Can A Sauna Help You Lose Weight? Myth vs. Reality
If we all lived in a perfect world, a fifteen-minute sweating session in a hot steamy sauna could give us the flat stomach we always wanted. But the reality is often disappointing. That doesn’t mean a sauna bath can’t help you lose weight at all.
Let’s dive into the world of saunas and see how you can use it to accelerate weight loss. As always, based on actual research.
Can you lose weight by taking a sauna?
Short answer, no! The weight you lose is actually water weight that leaves your body in the form of sweat. Your body does go into overdrive while experiencing intense heat in a sauna, but the calories burnt aren’t enough to trigger weight loss[ 1].
Saunas can help you lose weight, but not in the way you would think. Our body weight changes through the day by a small amount because of the food and liquids we consume . A sauna can actually cause a weight loss of 2 to 5 pounds during a 20 min session [3, 4]. However, it’s mostly water weight, which means you’ll regain it quickly once you rehydrate.
Before exploring the ways sauna can help in losing weight, let’s understand the science behind fat loss. When the body moves, it uses the stored energy you get from food and drinks.
Once you use up all this energy, the body taps into reserved energy stored in the form of fat cells. These fat cells undergo complex chemical reactions, resulting in the release of energy, carbon dioxide (you exhale), and water (you discard it with sweat and urine) .
Your body needs a large amount of liquids to function properly, which means that losing water weight is arguably not the way to go for a healthy weight loss.
Use of rapid weight loss in sauna-special cases
Rapid weight loss (water weight) using a sauna is actually a thing, and it does make you shed a few pounds after an intense session .
This technique is often used by athletes who must make weight before a competition. It’s popular among boxers, martial artists, and Olympic athletes. However, this is done under the supervision of experts and should not be attempted by regular people.
Sure, you can use a sauna to lose 1 or 2 pounds and fit in the dress that is otherwise not doing a good job hiding those fatty flabs, but dehydrating yourself is never a good idea.
Risks involved in using a sauna for instant weight loss
Loss in power
A study done on weight loss using saunas among athletes showed that it affects men and women differently. Rapid weight loss induced by sauna reduced explosive power in women, but not in men. Researchers attributed this finding to how male and female sex hormones react differently to dehydration .
Pretty obvious side effect of a sauna bath, dehydration is caused when your body doesn’t have enough fluids for normal organ function and body temperature regulation. It can even be fatal in extreme cases .
Fortunately, keeping yourself hydrated before, during, and after a sauna is a sure way to avoid discomfort. Plain water is usually not enough, as electrolytes are also lost in sweat and our body needs a good amount in order to function properly .
There are electrolyte-rich supplements, like our Hydrate mix, which has essential minerals like potassium, magnesium, and zinc that not only rehydrate but also boost energy.
Rehydrating, however, quickly restores the weight lost by sweating but don’t worry! Here we have listed a few ways you can exploit the benefits of the sauna to the fullest and lose weight.
How can you use saunas to lose weight? Best tips for guaranteed fat loss
Take the sauna after a workout
A 5 to 10 minutes session of sauna after an intense workout has a myriad of health benefits.
It triggers the recovery of torn muscle tissues and reduces Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Sauna also increases blood flow, bringing oxygenated blood to exhausted muscles and helping them recover .
Better recovery means bigger muscle mass and more energy to hit the gym again and be consistent. Greater muscle mass actually reduces the stored fat and results in weight loss .
Sauna before a workout isn’t a popular choice. It poses a risk of dehydration and may loosen up muscles way too much, reducing the efficiency. It’s best to use it after working out, which promotes muscle growth and induces relaxation .
Remember sauna etiquettes and always shower before entering the bath. It’ll help clean the sweat and toxins post-workout, while keeping the small space of the sauna fresh and comfortable for everyone.
Reduced cortisol level
In 2017, a study done on wrestling athletes showed a significant decrease in cortisol levels (stress hormone) after a 20-minute sauna session. Cortisol levels have a deep connection with weight loss. Higher cortisol levels can cause weight gain .
A separate study shows that the higher the cortisol level, the higher the belly fat retained by people. So, reduce your cortisol levels by hitting the sauna 2 to 3 times a week .
One of the many benefits you can get from a steamy hot sauna is an increase in metabolism. Regular sauna baths (4 to 6 times a week) can increase metabolic rate by 25-30% in people , which in turn results in more calories burned in a day.
It’s a great way to indirectly accelerate the weight loss process and improve your overall health. However, take special care of fluid intake as saunas can lead to dehydration and electrolyte loss.
Detoxify and lose weight
Want to get rid of unwanted toxins in the body fast? Detoxify yourself by having regular sauna sessions. Turns out excessive sweating flushes toxic metals out of the body .
But here comes the real deal. Detoxification actually improves the lymphatic system, which is responsible for the healthy immune system in our body.
Improvement in the congested lymphatic system helps the body utilize energy properly and triggers weight loss.
Don’t expect any dramatic results, but getting rid of toxins will help you reach your ideal weight much sooner than anticipated.
Sauna may not give you a superhero-level healing factor, but it can definitely speed things up. Athletes often use sauna therapy for faster recovery of injuries.
Many doctors also suggest people with arthritis, chronic headache, and blood pressure take a sauna bath as it helps them heal .
Consistent saunas improve cardiovascular health and blood flow. That way, you’ll be ready for the next workout session much more quickly and shed that body fat for good.
Better sleep equals more fat loss
“Better” — not “more” — sleep can help in weight loss. Who knew that simply taking care of your ZZs can help you get in shape.
Research shows that lack of sleep causes people to make poorer dietary decisions and eat a larger portion of food than needed. It also increases cravings for sugar and carbs .
Sauna baths are an excellent way to improve sleep quality. The intense heat helps your muscle relax and reduce cortisol levels. This state of calmness greatly improves sleep quality, which is one of your best allies in weight loss.
How long should you be in the sauna to lose weight?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the best sauna session lies between 15 to 20 minutes. Since a sauna bath doesn’t directly cause weight loss, there is no real benefit in extending it over the recommended period. Staying longer than that might just increase the risk of dehydration and headaches.
To avoid discomfort, limit your sauna sessions. A 15-minute sauna session is already enough to jump-start the benefits discussed above.
People with underlying health conditions and pregnant women must consult their doctor before entering a sauna.
How many calories are burned in a sauna?
There is no proper evidence on the exact figure of calories burned in an average sauna session. Sure, you may find claims by sauna manufacturers that a 30-minute session can burn 300 calories, but it’s not backed by any real research.
It’s hard to find the exact amount because the amount of calories burned varies from person to person and depends on individuals’ metabolic rate.
Nonetheless, sauna increases the basal metabolic rate by 25-30%, which can surely lead to a higher number of calories burned .
Can you lose belly fat in a sauna?
No, you can’t lose belly fat by just going to a sauna. You need regular exercise and proper nutrition to achieve that.
There is no way to reduce fat from one particular body area. However, a sauna can help your body improve blood flow and increase metabolism. It also contributes to quicker muscle recovery and reduced cortisol levels which can help in weight loss [14, 19].
Does a sauna help with bloating?
Yes! Regular sessions can relieve bloating and help indigestion. Sauna does this in two ways. First, it removes excess water, making your gut feel lighter. Second, it removes toxins and salts that make your belly full and cause discomfort .
It’s NO magic pill, but you can definitely feel the difference after taking regular steamy bath sessions.
A sauna bath may not directly relate to weight loss, but combine it with the tips shared above, and you’ll see significant fat loss sooner than expected.
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