Celebrities are plunging themselves into vats of vaporised nitrogen, exposing their bronzed flesh to temperatures as low as five degrees Celsius for several minutes at a time.
This is ‘cryotherapy’. Not a ritual performed by scientologists, but the latest Hollywood fitness fad. The service is marketed as a miracle treatment. It supposedly does everything. Just leave your credit card at reception, step inside this glorified fridge for three minutes and you’ll lose weight, cellulite, wrinkles and £100 of your hard-earned money.
If that wasn’t enough it will also reduce inflammation and make your skin ready for an appearance on the cover of Vogue. The eccentric habits of the rich and famous don’t stay in La La Land for long; what started in Redondo Beach is coming to the high streets of Britain.
As a fitness instructor I understand the appeal of cryotherapy. I’m always meeting new clients who have tried every available gimmick to lose weight; they start fashionable (but unsustainable) diets and buy expensive exercise equipment. If only it was so easy!
Part of the problem is that celebrities (who, let’s face it, are often a bit simple) are very influential. The strange things they do to their perfect bodies are copied by an envious public.
Some of the more outlandish claims made by those marketing the service are easily dismissed. Most practitioners say it has cosmetic benefits. There’s no evidence for this at all, which is why the glossy websites don’t offer any further explanation.
One study did find that ‘whole body cryotherapy’ improves subjective recovery after a workout. In other words, it eases the feeling of muscle pain. No surprises there; an ice pack does the same thing for a fraction of the price.
One vendor promises ‘instant inch loss’, which just isn’t possible unless there’s an extremely skilled plastic surgeon hiding in the white mist.
Other claims sound more plausible, but fall apart on closer inspection. Some ‘cryo-therapists’ say the experience ‘strengthens the immune system’. That’s clearly nonsense. No direct link has ever been established between lifestyle choices and immune system function.
The evidence that suggests enhanced antioxidant capacity and altered inflammatory pathways is extremely weak.
If it was genuinely possible to lose weight by standing in a cold, upright vapour bath for a few minutes, such a treatment would be revolutionary. Cryotherapy is nothing more than a pointless fad. Spas that offer it pray on the hopes of desperate people looking for easy answers.
If you want to lose weight without wasting money (and getting stiff nipples) start by cutting out processed carbohydrates and increasing your intake of protein and healthy fats. If you do this, and stick to an effective high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routine, you’ll eventually get the results you desire.
Some people see immediate progress, while in others it can take months. It’s crucial to stay committed, consistent and have patience. You need to really want it. Find a way to enjoy the process. That could mean putting together a motivational playlist or having a picture of your goal in front of the treadmill. If you’re inspired by fitness it will feel less like a chore, and you’ll always look forward to getting your sweat on.
Though there is something to be said for the ‘calories in-calories out’ approach to weight loss, it can be counterproductive. If you go from eating 3,000 kcal per day to 1,000 you will lose weight. However, it won’t all be fat.
From personal experience I can assure you that such an extreme approach to weight loss is going to reduce your hard-earned lean mass drastically. But there is a solution.
By replacing carbohydrates with protein you can promote fat loss while preserving lean tissue. It sounds like simple advice because it is; swap a potato for a steak. I’ve tested this approach on myself and it works. I was able to lose about three pounds of fat in six weeks without losing any lean mass.
Unfortunately there are no shortcuts to fitness and good health. The only way to lose weight is to eat healthily and exercise often; it really is that simple.