Cryotherapy for Weight Loss: The Cold, Hard Facts

Cryotherapy for Weight Loss: The Cold, Hard Facts

For years, we’ve searched for the silver bullet for weight loss. From the latest diet trends to cutting-edge workout regimes, we’ve explored it all. Now, we’re turning down the temperature and diving into a frosty new frontier: cryotherapy for weight loss. But does cryotherapy work for weight loss? Or is it just another passing fad?

Cryotherapy, which translates to “cold therapy,” has been used extensively for pain relief and inflammation management. Athletes and healthcare providers alike swear by its benefits. However, in recent years, cryotherapy’s potential role in weight loss has sparked heated discussion and piqued the curiosity of both fitness enthusiasts and researchers. Advocates of this chilly treatment argue that it helps to increase calorie burn, impact metabolism, and even stimulate brown adipose tissue activity.

Whole-body cryotherapy, in particular, has drawn attention with its promise of immersing your entire body in subzero temperatures. Imagine standing in a cryotherapy chamber, enveloped by a cloud of icy mist, and emerging feeling rejuvenated, with your metabolism potentially supercharged. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, doesn’t it?

But before you jump into a cryotherapy chamber, it’s essential to understand what the science says about cryotherapy benefits and risks. Despite the growing popularity of cryotherapy sessions, comprehensive research on its effectiveness, particularly for weight loss, remains limited. Furthermore, like any treatment, cryotherapy comes with potential side effects, ranging from numbness and redness to more serious risks like nerve damage.

As we delve deeper into the icy world of cryotherapy, we’ll explore its various types, understand how often you should chill out in a cryotherapy chamber, and unravel the truth behind the calorie-burning claims. Whether you’re considering professional cryotherapy sessions or just curious about this cool trend, this article will equip you with the knowledge to make an informed decision.

Remember, weight loss is a journey, not a sprint. And while we’re always excited about innovative approaches like cryotherapy, it’s crucial to balance enthusiasm with evidence. So, let’s embark on this frosty exploration and uncover the cold, hard facts about cryotherapy for weight loss.

Understanding Cryotherapy: More Than Just a Cold Treatment

When it comes to cryotherapy, it’s more than just a fancy term for “cold therapy.” As a technique that’s rapidly gaining traction within the wellness and fitness industry, cryotherapy encompasses a range of treatments that utilize subzero temperatures to purportedly deliver various health benefits, including weight loss.

Cold Therapy: A Historical Perspective

Cryotherapy isn’t a new concept. In fact, using cold as a form of therapy has been a staple in medicine for ages. Ice packs and cold compresses have long been the go-to remedies for reducing inflammation and numbing pain. However, modern cryotherapy takes this concept a step further, introducing whole-body cryotherapy chambers and targeted cryotherapy treatments.

Types of Cryotherapy: From Localized to Whole-body Treatment

The world of cryotherapy extends far beyond just stepping into a cryotherapy chamber. It involves a variety of treatments, each with specific applications and benefits:

  • Targeted Cryotherapy: This localized treatment involves using cold therapy on a specific part of the body. It acts as a local anesthetic, numbing pain and reducing swelling after minor injuries or chronic inflammatory conditions. It’s also popular among athletes who use it to alleviate muscle soreness and enhance recovery.
  • Tissue Treatment: Cryotherapy can also target damaged, diseased, or abnormal tissues. Physicians use this form of cryotherapy to freeze and destroy unhealthy cells, such as warts or cancerous tissues.
  • Whole-body Cryotherapy: This involves immersing your entire body in especially frigid temperatures in a cryotherapy chamber. Advocates claim that this form of cryotherapy can stimulate metabolism, increase calorie burn, and even aid weight loss.

Cryotherapy Chambers: An Icy Immersion

Whole-body cryotherapy chambers are becoming increasingly popular, especially within the fitness and wellness community. These chambers expose your entire body to temperatures as cold as -238 Fahrenheit (-150 degrees Celsius) for a very short period of time (generally no more than five minutes). The process is quick, but the aftermath of this chilly immersion could potentially have a lasting impact on your body’s metabolism and calorie-burning capabilities.

Now, you might wonder how standing in a freezing chamber could possibly lead to weight loss. Well, it all comes down to the way your body responds to extreme cold. In the next section, we’ll dive into the science behind cryotherapy for weight loss and discover if there’s any truth to these icy claims.

Does Cryotherapy Help with Weight Loss? The Science Explained

The central claim of cryotherapy for weight loss is that exposure to subzero temperatures helps your body burn more calories, thereby assisting in weight loss. But how does this work? Let’s take a closer look at the mechanisms involved.

Cold Exposure and Metabolic Activity

When exposed to extremely cold temperatures, your body works hard to restore its normal core temperature. This process involves your brown adipose tissue (BAT), which converts more energy into heat. This extra energy expenditure might contribute to an increased metabolic rate and higher calorie burn.

Cryotherapy and Hormonal Influence

Research has also shown that whole-body cryotherapy can affect several hormones necessary for regulating your metabolism, including insulin. By influencing these hormones, cryotherapy might potentially alter your body’s energy utilization, which could have implications for weight loss.

