Should You Do Red Light Therapy Before or After a Workout?

Red Light Therapy Before or After Workout Featured Image

Physical strength is key to athletic performance. At the same time, both professionals and workout enthusiasts treasure fast muscle recovery. Therefore, anything that offers both is more than welcome.

Professional athletes and fitness experts increasingly see red light therapy (RLT) as a safe performance enhancer. One can use red light therapy before or after a workout. Learn more on this below.

What is Red Light Therapy?

Red light therapy uses 620-700nm  wavelengths to stimulate cell activity. The wavelengths are administered via LED bulbs. Cell activity stimulation helps in brain, skin, joint, and muscle rejuvenation among other benefits. 

RLT helps build muscle, delays the onset of fatigue, and speeds up muscle recovery. Several clinical studies have studied the positive effects of RLT on physical strength. Most of them have shown proof of enhanced speed, strength, and endurance.

This piece focuses mainly on RLT and its use in muscle recovery and general physical fitness. Whether you’re a professional bodybuilder or an ordinary person seeking to keep fit, this is for you. Red light therapy for muscles comes with numerous advantages. 

Red Light Therapy: Before or After a Workout?

Red light therapy before or after a workout holds many benefits for you. Both schedules have their advantages as you will see below. Read on for an expounded breakdown of this information.

Red Light Therapy Before a Workout:

Red light muscle preconditioning gives your muscle more strength. It helps minimize muscle strain and damage during exercise. You will also experience less soreness, inflammation, and faster healing times. 

In a 2015 systematic review, several studies were analyzed to explore the  benefits of RLT before workouts. They found out that red wavelengths applied before exercises led to fast muscle recovery and increased muscle performance. 13 of the 16 comparisons found red light therapy for muscles before exercise most effective [1].

Another study involving 16 male participants found pre-application of RLT useful for muscle fatigue reduction. Application times were 6 hours before and immediately before the activity. In conclusion, anything within that time frame, 6 hours before and right before exercise, helps minimize muscle fatigue [2].

In another study, RLT reduced the onset muscle fatigue in 12 male professional volleyball players. Some of the 12 selected players received RLT before exercise, while the others got a placebo. Both groups performed bicep curls at 75% maximum voluntary contraction force. The researchers concluded that RLT appeared to delay the onset of muscle fatigue [3].

It may seem impractical, but there’s actually a study done on RLT during a treadmill session. 30 women in their post-menopausal phases, aged 50-60 years, were randomly put in three groups. The first group received RLT while exercising, the second group exercised only, while the third received RLT and without doing any exercise. The result was reduced fatigue and increased quadriceps performance for the first group [4].

Red Light Therapy After a Workout:

Light therapy for muscle injury after workouts goes a long way in speeding up the recovery process. The anti-inflammatory capabilities of RLT aid in the reduction of acute inflammation that happens because of intense workouts.

Red light therapy stimulates ATP production, which in turn, results in better cell proliferation and protein synthesis. This inhibits inflammatory cell markers, reducing any inflammation [5].

Researchers in 2012 studied monozygotic twins who underwent 12 weeks of strength-training. They applied red light 3 times a week after exercise. Gene expression analyses showed reduced inflammation, muscle atrophy, and increased muscle mass, recovery, and performance [6].

Red Light Therapy Effects On Physical Strength

With the popularization of eccentric training, many reap the benefits through rehabilitation or prevention of muscle injuries. Some are after increased testosterone levels. Others are after muscle strength gain, otherwise known as bulking. 

Researchers embarked on a study to find out if RLT can help speed up the process. They recruited 30 healthy males for 8 weeks for this study. It was randomized and the group that received RLT before exercise achieved strength gain in their muscles [7].

An analysis of 46 studies found that muscle mass gain is positively influenced by RLT. Other benefits included decreased inflammation after workouts and oxidative stress reduction [8].

A review of 16 studies involving 297 participants found RLT to be useful in enhancing performance. Red light application saw reduced blood lactate levels, and participants recorded peak torques. Time to exhaustion increased by 4.01s, while rep numbers increased by 3.51 [9].

Red Light Therapy Effects On Muscle Recovery

Oxidative stress happens when the free radicals in your body exceed your antioxidant defense mechanism. You do not want that happening to you as it puts you at risk of developing a chronic disease. 

A 2018 study found that RLT stimulates metabolic energy processes in the mitochondria. This enhances ATP production which leads to increased cell proliferation and migration [10].

What this means for you is less damage to your muscles during exercise. Exposure to red light will enable you to workout for longer and maximize every session while reducing the risk of injuries.

