Tom Brady takes his job very seriously.
He regularly goes to bed before 8:30 p.m. He doesn’t consume white sugar, white flour, MSG, iodized salt, coffee, caffeine, fungus, alcohol or dairy. He swears by an unorthodox training methodology that prioritizes muscle pliability.
Brady does all of those things because he wholeheartedly believes they’ve helped him continue to play at an elite level.
“I’m 39 and I get to play football for a living. There are not a lot of people who get that chance,” Brady told New York Magazine. “Part of that is because of the way that I treat my body.”
One critical component of Brady’s regimen? High-tech sleepwear engineered by Under Armour. UA Athlete Recovery Sleepwear Powered by TB12 was unveiled to the public at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. Now available for purchase, each individual pajama garment costs between $80 and $100. That’s a steep price, but Brady and Under Armour say it’s more than worth it due to the clothing’s “soft bio-ceramic print.”
The bio-ceramic print combines with body heat to produce far infrared radiation FIR), which supposedly reduces inflammation, improves circulation and helps the body recover faster. The idea came when Kevin Haley, UA’s president of innovation, saw Brady use a bio-ceramic sleeve on an injured calf muscle two years ago.
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Pajamas that can make you a better athlete might sound far-fetched, but Haley firmly believes in the product’s healing powers. He told TIME, “This is something people have been working on for a long, long time. We’ve had our best Ph.D. scientists here breaking down all the science. It definitely works.”
Sounds great, but what does the research actually say?
Before we get into the science, let’s define some terms.
Bio-ceramics result when various ceramics and mineral oxides are mixed together and heated to nearly 3,000 degrees. Once they cool, the material is a bio-ceramic, which naturally emits FIR energy. Traditionally, bio-ceramics have been used in medicine to replace bone material such as hips or knees. But the fact that they naturally emit FIR has broadened their usage.
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What is far infrared radiation? It is a region inside the infrared spectrum of electromagnetic radiation typically defined as any radiation that has a wavelength of between 15 micrometers and 1 millimeter (though these ranges depend on source).
Over the years, far infrared has been found to have some impressive health benefits. When used for therapeutic purposes, it is often referred to as “biogenetic radiation.” The body perceives far infrared energy as a gentle radiant heat that can penetrate up to 1.5 inches beneath the skin. The deep penetration could be a key reason for its therapeutic benefits.
People can use far infrared for therapeutic purposes in a number of ways. One popular method is far infrared saunas. These are special heated rooms equipped with far infrared-emitting ceramics. A 2009 study found that far infrared sauna usage helped decrease pain, stiffness and fatigue in arthritis patients. A different 2009 study found that far infrared sauna usage increased physical health, general health and quality of life for patients with Type II diabetes. A 2011 study found that far infrared sauna usage improved cardiac and vascular function and reduced oxidative stress in patients with chronic heart failure. Oxidative stress is what occurs when the body isn’t properly equipped to fight off free radicals. High amounts of oxidative stress can have a wide range of ill effects on the human body, including increased cell damage and a higher risk of disease.
Another method is far infrared “ray” devices. In contrast to the full-body approach of far infrared saunas, rays can be directed at specific parts of the body. A 2007 study found that far infrared ray usage can significantly ameliorate the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, the fancy name for seasonal allergies. Patients reported improvement in symptoms like eye itching, nasal itching, nasal stuffiness and sneezing after the treatments. A 2011 study found that far infrared therapy reduced the symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage in athletes after a simulated trail run race.
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As for far infrared-emitting fabrics—like Brady’s new Under Armour pajamas—there’s some promising research.
To create far infrared-emitting fabric, bio-ceramics are included in the fibers in one form or another (often as a powder). “The principle source of energy needed to power th