However, despite the potential physiological mechanisms at play, it’s important to note that the evidence supporting cryotherapy as a weight loss tool is still preliminary. The research is limited and somewhat inconclusive, highlighting the need for further studies in this area.

How Many Calories Does Cryotherapy Burn? 

One of the most commonly touted benefits of cryotherapy for weight loss is the notion that a session in a cryotherapy chamber can significantly increase your daily calorie burn. Some advocates claim that just three minutes in a cryotherapy chamber can lead to an extra 500–800 calories burned per day. However, the scientific backing for this claim is currently lacking. While it’s possible that cryotherapy may increase your metabolic rate, the extent to which this translates into actual calorie burn and weight loss is still up for debate.

How Often Should You Do Cryotherapy Sessions for Weight Loss?

Given the current ambiguity surrounding the effectiveness of cryotherapy for weight loss, there is no definitive answer to how often one should undergo cryotherapy. Some research suggests no significant difference in weight, fat mass, lean mass, or body water percentages after a series of cryotherapy sessions. However, other studies indicate that regular cryotherapy might lead to marginal changes in body composition.

Despite these findings, it’s important to remember that cryotherapy should not be seen as a standalone solution for weight loss. It may serve as a potential adjunct to a balanced diet and regular physical activity, but it’s not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle.

Cryotherapy Side Effects and Risks: The Cold Truth

While cryotherapy may hold some potential benefits, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks and side effects associated with this treatment. Common side effects include numbness, redness, and skin sensitivity. However, more serious risks can also arise from cryotherapy, including nerve damage, frostbite, and burns.

Moreover, cryotherapy chambers can pose additional risks. Prolonged exposure to extreme cold can affect vital signs like heart rate and blood pressure. Also, cryotherapy equipment hasn’t been cleared by the FDA for weight loss, and there’s a risk of oxygen deficiency due to the introduction of nitrogen vapors in some cryotherapy chambers.

It’s crucial to ensure that you’re using a reputable cryotherapy provider and following all safety guidelines to mitigate these risks. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new treatment regimen.

Can Cryotherapy for Weight Loss Have Side Effects? Understanding Potential Consequences

When it comes to cryotherapy, it’s important to remember that, like any treatment, it can have side effects. These effects vary widely depending on the individual, the extent of the treatment, and the specific method of cryotherapy used.

Common Side Effects of Cryotherapy

The most common side effects of cryotherapy are relatively minor and include numbness, redness, and skin sensitivity. These symptoms usually occur immediately after treatment and typically resolve within a few hours.

Uncommon But Serious Side Effects of Cryotherapy

Although less common, more serious side effects can occur. These include nerve damage, frostbite, and burns. These risks are particularly heightened when undergoing whole-body cryotherapy, which involves exposure to extreme cold temperatures. It’s crucial to understand these risks before deciding to undergo any form of cryotherapy.

The Dangers of Cryotherapy: Risks to Be Aware Of

While cryotherapy can potentially offer benefits for certain conditions, it’s not without risks. These risks increase when the treatment is not administered correctly or when individuals do not follow the appropriate safety guidelines.

Physical Risks of Cryotherapy

Prolonged exposure to subzero temperatures from cryotherapy can lead to serious physical harm, including damaged nerves, frostbite, burns, and even eye injuries. Changes in vital signs, such as heart rate and blood pressure, can also occur.

Regulatory Considerations for Cryotherapy

It’s important to note that no cryotherapy equipment has been cleared by the FDA for weight loss. The FDA also warns about the risk of oxygen deficiency due to the introduction of nitrogen vapors in some cryotherapy chambers. This warning underlines the importance of ensuring that any cryotherapy treatment is carried out by reputable providers and under proper supervision.

Making an Informed Decision About Cryotherapy

Given these risks, it’s vital that anyone considering cryotherapy be fully informed about the potential dangers and consult with a healthcare provider before beginning any new treatment regimen. The best decisions about health and wellness are made with a full understanding of the benefits, risks, and alternatives.


Is cryotherapy safe for everyone?

While cryotherapy is generally safe, it’s not recommended for everyone. People with certain health conditions, such as Raynaud’s disease, should avoid cryotherapy. Always consult your doctor before starting any new treatment.

How many cryotherapy sessions do I need to see results?

It’s hard to determine a specific number as the effectiveness of cryotherapy varies from person to person. Some people may see benefits after a few sessions, while others may require more.

What should I do before and after a cryotherapy session?

Before a cryotherapy session, it’s important to be well-hydrated. After a session, gentle exercise like a brisk walk can help to stimulate blood flow.

Can I use cryotherapy as a substitute for diet and exercise?

No, cryotherapy should not be used as a substitute for a healthy diet and regular exercise. While it may complement your weight loss efforts, the foundation of weight loss should always be a balanced diet and regular physical activity.


  1. A study from the National Library of Medicine on the effects of cryotherapy on body weight.
  2. Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC): A “Cool” Trend that Lacks Evidence, Poses Risks. – FDA

Anna is an avid blogger with an educational background in medicine and mental health. She is a generalist with many other interests including nutrition, women's health, astronomy and photography. In her free time from work and writing, Anna enjoys nature walks, reading, and listening to jazz and classical music.

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