Saunas offer a variety of health benefits while also providing relaxation and rejuvenation. But do saunas help you lose weight? In short – yes! However, there’s much more to how it works, and there are several things you need to know to ensure safe weight loss. Let’s discuss.
Sauna Weight Loss Benefits
While using a sauna shouldn’t be your only weight loss effort, it can complement a healthy lifestyle. It does provide some weight loss benefits, but it’s best when used in combination with other elements, like a healthy diet and a consistent workout routine. So – do saunas help you lose weight? Here’s how it works.
1. Water Weight Loss
Since saunas are so hot, you end up sweating a lot. Losing this excess water can result in a few pounds lost, so you’re likely to see the scale go down after a good sauna session. However, losing water weight isn’t permanent – once you drink water to replenish your hydration afterward, you’ll gain most if not all of the weight back.
With that said, you could use this to your advantage. If you need help losing weight quickly for a short-term goal, saunas can help. Perhaps you have an outfit you need to fit in for an event this evening, or you need to hit a certain weight at a sports weigh-in.
Our sweat is made up of lymphatic fluid, which helps remove toxins from the body. So, when you sweat, you’re expelling unwanted things from the body. Unfortunately, the average person doesn’t sweat enough to really detox this way.
In a sauna, however, you sweat a ton, and thus, sweat out a lot of toxins. This also helps you remove heavy metals from your body, like mercury, lead, copper, zinc, and nickel.
When you detox and clear out the lymphatic system, your body is better able to burn fat, and you get a nice boost in energy, which can help you exercise more, so you’re losing weight faster.
3. Boosted Metabolism
Exposing your body to intense heat (as well as cold) forces it to work a lot harder to function. This can lead to an increase in heart rate by up to 30%, which can increase your metabolism, helping you burn more calories.
You can even drink cold water right before you get into the sauna. This will make your body work a little harder to regulate your temperature, thus burning more calories.
This works because your body has to release heat in order to burn calories. When you make your body work hard to cool down in a sauna, it releases more heat, which results in calorie burn.
4. Reduced Stress
Stress can be helpful – it can motivate you to meet deadlines and goals. But too much stress can cause you to stay in fight or flight mode. This response is only meant to last minutes – getting you out of whatever danger your body senses before you calm down again.
However, the stressful world of today leaves us in this state constantly, which means we’re also getting a steady stream of stress hormones, like cortisol. These hormones are linked to weight gain. Put simply, when you feel stressed, your body thinks you’re in danger and holds onto fat for protection. Plus, ongoing stress can trigger an inflammatory response.
Saunas offer a time to destress and relax. They force you to breathe deep and release tension, which can help you exit the state of fight or flight. As you calm down, you stop producing so much cortisol. All of these factors can be beneficial to weight loss.
5. Supported Endocrine System
The endocrine system is home to your thyroid, parathyroid, pituitary, and adrenal glands, and it’s also a major player in controlling your metabolism. When your endocrine system is out of balance, you tend to store excess fat in your midsection, and it’s harder to lose weight even with a healthy diet and exercise.
Infrared saunas may be able to provide an answer. Their infrared waves penetrate the body, boosting your mitochondria – the powerhouse of the cells. This leads to an increase in ATP production, which energizes your body and increases your metabolism. Since the sauna helps you relax, you can begin to exit your stress response mode, which allows your endocrine system to heal.
6. Increased Exercise Ability
Exercise requires you to use a full range of breathing. Unfortunately, respiratory problems can get in the way of your breathing, which can impact your performance.
Spending time in a sauna can actually diminish the effects of respiratory problems and boost respiratory function. It can also increase blood flow by increasing the production of nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator that can dilate blood vessels – ultimately leading to better workouts.
7. A Better Night’s Sleep
A lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can increase hunger hormones, cause you to feel stressed, and influence you to make poor food decisions. Feeling tired also means you have less energy to work out.
Saunas offer relaxation, putting you at ease and into a restful state. These effects can carry on throughout your day and help you sleep better at night.
8. Muscle and Joint Pain Relief
If you’re losing weight or are on a weight loss journey, you’re likely to exercise consistently to see the best results. But working out, especially when you first start, can lead to major aching muscles that might stop you from hitting the gym.
Using a sauna after a workout can help limit these aches. The heat of the sauna makes your body create more white blood cells, which can reduce muscle inflammation, helping them heal and correcting tension.
The same can be said for joint pain. Joint pain could be the result of a workout, but it may just be normal wear and tear. Regardless, the heat of the sauna can help your body naturally reduce inflammation, which then relieves pain and allows you to do your normal daily activities with fewer issues.
Tips for Using a Sauna to Lose Weight Safely
So – do saunas help you lose weight? We now know the answer is yes. However, they can also be a safety hazard when used incorrectly. Be sure to apply the following tips to ensure you lose weight safely.
1. Get Hydrated
Sweating in the sauna can provide some instant weight loss, but you also lose electrolytes via your sweat. You need those fluids to remain hydrated. So, be sure to properly rehydrate before, during, and after a sauna session.
