I walked into -157 degrees Fahrenheit. And stayed there for two minutes. I didn’t have a trace of thermal clothing or even a shirt. You can see in the video that I walked in willingly.
Want to understand how cold -157 Fahrenheit (-105 Celsius) is? The coldest recorded temperature on Earth is -148 Fahrenheit (minus 100 Celsius) somewhere between Dome Argus and Dome Fuji on the East Antarctic Plateau.
If you’re in a major city like Los Angeles, or a biohacker, you will know immediately that I’m talking of cryotherapy. Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) involves standing or immersing your whole body in sub zero temperatures for a few minutes at a time. The ideal temperature for cryotherapy is supposedly – 166 Fahrenheit (- 110 Celsius). But there is an ongoing debate on how temperatures are measured.
Over the years, cryotherapy spas have come up everywhere. I’m in LA and in the past three months I seem to be hit by adverts for these spas. (Anyone else noticing the numerous cryofacial spas in LA?) Over the years, WBC has chalked up quite a few fans – reportedly Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Jennifer Aniston among others.
I first published my video of stepping into the WBC chamber in April 2019. Since then, I’ve had a few people ask me if I was a regular practitioner, and/or a fan. I am neither. Nor am I new to cryotherapy.
Cryotherapy origin and benefits
At 22, I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) while playing tennis and I had to undergo two keyhole surgeries for that. Five minutes (felt like five minutes!) after I regained consciousness, my doctor, Bert Mandelbaum had me cycling on a pedal exerciser.
Dr. Mandelbaum’s cutting edge recovery protocol was designed for pro athletes (he operated on David Beckham). But it made me realise that anyone can improve their health faster than the ‘normal’ timeframe set by most doctors. It was the start of my biohacking journey.
Deeper into my recovery journey, I wanted to stay off heavy-duty painkillers. I found Game Ready, a localized cryotherapy device that helped me combat inflammation and effectively stay off the vicodin. Amazed by its effectiveness, down the rabbit hole I went. I discovered scientific papers that dealt with the benefits of whole body cryotherapy. The principle stayed consistent: cold combats inflammation. And this has been in use for decades now. In fact, cryotherapy was originally invented in Japan in 1978 to treat inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Today, cryotherapy is credited with a lot more than reducing inflammation. Regular practitioners say that cryotherapy improves their sleep, immunity systems and helps with fat loss. Asprey’s Bulletproof Labs offered up this long list of benefits – they offer WBC cryotherapy treatments too. But localized cryotherapy has also found its way into more serious medical applications. Dignicap cools the scalps of patients undergoing chemotherapy and supports hair preservation (among other benefits).
Cryotherapy and weight loss
When I tried whole body cryo, I experienced a short-term energy boost. Someone told me that my skin looked better. After a heavy exertion routine once, I used the Kayalyst Suit. I didn’t recover any faster or better from the whole body cryo. On the other hand, a friend said that she loses 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms) with every session. Two others said that they didn’t experience any noticeable change.
From a meta analysis of 36 journal articles, I found that cryotherapy may offer some short-term (~1-day) benefits by reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The study also found that within 4 days, there was no appreciable difference in recovery. Yet another meta analysis, based on randomized studies, found that “WBC offers improvements in subjective recovery and muscle soreness following metabolic or mechanical overload, but little benefit towards functional recovery.” None of the studies showed any adverse effects derived from cryotherapy.
Cryo and more
Where does that lead us? Or more precisely, what are my conclusions? I haven’t, and am not going to include whole body cryotherapy into my routine anytime soon. It doesn’t represent great ROI on my time and money. I’ll admit easily though that it looks cool and feels futuristic.
- Max out on cold rinses after showers, cold compression, and the occasional ice bath. Ask me in a few months and I may be able to tell you more about the experience and therapeutic benefits of Icelandic hot springs.
- Meditate regularly, write a gratitude journal and exercise about two or three times a week.
- Recover like a beast.
I’m not a regular practitioner of cryotherapy, and I’m unlikely to join Kobe, LeBron, or Jennifer as a celebrity believer in the treatment. If you, on the other hand, are an elite athlete, the next Batman, or an esoteric billionaire seeking immortality, WBC is probably for you. If you try WBC, or have experience with it, please share your experience so we all get wiser together.