But really: Will it freeze your booty off?
If the idea of freezing your fat off doesn’t sound pretty damn tempting, who are you, really? Jaw-dropping weight-loss claims are part of what’s made cryotherapy the hottest (er, coldest?) new weight-loss trend to try.
Cryo fans say you can boost your metabolism and burn anywhere from 500 to 800 calories by spending just three minutes in a cryotherapy chamber set to -306 degrees Fahrenheit.
(FWIW: The chamber looks like mix between a giant beer can with no top and a sci-fi spaceship from Zenon: Girl Of The 21st Century. It also costs $85 to $100 for a three-minute sesh.)
The theory is that the chilly cloud that’s puffed onto you from all sides of the chamber tricks your body into thinking it’s in danger of freezing, which sends it into preservation mode, explains John Hoekman, CEO and owner of Quick Cryo in New York City. The brain tells the rest of the body to rush blood to your core and vital organs for heath and protection.
But seriously—is this too good to be true?
Can You Literally Freeze Your Butt Off?
There is some research that suggests that being in the cold for an extended period of time could help you shed pounds. That’s because, in chilly temps, your body works to increase your internal temperature both through shivering and other internal processes that burn calories, explains Brian Quebbemann, M.D., medical director of The N.E.W. Program in Newport Beach.
For instance, in one study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, people who spent two hours per day for six weeks in a 63-degree room burned more energy than people who spent the time in non-teeth-chattering temperatures. In another study published in Diabetes, people who slept in 66.2-degree rooms increased their levels of calorie-burning brown fat by 42 percent, and had a 10 percent boost in metabolic rate. However, the participants did not experience any change in body composition, and their brown fat levels and metabolism returned back to normal when they stopped sleeping in the cold.
“There is no scientific evidence that three minutes of whole-body cryotherapy results in any long-term weight loss whatsoever,” Quebbemann says of the supposed cryotherapy-weight loss connection. In fact, a study published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity found that six months of cryotherapy didn’t result in any change in body mass or body fat even when combined with moderate aerobic exercise, he explains. It’s worth noting that that same study showed that cryotherapy does not affect metabolic rate either.
However, some cryotherapy users report a “high” after use, which research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation found comes from the rush of endorphins like norepinephrine (the flight or fight hormone). This is triggered when your body realizes that it is not actually in danger of freezing to death, explains Hoekman. And if that high-feeling has you jazzed about HIIT, then it might help you rev up the intensity (and therefore calorie burn) in your post-cryo sweat-session.
But how you feel when you get out of the chamber is pretty individual, he says. So you can’t necessarily expect cryo to be your key to better workout burns.
So Should You Chill Out In A Cryo Tank?
If love the cold more than Vanilla Ice and are hell-bent on giving the trend a try, go for it, says Quebbemann. But know some risk is involved, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
In rare cases, death and injury have occurred. One death from cryotherapy was reported by the Associated Press in 2015 after a technician used an enclosed freeze-tank without supervision after hours, and got stuck. Meanwhile, the Dallas Observer reported that a woman filed a lawsuit after suffering serious frostbite.
It’s true: Frostbite is the biggest risk associated with cryotherapy, says Hoekman. But doing it in a specialized studio, wearing proper gear on your hands and feet (they should provide everything you need at the studio), and limiting your time in the machine to two to three minutes keeps the risk of frostbite in check, he says. “If the chamber is used correctly, it’s safe.”
So if you’ve gotten this far and are still thinking about taking the plunge, just make sure you’re completely dry and have a buddy/spotter with you (you can keep them outside of the tank). Currently, there’s no proof that the cold chambers will help you lose weight, but who knows, as the trend gets even hotter, maybe new science will show us otherwise.