WILL THE SAUNA HELP ME BURN MORE CALORIES, MORE FAT, OR HELP ME BUILD MUSCLE FASTER?
by Jason France
Have you ever seen someone inside the heated sauna doing push ups, sit ups, or other “exercises”?
Have you ever wondered; does that burn more calories? Will it help me burn fat? Can it help me build muscle faster?
Let me start by affirming my belief in the benefits of a hot sauna purge; and my intent here is to deliver the best information I have to help you enjoy those same benefits; like better sleep, improved digestion, and greater sense of ease and wellbeing in my body.
To begin, the sauna is NOT your ticket to weight loss, better fat metabolism, or rapid muscle gain…period.
WHAT DOES THE SAUNA DO?
Easy answer: the sauna imposes a heat demand on your body.
And, as far as you’re concerned; this is all you need to know. The rest should be common sense; but it’s not.
Somehow, the sauna has become “known” for:
Burning more calories when working out–it doesn’t.
Getting you warm before exercise–it doesn’t.
Helping sweat the fat out–it doesn’t.
Let’s address each, individually:
Burn More Calories. False! In fact, it’s not even close. And you can test this for yourself–no lab required. Just go into a sauna and do 500 kettlebell swings; what do you think will happen?
You won’t get to 100 before you exhaust on account of heat and it won’t be lack of calories that keeps you from completing the remaining 400-plus reps, it’ll be due to lack of consciousness, as your body’s’ need to cool down is prioritized over the body’s need to innervate muscle.
But, at room temp, or even down to near-freezing temps, you’re likely to burn more calories on account of being able to complete the metabolic demand of 500 reps (internal heat), and that’s going to burn your calories, not external heat.
Think more about burning the internal heat instead of the external heat if you want to burn more calories.
It’s A Good Warm-Up. It’s not! In fact, it’s the opposite of a “good” warm-up. Yes, the external heat pushing onto your skin will make you feel warmed up, but what has your metabolism done? Nothing.
You step into a sauna and feel the heat, your nervous system activates the cooling factories and you start to sweat. This is doing two counterproductive things: 1) it’s cooling you down when what you need is to be heated up and 2) it’s purging nutrients you’ll want for your training session.
Okay, and then you step out of the sauna and you feel the air push onto your body which triggers a parasympathetic response from your nervous system–this is bad for performance.
Sure, you feel heated up to the point of a sweat (warm-up) and then it feels nice to step out of the sauna into the cool air before a hard session; but results have almost nothing to do with how you feel and everything to do with the work you do.
And a pre-training sauna will likely keep you from the output needed to produce the results you want.
Sweat Out Fat. Very false. Very little fat, like very little is expressed through your sweat. So, burning fat has nearly nothing to do with how much you sweat.
Less than 1% of your sweat contains fatty acids, the rest is water mixed with various nutrients and expelled toxins and metabolic waste.
So, there’s really no such thing as ‘sweating out the fat’.
“Okay. So, Jason. It won’t help me burn more calories. It derails my performance. And it won’t help me burn more fat. Why do you sauna?”
Because it helps me burn more calories, it improves my performance, and it helps me burn more fat.
Here’s how: Use the sauna after you’ve trained and when your metabolism is already on fire AND your internal cooling systems are “ON”.
This is because, if you walk into extreme heat after you’ve trained, here’s what happens:
Exhaust the metabolic end-product from your body. This is the waste material exhausted from your cells as they combust chemicals into energy. Think of this like the exhaust from the tailpipe of your car; and working out is like driving around town with fumes exhausting from your cells and amassing outside your cell walls; and unless that’s exported from your body, you’ll experience it as inflammation, stiffness, soreness, or worse.
A mega-benefit of exercise is that it heats up your body, loosens toxins and waste, and purges them out through sweat ;-)
Export toxins that come from the food you eat. This is especially important for your immunity, sleep quality, as well as the aging process. If you don’t sweat during exercise or expose yourself to extreme heat for sweat production then these toxins build up as a plaque which attracts more toxins and waste.
Now, different people have different sweat rates, so if you’re not a sweater, that’s okay. Everybody’s body has built-in compensations that account for having more of this or less of that. However, if you feel a lack of sweating could be affecting you, then contact a trusted medical professional for more information.
Remove residual waste. Whether heat, cold, or being in a fight, when your nervous system recognizes life-threatening conditions, it begins to “let go” of the stuff it doesn’t need.
This is why animals, and some people, can pee or poop themselves in a moment of pure fright; and this is why you’re sweating in the sauna, to get rid of that which your body doesn’t need.
Now, that’s just it, don’t you see? The sauna and the extreme heat removes, exports, and exhausts from your body.
And, even though it’s removing and exhausting toxins and waste residue, you’re also pushing out precious nutrients at the same time.
So, on one hand, it requires the consumption of nutrients like calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium to run the process that rids of the waste and then there’s an additional loss of nutrients that are thrown out with the mass dumping of toxins–a guilty by association effect, if you will.
This is okay after you’ve trained and before you’re about to replenish your nutrients; but this is detrimental to any performance afterward that you’d like to produce results.
And this is why you don’t want to sauna before you exercise.