High blood lactate levels significantly contribute to muscle fatigue and cramping. In severe cases, high blood lactate can lead to muscle weakness, shortness of breath, and even coma.

Researchers proved RLT to be effective in managing blood-lactate-level percentage change in a  randomized, crossover, double-blind, and placebo-controlled study. 12 male high-level rugby players were recruited. The results showed a significant decrease in their blood lactate levels and perceived fatigue. Their sprint times also improved greatly [11].

To gauge if RLT can speed up muscle recovery following a damaging exercise, researchers brought together a group of 17 participants. They had no previous experience and underwent 30 eccentric contractions at 100%. Compared to the placebo group, the ones receiving RLT achieved muscle impairment reduction for up to 96 hours [12].

Researchers reviewed 17 studies on the effects of RLT for the repair of skeletal muscles. Their findings were increased angiogenesis, growth factor modulation, and myogenic regulatory factors. This proved that RLT is indeed good for muscle repair [13].

Lastly, pain can be an impediment when it comes to physical strength. Pain comes from injury, and there are many forms of injury depending on the sport:

  • Weight training: Back strains and pains, injury to the knee’s patellar tendon, shoulder impingement (swimmer’s shoulder).
  • Tennis: Knee injuries, wrist strains, Achilles tendon strain, back pain, rotator cuff tendonitis, tennis elbow.
  • Running: Feet stress fractures, shin splints, hamstring pulls, runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis.
  • Cycling: Neck pain, Achilles tendinitis, lower back pain, knee pain.
  • Baseball/softball: Muscle strains and sprains, knee injuries, rotator cuff tears, low back sprains.
  • Swimming: Swimmer’s shoulder, rotator cuff tendonitis, neck pain, shoulder cartilage tears, low back pain, shoulder inflammation, bicep tendonitis.

These among other injuries can cause unimaginable pains. You therefore need a pre-exercise/post-exercise regimen that reduces pain while enhancing physical strength. To learn more about the effect of RLT on pain reduction, read this article

Summary

Red light therapy before or after a workout has numerous benefits for athletes. This therapy has become increasingly popular in the sports world. Its potential for boosting performance and enhancing healing is confirmed by many studies, clinical trials, and peer-reviewed papers on the topic.

You can now reap these benefits from the comfort of your home using our nuYOU LED devices. All our devices are made with medical-grade materials and are safe to use. 


References:

  1. Leal-Junior ECP et al. Effect of phototherapy (low-level laser therapy and light-emitting diode therapy) on exercise performance and markers of exercise recovery: a systematic review with meta-analysis 2015 February 30 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24249354/
  2. Rossato M et al. Time Response of Photobiomodulation Therapy on Muscular Fatigue in Humans 2018 November 3 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29385005/
  3. Leal Junior ECP et al. Effect of 655-nm low-level laser therapy on exercise-induced skeletal muscle fatigue in humans 2008 October 26 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18817474/
  4. Paolillo FR et al. Phototherapy during treadmill training improves quadriceps performance in postmenopausal women 2013 September 3 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23895414/
  5. Hamblin MR. Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation 2017 May 19 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28748217/
  6. Ferraresi C et al. Effects of Light-Emitting Diode Therapy on Muscle Hypertrophy, Gene Expression, Performance, Damage, and Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness: Case-control Study with a Pair of Identical Twins 2016 October 9 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27088469/
  7. Baroni BM et al. Effect of low-level laser therapy on muscle adaptation to knee extensor eccentric training 2015 March – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25417170/
  8. Ferraresi C, Huang YY, Hamblin MR. Photobiomodulation in human muscle tissue: an advantage in sports performance? 2016 December – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27874264/
  9. Nanpo FK et al. Low-level phototherapy to improve exercise capacity and muscle performance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. 2016 June 7 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27272746/
  10. Sun Q et al. Red light-emitting diode irradiation regulates oxidative stress and inflammation through SPHK1/NF-κB activation in human keratinocytes 2018 September – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1011134418301556
  11. Pinto HD et al. Photobiomodulation Therapy Improves Performance and Accelerates Recovery of High-Level Rugby Players in Field Test: A Randomized, Crossover, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Study 2016 December 30 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27050245/
  12. Borges LS et al. Light-emitting diode phototherapy improves muscle recovery after a damaging exercise. 2013 November 21 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24258312/
  13. Alves AN et al. Effects of low-level laser therapy on skeletal muscle repair: a systematic review 2014 December – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25122099/

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