It is a common belief that saunas can make you lose weight fast and are a miracle tool that can be used to keep you in shape. Unfortunately, sitting in a sauna won’t make you lose tons of weight, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without its uses.
Saunas can be used as a helpful tool in order to promote weight loss, but only when paired with a healthy diet and exercise. This means it can be incorporated into a pre-existing weight loss regime in order to lose more weight.
While you can still use a sauna without exercise and diet, you won’t feel the full benefits that it can bring when it comes to losing weight.
However, saunas are not just helpful for weight loss, they come with many other benefits that can help with your mental health and general wellness.
In this guide, we will explore not only the ways in which saunas can help you lose weight but also the other benefits that saunas can provide.
How Using A Sauna Can Help You Lose Weight
As previously mentioned, saunas should be used in combination with exercise and a healthy diet in order to lose weight. You won’t get all the benefits that a sauna can give you if you use it by itself.
Most of these benefits are temporary, so you will need to frequently go to saunas in order to maintain their effects.
Helps With Loss Of Water Weight
The main weight you will lose in the sauna is water weight. This is the weight you will sweat off while in the sauna and is where the myth of losing weight in the sauna comes from.
While you can lose about 5 pounds of water weight in a sauna, you will gain most of it back once you drink again.
It is not healthy to lose water weight, it is needed in order to stop your body from dehydrating which is why it is so important to stay hydrated during and after a session in the sauna.
Some people recommend continuing to drink water while in the sauna in order to avoid dehydration.
However, if you need to rapidly lose weight for an event, a sauna is the way to go. You can temporarily fit in that tight dress or look good in some photos, you just need to avoid too many fluids for a few hours.
You will see this tactic used a lot in professional boxing and martial arts. A competitor will lose their water weight just before their match so that they can fit into a certain weight class. Of course, they will regain this weight once the match is over.
Detoxifies Your Body
Sweat can naturally flush impurities from your body however you don’t sweat enough on a normal day for it to make a huge difference.
This is where saunas come in, they can make you sweat a lot which can help to remove impurities found in food and the environment. Sweating can release heavy metals such as lead, copper, mercury, and zinc.
The loss of these toxins in your body helps you burn more calories as your body isn’t wasting energy trying to detoxify itself. By regularly flushing your body of these toxins, you can steadily increase your metabolism.
By sweating, your blood vessels also open and move closer to the skin. This can help to aid in circulation throughout the body which in turn can help to detoxify your body. Having good circulation can also improve your organ function and stamina.
The sweat can also help to clean out your lymphatic system which will help to reduce fat and give you more energy. This energy can be used to stay motivated when exercising.
The increase in energy will also turn you away from foods that temporarily provide energy and are high in calories.
In hot temperatures, your metabolic rate naturally increases, and in a sauna, it can be boosted by as much as 20%. A high metabolic rate means you burn calories quicker, even when at rest.
This boost in your metabolism lasts for a few hours after leaving the sauna so you can feel the benefits throughout the rest of the day.
This is why it is good to use saunas after a workout as your increased metabolism can elongate the effects of working out.
The other physical benefits of saunas can directly affect your metabolism. By detoxifying your body, increasing muscle strength, and opening blood cells, you are able to naturally increase your metabolism.
If you stick to a regime long enough you can increase your metabolism over time so you can burn calories faster.
Increases Exercise Capacity
There are a number of ways saunas can help to increase a person’s exercise capacity. One way is that it can help to lower blood pressure. High blood pressure can put a strain on your blood vessels and organs which can limit your exercise.
Using a sauna 4-7 times a week can reduce your risk of high blood pressure by 46% when compared to using a sauna only once a week.
Saunas can also help to increase muscle strength, this is because it promotes the healing of muscles after they are torn during exercise. Increased muscle strength means you get to work out for longer which in turn helps you lose more weight.
Another way that using a sauna can benefit exercising is by increasing your breathing capacity.
A 2008 study found that saunas can improve oxygen saturation during exercise, which can help you exercise for longer and also reduce the effects of respiratory problems.
Saunas can help to increase the production of vasodilator nitric oxide throughout the body. Vasodilators are able to increase blood flow by opening blood vessels.