It’s generally recommended that you drink a glass of water before your sauna session. You might also drink a sports drink, like Gatorade, afterward or during to help replenish the electrolytes you lose in your sweat.
2. Start Slow
When you first start using the sauna, avoid staying in for too long. Your body isn’t used to the extreme heat, and it can make you feel lightheaded and even lead to you passing out.
Start with five minutes and slowly increase your sessions from there. The initial session will allow you to determine how sensitive your body is to the heat. Then, you might include two 15-minute sessions per week. As you build your tolerance, you’ll find those daily sauna sessions are easier to manage and more enjoyable.
Even once you’re experienced, avoid staying in the sauna for over 20 or 30 minutes at once. Everyone’s tolerance level varies, so don’t push yourself too hard.
3. Use the Sauna at the Right Times
Sauna use should be limited to post-workout only. Saunas can cause you to become dehydrated, and working out in this state could cause you to be dizzy or faint. Using the sauna before exercising could even lead to heatstroke.
Getting in the sauna before working out can also cause muscle strain, which can lead to injury. It’s also worth noting that your body becomes very relaxed in the sauna. This could make working out immediately after difficult, and may even drive you to skip the workout altogether. Plus, the sauna can boost the effects of your workout, giving you better results, so it’s best to do it after a workout.
How Different Types of Saunas Work
There are many types of saunas, but all are essentially heated rooms. They can have temperatures of 150º to 195º Fahrenheit. Though they generally offer the same benefits, some are dryer while others have more steam and humidity.
This type of sauna uses wood-burning stoves to heat rocks. Expect low humidity and high temperatures.
Although the benefits of infrared saunas are similar to conventional saunas, they operate differently. They use light waves to heat your body – not the room.
Electrically Heated Sauna
This type of sauna uses an electric heater, which is mounted to the wall or floor, to keep the room hot. You can expect low humidity and high temperatures.
A steam room has much higher humidity, even up to 100%. They’re also known as Turkish bathhouses.
Can You Sweat Off Weight?
Do saunas help you lose weight via sweat? The answer is technically yes, but it’s important to be clear that it’s temporary weight loss. You’ll need to replenish your water stores and fluid levels, and the water weight will return.
Of course, you do get the added benefit of boosted metabolism, thanks to the hot temperatures in a sauna. Since your heart rate increases, you burn more calories. However, this is no replacement for exercise or a healthy lifestyle – it can simply enhance your other weight loss efforts.
Dangers of Dehydration
While saunas offer impressive benefits and relaxation, they can be dangerous. It’s important to keep in mind that dehydration is a serious issue. The extreme heat of the sauna forces you to sweat and lose fluids. When you lose too much fluid – more than you’re taking in – you can get dehydrated.
As you can imagine, saunas pose a high risk of potential dehydration. In fact, you can expect to lose about a pint of fluid during your time in the sauna, even if it’s a short time.
Signs of Dehydration
While drinking water before, during, and after you get in the sauna can ensure you replace fluids lost, it’s still important to know the signs of dehydration. Recognizing these signs can help you get out and rehydrate quickly before experiencing serious complications. If you don’t, you could experience severe dehydration, which is a medical emergency.
The following are signs of dehydration:
- Feeling extremely thirsty
- Dry mouth
- A lack of normal urination
- Feeling lightheaded and dizzy
- Heart Health and Saunas
Another caution to consider when using a sauna is your heart health. As we discussed earlier, saunas cause your blood vessels to open up, increasing blood flow and moving closer to the surface of your skin. This can boost circulation, lowering your blood pressure.
For the average person, these effects could actually improve your heart health. But if you’re someone who has heart issues, like an irregular heartbeat or a more serious issue, it’s likely best to skip the sauna.
If you have high blood pressure or are on heart medication, check with your doctor before using a sauna. Going between hot and cold spaces can increase your blood pressure, which could be a concern.
How Many Calories Do You Burn In A Sauna?
We know the answer to the question, do saunas help you lose weight? But how much weight can you actually lose? To answer that, we need to look at calorie burn.
Some studies estimate that you burn just 25 calories in a 30-minute session, while others put that number as high as 300. It’s also worth noting that most experts estimate that you’ll burn 1.5 to 2 times more calories in a sauna than sitting at room temperature.
There are approximately 3,500 calories in one pound. If you spent 30 minutes in the sauna each day and only burned an additional 25 calories, it would take 140 days to lose one pound. While that isn’t so effective, it could help aid in your other weight loss efforts.
Still, let’s say you’re on the higher end of the calorie burn. If your body burns 300 calories in your daily sauna sessions, it will take just 12 days to lose a pound. As you can see, using a sauna for weight loss is a pretty unreliable plan with varying results. It’s best to rely on saunas for their other health benefits rather than for weight loss.
Metabolic Reset Weight Loss Program at Center for Wellbeing
Do saunas help you lose weight? Yes – but only if you’re implementing other healthy lifestyle habits. At Center for Wellness, we take the guesswork out of weight loss for you.
Our Metabolic Reset Weight Loss Program provides you with a custom plan to reach your unique weight, health, and fitness goals. Rather than relying on a sauna to meet your goals, you can depend on our program to provide lasting results. Read more about it here!