Who doesn’t want to get stronger? From high-level athletes to weekend warriors, we’re all motivated to get the most out of our training routines. Many people use supplements and pre-workout drinks in the attempt to get a little more out of each workout, break through a strength plateau, or just get a couple of extra reps in. But what if there was a natural way to get more out of your workouts without having to take loads of caffeine and without health risks or side effects? Welcome to the world of photobiomodulation, or as we call it, PBM.
PBM is a type of low-level laser therapy that administers light waves to the entire body. Low-level laser therapy has been researched extensively in regards to muscular benefit, with very encouraging findings. A meta-analysis of the research found consistent positive results of low-level laser therapy in delaying muscle fatigue, muscle performance during one-rep-max exercises, and decreasing recovery times (Leal-Junior et al, 2015). Another study found that using phototherapy before exercise can improve muscular strength three times faster than exercise alone (Vanin, 2016). Imagine getting stronger at a rate three times faster than normal! All without any reported side effects or risks.
So how does PBM create such impressive results? For 15 to 20 minutes at a time, a PBM bed administers light energy called photons, which penetrate body tissues and interact with chromophores in the cells. This interaction leads to chemical changes that alter the molecular, cellular, and ultimately tissue levels of the body through a complex chain of physiological reactions. Put simply, the photons increase mitochondrial activity and ATP synthesis. Think of the mitochondria as the energy factories in your cells and ATP as the transporter of energy. So if we can create more cellular energy and transport it better, it makes sense that we can get stronger and recover faster!
The research suggests that while PBM can be beneficial after a workout, the most substantial effects occur when it is done before a workout. So next time you want to recharge your training results, consider trying a new kind of pre-workout!
Leal-Junior EC,Vanin AA, Miranda EF, de Carvalho PT, Dal Corso S, Bjordal JM (2015) 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. Lasers Med Sci 30:925–939
Vanin AA, Miranda EF, Machado CSM, Vicente de Paiva PB, Albuquerque-Pontes GM, Casalechi HL, de Tarso P, de Carvalho C, Leal-Junior ECP (2016) What is the best moment to apply phototherapy when associated to a strength training program? A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Lasers Med Sci 31:1555-1564