortness of breath;
- Reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS);
- Prevent exercise-induced muscle damage and reduce oxidative stress;
- Speed up muscle recovery;
- Promote quicker healing of injuries and shorter return to play;
- Reduce pain and inflammation;
- Reduce overall body fat;
- Reduce circumference of target areas such as hips, thighs, and waist;
- Diminish insulin resistance;
- Improve sleep;
- Enhance the effects of exercise on risks associated with excess weight (diabetes, heart disease, and stroke).
Should You Use Red Light Therapy Before, During, Or After Your Workout?
There is no clear consensus amongst researchers regarding when is best to apply red light therapy to optimize your fitness results. In fact, there is little data on the effectiveness of the treatment when applied during exercise, as it is simply more impractical to study. Some evidence suggests that application of red light therapy during rest periods in your workout or between sets can improve performance and increase muscle fatigue resistance. However, it is not known whether the benefits are greater than with pre- or post-workout treatments.
There is a wealth of research demonstrating the positive effects of red light therapy when applied both before or after exercise (see our blog post on fitness here for sources). Given that it’s a relatively new area of study, research to date has mainly focused on the effectiveness of red light therapy overall, rather than the nitty-gritty of when to apply it. As the body of knowledge becomes more refined, more detailed information will emerge.
However, the science appears to point to some differences.
Red light therapy, when applied before exercise, can improve performance and endurance, and can prevent muscle damage. This means longer, more powerful workouts, with less soreness afterwards. Pre-workout red light therapy also appears to be most effective for weight loss as well.
When applied after exercise, red light therapy is shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, to speed up muscle repair and recovery, and to reduce healing time for wounds and injuries. This is especially useful for those who can’t wait to get back to the gym (or field, court, yoga studio, mountain biking trail…) following an injury, or for whom pain and soreness is an obstacle to working out more frequently.
Get Maximum Fitness Benefits With Red Light Therapy At Home
Perhaps you’re reading this because your gym recently acquired a red light therapy machine. Or maybe you regularly seek treatments at a spa or clinic for other issues and you would like the benefits to extend to your fitness regimen.
In these cases, yes, knowing when to apply red light therapy in order to achieve your fitness goals can be beneficial. However, most people’s fitness goals include both increased performance and speedier recovery. Not only that, the biggest factor in determining the effectiveness of red light therapy is not when you apply it, but how often.
Frequency is key to reaping the full, head-to-toe benefits of red light therapy. And when you’re shelling out upwards of $100 per clinic session, the biggest change you might see is to your bank account. Also, many people prefer to work out at home - especially with the current COVID-19 pandemic - making the presence of red light therapy equipment in gyms moot.
Luckily, at-home red light therapy panels are becoming more compact, more powerful, and more affordable. A small investment with a huge payoff, your personal red light therapy device could be the key to unlocking your fitness potential. And with the ability to use it, before, during, and after your workout at a similar cost to powering a lamp, you can get maximum benefits in all aspects of fitness.
Ready to take your fitness, athletic performance, or weight loss to the next level with red light therapy? Rouge’s family of red light therapy panels has everything your body needs to succeed. From full body devices for maximum coverage, to pocket-sized panels for treatment on the go, there’s a device for every body, and every budget. Find the one that’s right for you!