About a week ago I was listening to a podcast of Tim Ferriss with Tony Robbins (direct link). In their discussion, Tony talked about his habits and at a certain point he mentioned cryotherapy.
That triggered an image into my mind from the movie The Demolition Man where Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes were frozen for 36 years in a cryo-penitentiary. Then, they were restored to life in the year 2032 where the action of the movie takes place.
Long story short, the cryotherapy used by Tony refers to going inside a cabin (like a tanning booth) and being exposed to liquid nitrogen which lowers the temperature inside to as low as -180 °C and sometimes even lower.
The total maximum exposure time for 1 session of cryotherapy is 3 minutes. More can and may lead to skin damage and frost bites of the extremities.
For the love of cold…
We know that the cryosauna reduces outer skin temp. to below 0°C values in less than a minute (core temperature remains mostly unchanged). The cryosauna mixes fresh air with vapors of liquid nitrogen to reach the low temperatures inside the cabin.
This, in turn, activates cold receptors in the skin which signal the hypothalamus and other regions inside the brain and switches-on anti-inflammatory and repair processes throughout the entire body.
Many athletes use cold-therapy for recovery after hard training sessions while others use it for faster recovery from injury. One thing to note is that cryosauna is not cheap and not widely available. A 3 minutes session in many U.S. facilities is $80-$100. One of the privileges of living in Romania is that I can get the same session for $20-$25.
Cryotherapy is known for, at least, 2-3 decades, but cryosaunas have only started emerging at the beginning of the 21st century. That’s probably why the higher price that’s being requested to use them.
Here’s an excerpt from an insightful paper on cryotherapy:
In the case of ill patients, cryotherapy is used in the following diseases:
– inflammatory musculoskeletal disease
– degenerative diseases and secondary degenerative changes in peripheral joints and the
– joint disease of metabolic origin such as gout
– mixed connective tissue disease
– rheumatic and soft tissue disorders (polymyositis and dermatomyositis)
– periarticular, tendon and joint capsule inflammation
– some skin diseases involving joints: psoriatic arthritis
– autoimmune diseases
– post-traumatic changes or overload of joints and soft tissues
– chronic inflammation of the cervical spine
– muscle overload
– neurological disorders (spastic paresis, multiple sclerosis, radicular neuralgia)
– depression syndromes, vegetative neurosis
And from the same paper, the potential benefits of cryotherapy:
-overall improvement in well-being (relaxation, physical relaxation)
-neuromuscular effect (increase of muscle strength)
-profuse flow of blood
-increased systemic immunity
-increase in serum beta endorphins, norepinephrine, adrenaline, testosterone (especially
-antioxidant effect of cryostimulation
Hearing Tony talking very passionately about it made me become more interested, especially because I use Cold Thermogenesis (thanks Jack) as one of the interventions for a better-self. I will talk about the benefits and my research on CT in upcoming blogs and in a possible upcoming CT protocol. I also talk about my first cryogenic experiment in T-(Rx) – The Testosterone Protocol.
But until these are released, check Dr Jack Kruse’s series of CT.
I did a quick google search and I found out that there are ~6 centers for cryotherapy in Romania (my country) and one of them was just a couple of blocks away from me.
“I must be hell of a lucky bastard!”, I thought.
Flash-forward 2 days later and I was negotiating my first exposure time into the cryosauna (for privacy purposes I colored the operator’s face – Art is not my strong point).
The protocol says that the first exposure has to gradually lower the temperature inside the booth and stop at -100°C. It should last for no more than 100 seconds.
Since I use CT for quite a while now and since I seem to have decent negotiation skills, I was able to stay in the cryosauna for 140 seconds at -130°C (on my own risk). That’s like jumping straight into session #2.
Next time I will stay at -180°C for 3 minutes. It’s gonna be crazy!
Before going into the cabin, they gave me insulated lady footwear 🙂
I was instructed to keep my hands close together at chest level (like when you’re praying). Some people hold them outside the booth. When inside the cabin, I was told to constantly move (turn-around) and to try and hold my head high when I breathe.
The procedure is not toxic because you know that air on earth usually contains at least 78% nitrogen. Besides, you can say “stop” at any time and the operator will shut-down the procedure. You can also get out of the cabin whenever you want because the cabin door is not sealed or locked in any way.
My thoughts and impressions
The lowest temperature ever recorded on earth was -94.7°C. My first cryotherapy session was at -130°C.
So, yes! It was an amazing and very unique experience.
My 15+ minutes ice baths cannot be compared with cryotherapy because they seem to elicit a different type of cold. The cold in the cryo-cabin is unimaginable. It appears to be more bearable in the beginning because it’s dryer. In terms of shivering thermogenesis, it only requires less than one minute to make you start shivering.
At about the same time the shivering emerges, your brain signals the release of catecholamines (adrenaline and noradrenaline) as well as other neuro-peptides which give you the “happy” feeling. I get the same effect in the winter when I do extremely cold 10-minute showers (out of the sudden I start laughing under the unbearable ice cold water).
I know that cold exposure activates BAT (brown adipose tissue, which is present in humans too). This opens mitochondrial proton channels, protons enter the mitochondria and inhibit ATP synthesis. It basically uncouples (UCP1) the synthesis of ATP for energy production and shifts the metabolism to heat production, which is considered to yield fewer ROS (reactive oxygen species).
There are bold claims from companies selling cryo-cabin sessions which say that a 3 minute session will trigger the burn of extra 1,000 kcals. Most of them do not know the science behind it. But, after-all, they have to sell their stuff.
I personally believe it can increase the metabolic rate tremendously, especially if it involves shivering thermogenesis post session. I did not experience a lot of shivering thermogenesis afterwards. In fact, I immersed into an ice bath three hours after the cryo session 🙂
I’m really looking forward to the three minute session at -180°C.
No wonder they call the device “space cabin” (space background temperature is approx. -270°C or -455°F).
I suspect the next session will have a much stronger impact on me because when you are exposed to cold in the cabin every second seems to last like a decade.
I know that most people hate anything that has the word “cold” in it. It’s probably why most of us fail to step outside our comfort zones (more on it here, here, here, and here). Cold exposure is quite uncomfortable. I personally see its benefits and I’ve learned to love cold.
Tell me, what would personally make you step inside one of these space cabins at -100°C?
1. Leppäluoto, J., Pääkkönen, T., Korhonen, I., & Hassi, J. (2005). Pituitary and autonomic responses to cold exposures in man. Acta physiologica scandinavica, 184(4), 255-264.
2. Jack Kruse – Epi-Paleo R(x) – The Prescription for Disease Reversal and Optimal Health
3. Janský, L. (1973). Non‐shivering thermogenesis and its thermoregulatory significance. Biological Reviews, 48(1), 85-132.
4. Lubkowska, A. (2012). Cryotherapy: Physiological Considerations and Applications to Physical Therapy. Physical Therapy Perspectives in the 21st Century–Challenges and Possibilities. Dr. Josette Bettany-Saltikov (Ed).