This means your heart doesn’t have to work as hard in order to pump blood around your body.
This increased blood around the body also helps to support muscles so that they are less sore after a workout.
All of these reasons are able to give you more energy in order to work out harder for longer. You will still need to build up muscle strength outside of the sauna in order to permanently increase your exercise capacity and stamina.
Burn More Calories
Since saunas are able to increase the metabolic rate, it makes sense that they can also help to burn more calories. Of course, you will need to exercise and eat a good diet to burn many calories, but you can lose a few by just sitting in a sauna.
In order to calculate how many calories you can burn by sitting in a sauna, you need to divide your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) by the amount of time in the sauna and then multiply that figure by 1.5.
For example, if your BMR is 1500 and you expect to spend 30 minutes in the sauna then you do 1500 divided by 48 (this is how many 30 minutes are found in a 24-hour day) and then multiplied by 1.5 which is 46.875.
So you can expect to burn 46.875 calories by simply sitting in the sauna. While this isn’t a huge number of calories, it is still better than nothing.
I have a whole blog post that tells you how many calories you could burn in 15, 30, 45, or 60-minute sauna sessions.
The high temperature of saunas can also increase your heart rate by 30%. Meaning your heart requires more energy which in turn can burn more calories.
This increase in heart rate is one of the reasons people with heart conditions are advised against using saunas.
Saunas are a great way to boost your regular calorie burn so that way you can feel the benefits of your workout for longer. This is one of the many reasons why it is good to use a sauna after exercise.
You can continue to burn calories and lose weight even after finishing your day’s workouts.
Lipid regulation specifically targets the fat and cholesterol in your body. This is great for those who are pairing their sauna and exercise with a healthy diet.
By reducing fat cells in the body, you are able to increase the blood flow which helps to promote detoxification.
By using a sauna, you can find a decrease in LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) and an increase in HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) which is also what happens when you have had good exercise and are healthily losing weight.
By penetrating these surface fat cells, you can also reduce the appearance of cellulite. While cellulite isn’t an indication of weight gain, it can help to boost a person’s confidence if they don’t like the appearance of them
Tips For Using A Sauna Safely
While it may seem easy just simply to sit in the sauna, some precautions need to be taken to make sure it is being used correctly.
If you have any preexisting conditions that you feel may be affected by using a sauna, then make sure you consult your doctor before stepping foot into one.
Do Not Use A Sauna Before A Workout
Saunas should be used as a nice treat after a long workout, this is because you get the full benefits of using one after you have done exercise.
It can also be detrimental to use a sauna before a workout, this is because it can cause dehydration and increase your chances of getting injured.
Dehydration can cause you to get dizzy, which is dangerous if you work out with heavy equipment.
The biggest risk when using a sauna is that it can dehydrate you. This is because you sweat out all of your water weight which you need to stay hydrated. On average, you lose about 1 pint of water during a sauna session.
This is why drinking frequently before and after using a sauna is recommended. If you drink cold water, then it requires your body to use more energy to process the colder temperatures, so you burn more calories.
Since you lose a lot of liquid through sweating, you can also drink electrolyte drinks in order to help with hydration. A quick at-home recipe is mixing a bit of salt and sugar into your water.
It is recommended that your drink 2 to 4 glasses of water once you exit a sauna in order to rehydrate.
When in a sauna you need to look out for dehydration. Some signs are dry mouth, headaches, and dizziness.
If this happens you need to leave the sauna and rehydrate. Severe dehydration can cause a lot of issues, so it’s important to recognize the signs quickly.
There are some conditions that make you more susceptible to dehydration such as diabetes, kidney disease, and heart failure.
Pregnant women are also more likely to get dehydrated. Make sure you consult with your doctor if you are worried about dehydrating in a sauna.
For those using saunas as a relaxing or social event, avoid drinking alcohol before, during, and after a sauna session. Alcohol causes your body to dehydrate faster and you may not realize you’re dehydrated until it is too late.
If you are planning on drinking after the sauna, make sure you drink lots of water beforehand.
Take It Slow
It is not recommended to have long sauna sessions immediately. Instead, you should start with small sessions and work your way up to a normal one.
