As powerlifters, recovery is essential so we can be prepared to tackle our next training session or hit PRs in competition. One of the latest recovery trends is bioceramic clothing that emits far-infrared radiation (FIR) and is believed to reduce pain and inflammation.
So, does bioceramic clothing work? Yes, bioceramic clothing does work, and the benefits can be seen whether you wear it for recovery or during your workouts. However, research on its effects on strength athletes is minimal, and bioceramic clothing shouldn’t be used as a substitute for proper nutrition and getting enough sleep.
In this article, we’ll talk about what bioceramic clothing is, review the research behind the health benefits of bioceramic clothing, and discuss whether or not it can be worn during your workouts.
What is Bioceramic Clothing?
Before we talk about bioceramic clothing, let’s review what bioceramics are and how they produce FIR, which gives them their healing properties.
Bioceramics are made when various ceramics and mineral oxides are mixed together and heated to nearly 3,000 degrees. Once the material is cooled, it becomes bioceramic. The bioceramic material then naturally emits FIR.
Far-infrared rays are invisible to the naked eye, but the body is able to absorb their energy up to 1.5 inches below the skin, which is what contributes to their health benefits.
Bioceramics have traditionally been used to replace bone material such as hips or knees, while FIR therapy is commonly seen in saunas or smaller devices that target specific areas of the body.
The ability of bioceramics to emit FIR has made them more commonplace in items such as apparel, bedding, socks, and supportive gear. They are typically blended into fabrics in the form of a powder.
FIR clothing reacts to the heat given off by the body. It absorbs the heat and reflects the infrared energy back into the body, which promotes cell regrowth and tissue regeneration. This means that FIR clothing could reduce the amount of muscle soreness you experience after a hard workout.
Is Bioceramic Clothing The New “Recovery” Apparel?
Athletes began taking notice of bioceramic clothing when Tom Brady mentioned it as one of the reasons why he can still play professional football at 43 years old.
He partnered with Under Armour in 2017 to launch a line of bioceramic pajamas that were designed to reduce inflammation and improve recovery. The idea came to Kevin Haley, who was the president of innovation at Under Armour at the time, after he saw Brady using a bioceramic sleeve for a calf injury.
Since then, other fitness apparel brands have jumped on the bandwagon and introduced their own lines of FIR clothing that can be worn during or after workouts.
Virus even has a weightlifting singlet that is made from a bioceramic material, and they also sell bioceramic shirts, leggings, and shorts.
Both anecdotal reports and scientific research (which we’ll review below) show that bioceramic clothing needs to be worn for at least several weeks in order to realize its full effects. So while it does appear to enhance recovery, it won’t just happen overnight.
And with all that said, nothing beats the importance of sleep and nutrition when it comes to recovery. If you’re not eating enough to support your training or if you’re only getting 4-5 hours of sleep per night, you should prioritize those things first before spending money on bioceramic clothing.
Does Far Infrared Clothing Actually Work?
Several studies have been conducted over the years that analyze the effect of bioceramic clothing on athletes and adults suffering from chronic conditions. While most of the research has produced positive outcomes, some of the results are mixed.
Let’s take a look at what the research says.
1. Improved recovery
In 2016, the Biology of Sport published a study that analyzed the effects of FIR clothing on recovery in elite male soccer players after a bout of plyometric exercise.
Each player performed 100 drop jumps. Mid-thigh circumference, creatine kinase, and delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) were measured before, immediately after, and at 24, 48, and 72 hours after.
The players also performed squat jumps and vertical jumps that were measured before and at 24, 48, and 72 hours after the 100 drop jumps, as well as a 1RM leg press that was measured before and 72 hours afterward.
Six hours after the athletes completed the 100 drop jumps, they were placed into two groups – one that put on FIR clothing and one that put on placebo clothing. They wore the clothing for three consecutive nights while sleeping for at least 10 hours.
Results showed no differences between the two groups on mid-thigh circumference, squat jump height, vertical jump height, or 1RM leg press. Creatine kinase increased significantly after 24 hours in both groups.
The placebo group showed significant increases in Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) at the 24, 48, and 72 hour time points after the plyometric exercise, while the FIR group only showed increases in DOMS at the 24 and 48 hour time points.
This suggests that FIR clothing can aid in recovery and reduce the length of time you experience DOMS after an intense training session, but your performance may not be improved after sleeping in it.
Another study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics in 2019 showed no effect of FIR clothing on recovery.
Twenty-two moderately active men were randomly placed into two groups – a placebo group and a bioceramic group. They each performed three sets of 30 maximal isokinetic eccentric contractions of the quadriceps.
The subjects then wore either bioceramic pants or placebo pants for two hours after the activity and then for two hours prior to additional testing sessions at 24, 48, and 72 hours after the initial testing protocol.
They were assessed for plasma creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase activity, delayed-onset muscle soreness, perceived recovery status, and maximal voluntary contraction pre-exercise and at 2, 24, 48, and 72 hours post-exercise.
Interestingly, results from this study showed that lactic acid buildup was lower after 24 hours but higher after 48 hours in the bioceramic group.
Additionally, the subjects only wore the FIR clothing for two hours immediately after exercise. This suggests that in order to notice any positive effects of FIR clothing, it needs to be worn for a longer period of time.
