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  • Clem Duranseaud

Does The Sauna Help You Lose Weight

Updated: Jan 27


Can sauna help with weight loss? Do we lose fat in the sauna?

On top of helping you relax, can sauna bathing help you lose weight? In this post we will look at the body's response to the sauna and whether or not it actually helps weight loss.


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Let's assume we are talking about a classic Finnish sauna heated between 80 and 100 degrees Celsius that you go in for 10-20 minutes.


The body's response to sauna bathing


When you step into a sauna, a few things happen in your body:


  • You start sweating. This is your body's system to regulate it's temperature. The hotter the environment, the more you sweat. Your sweating peaks after 15 minutes. When you sweat, you lose sodium and potassium, two electrolytes that help your body function properly. This isn't a bad thing, it's natural. Having a drink with electrolytes when using the sauna can help make the experience more enjoyable.


  • Your heart rate increases. In order to produce sweat, your body has to work a little, causing your heart rate to rise.


  • Decreased blood pressure. While you sweat and your heart rate is up, blood pressure will temporarily increase, but studies have shown that it decreases below it's initial levels after 30 minutes of sauna bathing.

  • Hormonal changes happen, although from all of the studies I've looked over, none that are really worth noting. Results seemed to subjective and there were no long term changes in hormonal balance.


Does the sauna help you lose weight?


All the weight loss from the sauna is from your sweat. You lose water weight.


There is no fat loss associated with sauna bathing.


Furthermore, I would personally recommend that all weight loss resulting from sauna should be promptly restored shortly after the session with proper hydration. Water and electrolytes are two vital components of a healthy body and we lose a lot of them through sweating.


Maintaining a good water balance in our body is a simple way of making us feel good. Even though we may feel great during a sauna session, we may not feel so good after if we incurred severe sweat loss.


I personally usually drink 1-2 litres of water during my sauna/steam room sessions.


You do burn more calories sitting in a sauna than you would sitting at room temperature but the amount is negligible and barely influences your daily caloric balance.


The benefits of the sauna are not in it's weight loss capabilities. Let's see what it actually does for us.


Cardiovascular benefits of the sauna


The principal benefit of regular sauna sessions that has been studied over the long term is it's positive impact on our cardiovascular system.


This is our blood pumping system which includes our veins and arteries, It is our body's capabilities to circulate our blood effectively.


As mentioned in the first point, our blood pressure decreases after a sauna session.


Regular sauna bathing may seems to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, although as we all studies, the key words to note here are "may" and "lower". This means that sauna bathing does not eliminate these risks for everyone.


The sauna also seems to increase blood volume after 3 weeks of regular use. This means that you have a little bit more blood in your body.


Is the sauna good after a workout


Does it make sense to go into a sauna after a workout to speed up recovery?


Studies have not found adverse effects on recovery but also did not conclusively show evidence that the sauna speeds up recovery. It seems that the subjective feeling of recovery was higher in people that used the sauna, meaning that they felt more recovered, but their physiological markers were similar to the people's who did not use the sauna.


Subjective feelings of better recovery includes feeling less muscle soreness and feeling more relaxed.


The takeaway for recovery in my opinion is that if you have easy access to a sauna and enjoy the experience, go ahead and enjoy it. It will not slow down your recovery.


Conclusion and best practices to enjoy the sauna


Sauna bathing can be a very relaxing experience for some. For most of the population, there seems to be no adverse effect if you replenish your fluids and do reasonable sessions (20-40 minutes at 80-100C 3-5 times a week).


Going to the sauna will not help you lose fat, but if you enjoy it, it will help you recover and feel more relaxed, which can increase your workout tolerance, which in turn can help you shed fat.


The big benefit that as been studied is the potential reduction in cardiovascular diseases in sauna users.


A lot of the studies found promising results on lower oxidative stress, toxin removals and muscle atrophy preventions but these were either on animal studies or on very small cohorts so I don't think they were worth mentioning. I've linked all the articles I read below if you want to diver into further reading.


My personal recommendations to enjoy the sauna if you're new to it is a gradual approach,


Start with a time period that your are comfortable with in a heat you can tolerate. Start with anywhere from 5-10 minutes and work your way up to 15-40 minutes depending on your preferences and time availability.


I've personally found the sauna to be a great place to meditate, which helps me relax, have better mental clarity after, and feel ready to take on my fitness routine the following day.


Make sure to drink lot's of water and to either eat or supplement with proper electrolytes to make sure you always have proper fluid balance.


Clem


 

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