Saunas are famous worldwide for their relaxation and have many health benefits like improved blood flow and detoxification. But did you know that they can help you burn calories?
Saunas help you burn calories by boosting your heart rate and metabolism. Your metabolic rate can increase by up to 33%. The higher your BMI, the more weight you can lose in the sauna. Extra calories burned is a great way to end a workout session.
Read on to learn all there is to know about burning calories in the sauna!
Does the sauna help your body burn calories?
Saunas: the ultimate relaxation mechanism. But they also have loads of health benefits. Lots of people claim that saunas even help you burn calories, but is that true?
The sauna helps your body burn calories as a response to the extreme heat by increasing your metabolism and raising your heart rate. When you have a higher BMI, the sauna can help you lose more weight. Besides BMI, other factors include body surface area, visceral fat levels, and percent body fat.
Saunas help you burn calories as a response to the excess heat by raising your heart rate and increasing your metabolism.
In a study conducted on young adults, with two sauna sessions of 10 minutes each with a 5-minute break in between, it was found that the more you weigh, the more weight you lose in the sauna. However, the higher your BMI, the greater risk you have of dehydration, so you need to be extra careful.
In confirmation, the increase in physiological parameters such as body mass loss, blood pressure, energy expenditure, and heart rate is incredibly correlated with anthropometric parameters (body surface area, BMI, and body mass) as well as body composition parameters (visceral fat level, body fat mass, and percent body fat).
How does the sauna burn calories?
Okay, so the sauna burns calories. What an awesome bonus to something that most people just use to relax! But how exactly do saunas burn calories?
Saunas burn calories through thermal stress by increasing blood pressure, raising heart rate, and increasing your metabolism. Your metabolic rate can increase by as much as 33%! Your metabolism is how your body burns calories.
Saunas burn calories through thermal stress (as explained in a previously cited study). In the first phase of response to heat, the excess heat is sweated out. But in phase two, blood pressure rises, as does heart rate and breathing rate. In addition, loss of body fluid causes a temporary loss of weight.
Saunas also help you burn calories by increasing your metabolism by 25-33%! Your metabolism is, scientifically speaking, how your body converts food and drinks into energy. Simply put, your metabolism is how quickly you burn calories.
Your baseline metabolism depends on three main factors:
- Body size and composition – If you’re larger or have more muscle, you burn more calories even when resting.
- Sex – Men tend to have more muscle than women of the same weight and age, so men burn more calories.
- Age – As you age, you typically have less muscle and more fat, so you burn calories more slowly.
Burning calories in a traditional dry sauna
Traditional dry saunas are a fan favorite. So let’s talk about how you burn calories in this classic sauna.
Traditional dry saunas help you burn calories by raising your heart rate and increasing your metabolism via the hot, dry air. How many calories you burn depends on factors like body size composition, weight, and age. The heavier you are, the more weight you’re able to lose.
Traditional dry saunas use heat sources such as a stone compartment powered by electricity or gas, or a wood-burning stove. They tend to run around 175°F and have less than 10% humidity.
Dry saunas have a huge range of benefits including detoxification, increased blood circulation, and relaxation.
Detoxification happens through sweating. Heavy metals and BPA can build up in our bloodstream, but luckily we can sweat them out in the sauna!
Increased blood circulation helps organ function, promotes skin health, and soothes sore muscles.
Cortisol levels (the stress hormone) can drop by about 25% after a sauna session!
Burning calories in an infrared sauna
Infrared saunas are great for people who can’t handle the heat of a traditional dry sauna.
Infrared saunas help you burn calories by raising your heart rate and increasing your metabolism. They do this by heating you up from the inside out with infrared rays. How many calories you burn depends on factors like body size composition, weight, and age. The heavier you are, the more weight you’re able to lose.
Infrared saunas work by heating your body directly via penetration using infrared rays, instead of heating the air around you.
Benefits of infrared saunas include:
- Weight loss
- Reduced joint and muscle pain
- Improved circulation
Burning calories in a steam room
Some people love how the high humidity feels in a steam room.
Steam rooms help you burn calories by raising your heart rate and increasing your metabolism via hot air with a humidity of 100%. How many calories you burn depends on factors like body size composition, weight, and age. The heavier you are, the more weight you’re able to lose.
The maximum amount of time you want to spend in a steam room is 20 minutes due to the high humidity. If you want to get benefits such as increased metabolism and sweat detox, you should stay in for at least 10 minutes.
How much weight can you lose in a sauna?
With all this talk about burning calories, it begs the question: how much weight exactly can you lose in a sauna?
The average person burns about 50% more calories in the sauna than when at rest. This means 25 calories during a 15-minute session; 50 in 30 minutes; 70 in 45 minutes; and 100 in an hour. Your weight, gender, and more all play roles in how many calories you burn in the sauna. Besides extra calorie burning, you lose water weight temporarily from sweating.
As an example, the average woman burns about one calorie each minute she’s resting. During a 30-minute sauna session, she would burn about 50 calories in the sauna instead of her typical 33.
While 15-minute sessions seem like they don’t burn many calories, they can add up to around 200 extra calories each month! Half-hour sessions burn 400 calories each month. It just keeps going up and up.
To top it all off, stress has a huge impact on how much you weigh. While some people lose weight from being overly stressed, others gain weight because the body metabolizes food differently, it’s harder to cook healthy meals, and you might stress eat. So just getting some much-needed relaxation alone can help you keep off the pounds.
Using a sauna after a workout
Since saunas help you burn calories and lose weight, it only makes sense to pair that with working out.
Using the sauna after a workout helps enhance your recovery and can even make future workouts better. Benefits include muscle recovery, stress reduction, weight loss, and the removal of toxins. Using a sauna after working out helps you continue to keep your heart rate up and keep burning calories! However, you have to be extra aware of dehydration risks.
The main benefits of using the sauna after working out include:
- Workout recovery
- Weight loss
- Reduced joint pain
- Cardiovascular strength
A large reason that saunas are so good after workouts is that they increase blood flow. The benefits of this are twofold: it will both help your muscles recover faster and improve your performance in subsequent workouts.
Exposing yourself to heat post-workout, like in the sauna, can mitigate DOMS, (delayed-onset muscle soreness) by almost 50%. Not bad! This works by dilating blood vessels, which helps bring oxygen and blood flow to your stressed muscles.
Likewise, saunas are very good for cardiovascular health – another way to boost future workout sessions!
Sauna sessions can also reduce oxidative stress caused by half an hour of aerobic exercise.
Wait at least 10 minutes after you exercise before hopping into the sauna so your body has a chance to cool down and reset.