2. Pain relief
While not related to lifting or intense exercise, other studies show that bioceramic clothing reduces pain in women with fibromyalgia.
The subjects in this study who wore FIR shirts for at least 8 hours per night for 60 days reported significant decreases in pain even when reducing their intake of pain medication to treat their fibromyalgia symptoms.
This study published by Pain Research and Management also discovered that wearing waistbands with infrared technology can provide relief from chronic back pain.
Forty patients who had been seeking treatment for chronic back pain were randomly assigned to either a placebo group or an infrared therapy group. The subjects were then asked to rate their pain levels on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most painful and 1 being the least painful.
The subjects attended weekly therapy sessions for a total of seven weeks. At the end of the study, the pain levels of the subjects in the placebo group fell from 7.4 to 6. The pain levels of the subjects in the infrared therapy group fell from 6.9 to 3.
It is important to note that the subjects in this study were also on pain medication and nerve blocks, which they continued to take throughout the course of the study. So, it’s possible that the results wouldn’t have been as promising if they were only using the infrared waistbands.
Studies have also shown that bioceramic clothing can reduce symptoms of arthritis pain and menstrual cramps.
While muscle soreness isn’t the same as the pain resulting from chronic conditions, one can reasonably assume that wearing bioceramic clothing if you’re sore from training can provide some relief.
3. Improved sleep
I mentioned earlier that sleep quality is an important part of recovery for powerlifters. In a study done in 2018, subjects who slept with far-infrared sheets reported fewer insomnia symptoms and less napping throughout the day.
So if you have trouble sleeping, bioceramic clothing or bedding could help you sleep better.
Can You Work Out In Bioceramic Clothing?
Much of the research on bioceramic clothing has been done on endurance activities, not powerlifting or other strength sports. But the answer is yes, you can work out in bioceramic clothing.
One study conducted by the University of Calgary looked at the effects of oxygen consumption in athletes who wore bioceramic clothing during cycling workouts.
The study showed that there were no positive changes in oxygen consumption when they cycled at higher intensities, but oxygen consumption was decreased when the athletes cycled at a low intensity.
The researchers concluded that if these same results were present when the athletes cycled at their endurance race pace, it may suggest that FIR apparel could enhance performance in competition. However, more research is needed to verify if this is true or not.
Another study analyzed the effects of bioceramic clothing on postural stability in gymnasts. The study’s results showed that wearing bioceramic clothing reduced swaying in both standing and handstanding positions.
Based on the results from this study, wearing bioceramic clothing may be able to help with core stability while squatting and deadlifting.
Wearing bioceramic clothing during workouts can also reduce fatigue, allowing you to work out for longer.
In a study published by the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 20 volunteers were given either FIR clothing or regular sport clothing. Longer endurance times were reported in the group wearing FIR clothing.
Another study found that the mean velocity of runners was significantly increased when they ran a 10km race in bioceramic clothing. However, the runners didn’t report any difference in RPE or heart rate.
This suggests that while bioceramic clothing can enhance athletic performance, it may not have any significant cardiovascular effects.
Bioceramic clothing has also been shown to have antimicrobial and antiperspirant properties, which can prevent bacterial overgrowth and keep you more comfortable while you train . I mentioned this further in my article on Why Do Weightlifters Get Acne.
And FIR helps regulate body temperature, so you can wear bioceramic clothing during your workouts without overheating.
All of this research suggests that there aren’t any known negative effects to wearing bioceramic clothing during a workout…except for the heft price tag.
Most bioceramic clothing starts at $50 and can go up to $100 or even $200 apiece. But if you have the budget and you’re willing to try it (and you are already eating enough food and sleeping properly), there’s no reason not to add it to your collection of training apparel.
Are There Any Side Effects To Bioceramic Clothing?
There are some risks associated with the use of infrared radiation in saunas or therapy devices, such as burns or thermal heat injuries.
But unlike ultraviolet rays, the rays emitted from FIR won’t increase your chances of skin cancer.
No harmful side effects have been reported from bioceramic clothing. But if you’re pregnant or suffering from an illness or injury, it’s best to consult a physician before using bioceramic clothing to treat your symptoms.
Reviews of Bioceramic Clothing
Reviews of bioceramic clothing seem mixed, mostly due to the steep price point and the fact that the same effects can be achieved through other methods. But people who wear bioceramic clothing do notice improvements in pain relief and recovery.
This reviewer was initially skeptical of Tom Brady’s line of bioceramic sleepwear, but has noticed an improvement in joint pain:
This reviewer for the Virus AU 9 | Bioceramic Compression V2 Tech Pant mentioned that the pants have helped him recover better after lower body training sessions.
Bioceramic clothing can play a role in recovery, and there are no known negative effects when wearing it during workouts. But more research needs to be done, especially on its effects on powerlifting and other strength sports.
There aren’t any downsides to wearing bioceramic clothing, but it can be expensive. If you’re looking to maximize your recovery, you’re better off focusing on your nutrition and sleep quality first before investing in bioceramic clothing.
About The Author
Amanda Dvorak is a freelance writer and powerlifting enthusiast. Amanda played softball for 12 years and discovered her passion for fitness when she was in college. It wasn’t until she started CrossFit in 2015 that she became interested in powerlifting and realized how much she loves lifting heavy weights. In addition to powerlifting, Amanda also enjoys running and cycling.