One new trend called cryotherapy involves using colder temperatures to help you lose weight. There are estimates that cryotherapy weight loss can result in the burning of up to 800 calories per session. Impressive, right? The mechanism behind it is quite simple to understand, and we’re going to discuss everything you need to know before trying the procedure yourself.

How Cryotherapy Weight Loss Works

The cryotherapy process involves you standing in a tank or a whole-body cryotherapy chamber. Your body will then be bathed with liquid nitrogen or freezing air for several minutes. The temperature can get close to 200 degrees below zero. In most cases, this step will last for between two and four minutes. You will be wearing minimal clothing.

Your body has multiple mechanisms by which it handles the stress of low temperatures. The benefits of the cryotherapy weight loss process result from two specific physiological responses to cold:

Shivering Thermogenesis

The term thermogenesis means the production of heat. Shivering thermogenesis refers to the production of heat by the act of shivering. When your body is subjected to very low temperatures, it responds by causing the rapid muscle contractions that most people know as shivering. These contractions produce heat, which helps to raise the body’s core temperature as a way to protect vital organs. One Swedish study found that brown adipose tissue is crucial to obtaining thermogenesis.

Brown fat is a type of body fat that gets its name from its iron content. Infants have a lot of brown fat, while adults have much lower stores. It differs from the white fat that accumulates around the waist and on the thighs. The act of shivering is believed to cause the release of a hormone called irisin which is what causes the release of energy from brown fat; that energy release produces heat. The production of irisin lies is at the core of cryotherapy weight loss. The more brown fat you have, the more of it your body will burn to keep itself warm.

Exercise also stimulates the production of irisin. In fact, researchers believe that exercise does this by imitating shivering thus tricking the body into producing the hormone. Shivering produces roughly the same amount of irisin as exercise with the production of the hormone from 15 minutes of shivering being equal to that from an hour of exercise. The result is that you may be able to see the same results from exposure to cold that you would see from time on the treadmill.

In addition to the burning of brown fat, shivering burns calories just like any other physical activity due to the muscle contractions.

cryotherapy weight loss

Non-Shivering Thermogenesis

The cryotherapy process does not have to make you shiver to deliver results. By the time you start to feel cold enough to shiver, your body has already been working hard to raise your temperature. This form of thermogenesis can burn more calories that you might expect. According to one study published in Cell Metabolism, non-shivering thermogenesis can be responsible for up to 30 percent of your body’s expended energy.

The process of non-shivering thermogenesis requires the presence of brown fat; it cannot exist without it.

Another of the factors that regulate non-shivering thermogenesis is the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which helps to convert white fat to brown fat. Exposure to the cold is thought to increase the body’s norepinephrine release by as much as 500 percent.

The conversion of white fat to brown fat results in the loss of white fat. You are able to burn more fat passively because brown fat is so much more metabolically active.

Other Health Benefits of Cryotherapy

Along with obesity, cryotherapy has been used to treat a range of other health issues. For example, it has been used as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis in Japan since the 1980s. Famous athletes like Kobe Bryant, Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James have long used it to alleviate soreness. Its ability to relieve inflammation also makes it a promising treatment for chronic pain.

Cryotherapy may also be used to treat diabetes as cryotherapy can cause blood glucose to be burned to help with heating the body. In addition, it may also be valuable as a treatment for fatty liver disease. Women are drawn to this procedure, as it’s known to boost collagen, improving the skin’s appearance and reducing wrinkles.

cryotherapy weight loss

How to Use Cryotherapy for Weight Loss

Be Consistent

As with any weight loss regimen, there will be no results from cryotherapy without consistency and repetition. You will need to do regular cryotherapy sessions. It is recommended that you get at least 30 cryotherapy treatments over a 90 day period and that you do this twice per year. Over time, the effects of your accelerated metabolism will increase in duration between treatments. You may be able to burn as many as 300 calories per day because of your cryotherapy weight loss sessions.

Localized Treatments

As an alternative to using whole body cryotherapy, you can focus on certain problem areas like your arms or abdomen. While localized cryotherapy is a popular tool for reducing joint inflammation, you can also use it to reduce cellulite.

As a Part of a Weight Loss Plan

Cryotherapy should be used alongside other weight loss strategies including regular exercise and a healthy low-calorie diet.

Aid Recovery

Using cryotherapy for reducing inflammation after strenuous exercise is not without its weight loss benefits. The faster you are able to recover, the faster you can get back to working out.

The Disadvantages of Cryotherapy Weight Loss


Cryotherapy is steadily growing in popularity, which means that it may one day come down in price, which can range up to a $100 per session. Until the price goes down, its use may be limited to the superstar athletes who can afford to use it regularly.


Despite the fact that sessions are only a few minutes long, many people may balk at the thought of standing in subzero temperatures in their underwear.

Lack of Definitive Scientific Evidence

While there is some scientific evidence that the cryotherapy for weight loss should be effective, there is still considerable skepticism among scientists and doctors.

Health Risks

There is a small risk of frostbite as well as from asphyxiation within the chamber. Another risk is that an individual’s core temperature can cool to the point where they experience sudden cardiac arrest. It is wise to consult your physician about your cardiovascular health before using cryotherapy for weight loss.


Cryotherapy weight loss is the result of the conversion of white fat to brown fat so that the brown fat can be used to produce heat. While it offers many of the benefits of aerobic exercise, it does come with at a relatively high cost and there are certain medical risks. Do talk to your doctor before you try it.