What’s the deal with Red Light Therapy…. and is it real?
Over the course of the past 5 years, I’ve had the opportunity to reinvent myself, change careers, take a sabbatical, live in Costa Rica, and work in the tech development industry in Silicon Valley. Through this time of self-reflection and reinvention, I’ve had the chance to spend significant amounts of time in sunny climates, and the importance of how light changes your biology has never been more clear to me.
In this article, I highlight the evolution, the science, the technology and how I integrate red light therapy into my daily regimen.
How Does Light heal?
At its most basic level, light is pure energy. Made up of packets of energy called photons, light from sources like the sun power almost all biological processes on our planet. Without light, all living things on the planet would perish..
Light is also instrumental in keeping us at peak health. Ultraviolet or UV light has long been recognized as essential for vitamin D production in our skin which helps keep our bones strong. At a molecular level, there are literally dozens of mechanisms that are triggered via specific wavelengths of light.
For example, Cytochrome C Oxidase is a photoreceptor on the mitochondria that are triggered by light photons, specifically red and near-infrared wavelengths.
In some cases, overtraining can take months or even years to recover from (1). Maximizing recovery efficiency is therefore critical for maximizing training efficiency. That is, if it takes less time for our muscles to recover after exercise, we can reach our goals faster. Red light therapy is an exciting approach to improving recovery time that has become popular among elite athletes and sports professionals and has rapidly gained extensive scientific support over the last decade (1). Studies conducted in both animals and humans have demonstrated red-light’s ability to influence the structural and metabolic changes associated with muscle fatigue (2). For example, red light therapy has been shown to reduce post-exercise blood lactate concentration
Why is Red & Infrared Light Therapy Important?
At the molecular level, these pathways and channels are affected by these specific wavelengths, which in turn activates (or optimizes) cellular processes.
In other words, Red & Infrared Light Therapy triggers molecular events that then triggers cellular processes, which then affects our structural systems like muscles, brain, nerves, bones, hair, and skin. Basically, red and near-infrared light helps bulletproof YOU!.
Red & Infrared Light Therapy triggers molecular events that then triggers cellular processes, which then affects our structural systems like muscles, brain, nerves, bones, hair, and skin.
Don’t I get enough light from the Sun?
In 2015, I took the summer to ride my pedal bike across the country. I didn’t have a schedule and just took my time at my own pace. Needless to say, I was outdoors….A LOT. I spent an average of 6 hours a day in the sun and developed a savage tan. After 4 months of riding my bike, I decided to move to Costa Rica to round out my sabbatical with something epic.
In retrospect, I didn’t understand the biological process of what was happening to my body, but during the bike ride, any ailments or issues I previously had, went away. I had almost zero inflammation, even after 4000+ miles of pedaling. Even in Costa Rica, I wasn’t aware of what was happening, as I thought my good mood and health was related to the fact that I was walking the beach everyday, surfing, sleeping amazing, and basically filming a Coruna commercial every day.
It wasn’t until a few years later when I came across red light therapy that I started to piece the puzzle together. As I investigated the science and bought a few of the lights that are available for At-Home treatments, I had the epiphany about the Sun and how light regulates our biological process. The quantity of light I was receiving during the bike ride and the Costa Rican adventure allowed my cells to be optimized, even though there were significant amounts of negative light (i.e. sunburn via UV radiation) that were being absorbed, the beneficial aspects were undeniable.
The science behind the magic relates to the wavelengths and quantity of each wavelength that is absorbed into our cells. With sunlight being full-spectrum, its impossible to balance the dosage (getting the correct quantity of beneficial wavelengths) for optimized health. However, technology now allows us to isolate the beneficial wavelengths that have been scientifically proven to improve health, while at the same time removing the negative wavelengths (UV, Blue, and Violet). So, all the positive vibes you have after going to the beach can be had at home with red and near-infrared light therapy.
Incorporating Light Therapy Into Your Life
Over the course of my life, I’ve always been a healthy well-balanced soul. I’ve experimented with intermittent fasting, ketogenic diets, carnivore diets, long term fasting, competitive cycling, meditation retreats, and nothing has had such a profound effect on my health and well being as red & infrared light therapy.
I use my light 5 to 6 times a week. I set it up and positioned it near my work station, shining from the side, as the light actually helps strengthen your eyes – truth be told, I’m using it right while I write this post.
I use my light 5 to 6 times a week.
I sometimes position the light next to my yoga mat and stretch and meditate in front of it. As you look online, you’ll see complicated formulas for distance and time, but due to the fact that there are ZERO negative side effects, I’ve found my approach of ‘any’ is better than ‘none’, and this keeps the positive effects front & center in my life.
Since incorporating light therapy into my life, my workouts have gotten better (testosterone improvements), I sleep deeper (optimized circadian rhythms), I’m more balanced (reduced depression), I get sick less (increased immunity), and my total perspective on life has improved (systemic improvements). In addition, I believe my skin is more resilient and younger-looking (collagen production).
Consistency Is Key
Since incorporating red & near-infrared light into my life, I’ve been a ‘fanboy’ of the technology, and have sold lots of lights to friends and family. Everytime I discuss the process, I’m careful to advise that it takes time and consistency. For me personally, I think it took about 2-3 weeks before I started noticing the impact.
Research into red light’s influence on muscular recovery processes spans different members of the animal kingdom, forms of exercise, and training intensity levels. Across all this variety, post-exercise treatment with red light reliably impacts structural and metabolic processes associated with muscle fatigue (6). By reducing the harmful cellular by-products of exercise, red light therapy can accelerate recovery time. Though precise mechanisms for how red light reduces biomarkers of fatigue are still disputed, one common theory centers around the photosensitive nature of mitochondria. Because red light’s long wavelengths are able to penetrate through the skin and into the muscle tissue with minimal diffusion, it can interact directly with a cell’s light-reactive mitochondria
It’s an amazing time that we’re living in, and the ability for us to affect our physiology has never been greater. Like many reading about this technology (maybe for the first time), I suspect you may be skeptical. I would recommend that you take a look at some medical publications that walk through the technology, and the results/conclusions.