Prototype Performance and Recovery Series: Part 4

“The Benefits, Use, and Protocols of Infrared Sauna”

At Prototype Training Systems, we are building something special with our Prototype Performance and Recovery program. Our ethos is the notion::” Live better, longer”. As we strive to provide our clients with the most effective tools for performance and recovery, we are excited to introduce the Sunlighten mPulse infrared sauna with red light therapy! 

This article will explore the benefits, uses, and protocols for infrared sauna use, tailored for our diverse clientele, from the general population members to youth athletes. Something that has inspired this transformation at Prototype, outside of our belief that this is the FUTURE of training, that EVERYONE should have access to both the information and access to these tools that professional athletes have access to. We are all professionals in some form or another and the benefits of these modalities go beyond just the physical training side of things!

The Science of Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas use infrared light to heat the body directly, rather than warming the air around you. This results in a deeper, more penetrating heat at lower temperatures, which can provide numerous health benefits.

Benefits of Infrared Sauna

  1. Enhanced Detoxification
  • Research: Infrared saunas induce sweating, which helps eliminate toxins from the body. A study by Crinnion (2011) found that infrared sauna use can effectively reduce the levels of toxic substances, such as heavy metals and organic pollutants, in the body.
  • Details: The deeper heat penetration increases sweating and helps detoxify the body more efficiently than traditional saunas (Crinnion, 2011).
  1. Improved Cardiovascular Health
  • Research: Laukkanen et al. (2018) reported that regular sauna use is associated with improved cardiovascular function, reduced blood pressure, and decreased risk of heart disease.
  • Details: The heat from the infrared sauna causes blood vessels to dilate, improving circulation and reducing cardiovascular strain (Laukkanen et al., 2018).
  1. Pain Relief and Reduced Muscle Soreness
  • Research: Infrared saunas can reduce pain and inflammation, making them beneficial for those with chronic pain or post-exercise muscle soreness. A study by Matsushita et al. (2008) found that infrared sauna use significantly reduced pain levels in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain.
  • Details: The infrared heat penetrates deeply into tissues, enhancing circulation and promoting healing (Matsushita et al., 2008).
  1. Enhanced Muscle Recovery
  • Research: A study by Brunt et al. (2016) indicated that infrared saunas improve muscle recovery by increasing blood flow and reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.
  • Details: Improved circulation helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to muscles, speeding up recovery and reducing soreness (Brunt et al., 2016).
  1. Mental Health and Stress Reduction
  • Research: Infrared sauna use can significantly reduce stress and improve mental health. A study by Beever (2009) found that regular sauna use decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Details: The relaxing heat, combined with the release of endorphins, helps alleviate stress and promotes mental well-being (Beever, 2009).
  1. Skin Health
  • Research: Infrared saunas can improve skin health by increasing collagen production and enhancing skin elasticity. A study by Russell et al. (2005) showed improvements in skin tone and texture with regular use.
  • Details: The deep heat penetration helps cleanse pores, increase circulation, and promote collagen synthesis (Russell et al., 2005).

Difference Between Infrared Sauna and Traditional Sauna

  1. Heating Mechanism:
  • Infrared Sauna: Uses infrared light to heat the body directly, penetrating the skin and providing deeper heat at lower temperatures (100-150°F or 38-65°C).
  • Traditional Sauna: Heats the air around you, which in turn heats your body, typically at higher temperatures (150-195°F or 65-90°C).
  1. Temperature and Comfort:
  • Infrared Sauna: Operates at lower temperatures, making it more comfortable for longer sessions. The lower ambient heat is less likely to cause discomfort or overheating.
  • Traditional Sauna: Higher ambient temperatures can be uncomfortable for some users, limiting session duration.
  1. Heat Penetration:
  • Infrared Sauna: Provides deeper heat penetration, directly affecting tissues and promoting more effective detoxification and muscle relaxation.
  • Traditional Sauna: Primarily heats the skin surface and air, which indirectly affects deeper tissues.
  1. Energy Efficiency:
  • Infrared Sauna: Typically more energy-efficient due to lower operating temperatures and targeted heating.
  • Traditional Sauna: Requires more energy to heat the entire room to higher temperatures.

Recommended Protocols

General Guidelines

  • Temperature: 100-150°F (38-65°C)
  • Duration: 20-30 minutes per session
  • Frequency: 3-4 times per week for general health benefits

Specific Protocols

  1. Stress Reduction
  • Temperature: 100-130°F (38-54°C)
  • Duration: 20-30 minutes
  • Frequency: 3-4 times per week
  • Timing: Anytime, particularly useful post-workout for relaxation.
  1. Muscle Soreness and Recovery
  • Temperature: 110-150°F (43-65°C)
  • Duration: 20-30 minutes
  • Frequency: After intense exercise sessions
  • Timing: Post-exercise to reduce inflammation and speed up recovery.
  1. Energy Boost
  • Temperature: 100-130°F (38-54°C)
  • Duration: 15-20 minutes
  • Frequency: Daily or as needed
  • Timing: Morning or pre-exercise to enhance alertness and energy levels.

Pre vs. Post Exercise Use

Pre-Exercise: Using an infrared sauna before exercise can help warm up the muscles and increase flexibility, reducing the risk of injury. A short session (10-15 minutes) at a lower temperature (100-120°F) can be beneficial.

Post-Exercise: Infrared saunas are most beneficial post-exercise for reducing muscle soreness and enhancing recovery. A longer session (20-30 minutes) at a higher temperature (110-150°F) is recommended to maximize the recovery benefits.

Contraindications

Potential Risks:

  • Dehydration: Prolonged exposure to heat can lead to dehydration. Ensure adequate hydration before and after sauna sessions.
  • Cardiovascular Issues: Individuals with cardiovascular conditions should consult with a healthcare provider before using an infrared sauna.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnant women should avoid sauna use due to the risk of overheating.

Conclusion

Infrared saunas offer a range of benefits that can enhance recovery, improve cardiovascular health, reduce stress, and promote overall well-being. By integrating infrared sauna use into your routine, you can optimize your performance and recovery, contributing to a healthier, more resilient lifestyle. At Prototype Training Systems, we are proud to offer the Sunlighten mPulse infrared sauna to help you achieve your fitness and wellness goals.

References

  • Beever, R. (2009). Far-infrared saunas for treatment of cardiovascular risk factors: Summary of published evidence. Canadian Family Physician, 55(7), 691-696. Link
  • Brunt, V. E., Howard, M. J., Francisco, M. A., & Minson, C. T. (2016). Passive heat therapy improves endothelial function, arterial stiffness, and blood pressure in sedentary humans. The Journal of Physiology, 594(18), 5329-5342. Link
  • Crinnion, W. J. (2011). Sauna as a valuable clinical tool for cardiovascular, autoimmune, toxicant-induced and other chronic health problems. Alternative Medicine Review, 16(3), 215-225. Link
  • Laukkanen, T., Kunutsor, S. K., Kauhanen, J., & Laukkanen, J. A. (2018). Sauna bathing is inversely associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in middle-aged Finnish men. Age and Ageing, 46(2), 245-249. Link
  • Matsushita, K., Masuda, A., Fujita, S., & Ishikawa, H. (2008). Clinical effects of regular low-temperature sauna bathing in patients with chronic pain. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 77(5), 296-303. Link
  • Russell, B. A., Kellett, N., & Reilly, L. R. (2005). Use of visible red light (650 nm) for skin rejuvenation. Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, 7(3-4), 180-188. Link

By following these protocols and integrating infrared sauna use into your routine, you can enhance your recovery, boost your health, and achieve your fitness goals.