Spending time in a sauna can be a bit jarring to the body as it quickly moves between temperatures, so it needs time to adjust.
For those who are heat sensitive or get light-headed, you may need to adjust to saunas slower than others. This should be done in 5-minute increments and then monitoring how you feel for the rest of the day.
It could be that you feel fine in the sauna, but when you leave the rapid temperature difference could cause you to feel dizzy.
Different Types Of Saunas You Can Use
Typically, saunas are between 150 degrees and 195 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature can vary across different saunas with some factors for its difference being the location of the sauna and what type it is.
The type of sauna can also change how long you can comfortably stay in one, but it is usually between 15 and 30 minutes. It is recommended that you stay in a sauna for 20 minutes in order to gain all the benefits from it without dehydrating too much.
You may see saunas being described as Finnish style and Turkish style. Finnish-style saunas offer a more dry heat whereas Turkish-style ones use lots of steam.
Below are the 4 most common types of sauna you will find. Each one offers the same benefits that this article outlines and it is purely up to personal preference over which one you choose.
These saunas use a wood-burning stove in order to heat sauna rocks. This is how the heat is produced in the room. You may also see these types of saunas called Finnish saunas since they are the traditional type found there.
This natural method of heating a room means that the temperature cannot be exactly controlled, so the temperature is typically quite high. However, using burning wood means that the humidity levels are automatically low.
There is a way for the humidity level in a wood-burning sauna to be increased. You will commonly find a bucket filled with water and a ladle in these saunas so that you can pour water on the hot rocks to create steam.
This is not necessary to heat the room, and it is a common courtesy to ask the other guests in the sauna if they are okay with you creating steam.
If you wish to keep this type of sauna heated for a while, then you will need a steady supply of wood and someone to stoke the fire consistently.
This type of sauna is ideal for the outdoors as it requires ventilation for the smoke and no electricity.
The sauna is heated through the use of an electric heater which is usually installed on the wall or floor of the sauna. Unlike wood-burning saunas, the temperature in these rooms can be easily controlled and set to an exact figure.
Since the room requires no physical fuel the humidity is kept low while the temperature of the room is high.
Similar to a wood-burning sauna, electric saunas still heat up rocks to produce the heat. However, you can’t really add water to them to create steam as it will short-circuit the electrics.
If you add a small amount you can create a little steam safely, but it is not necessarily worth the risk.
Since the heat is controlled electrically, the sauna is easy to use and heat up. Once the temperature has been set, you need to do nothing to maintain it.
This is one of the more recent types of sauna. Instead of heating the whole room, infrared saunas used light waves to heat the body. You require no external fuel like a wood-burning sauna, but you do lack the smell that the wood provides.
The use of light means the sauna can penetrate muscles in order to help with pain relief and regeneration. You are able to get built-in mood lighting since the sauna is powered by electricity.
Despite the unconventional heating method, infrared saunas offer the same benefits as other sauna types but at a much lower temperature. This means you can stay in them for longer. You can usually even bring your phone!
You may also know these as Turkish bathhouses. These consist of larger rooms where the heat is derived from furnaces that produce steam.
This makes the room incredibly humid with a 100% humidity level. However, the use of steam means that the room is kept at a lower temperature, allowing you to stay there for longer if the humidity isn’t a problem for you.
Due to the high humidity, steam rooms are often made from tile rather than wood to avoid mold and rot.
Benefits Of Using A Sauna To Help With Weight Loss
While we have discussed the ways that a sauna can help to lose weight. There are many other benefits. One of the main ones is the social aspects of saunas.
Saunas are very popular in Finland with the country having at least 2 million saunas, this is in comparison to its population of 5.5 million. This popularity is not just due to health benefits, but also because they socialize in saunas.
It is a part of Finnish culture and they appear in homes, company buildings, and even at the Parliament House. This social aspect of saunas has been slowly gaining popularity around the world.
Another unexpected benefit of saunas is that they can help reduce the risk of dementia. A 2020 study found that the risk of dementia was halved if you went to a sauna 9-12 times a month instead of 0-4 times a month.
Reduced Stress Levels
While it may seem unrelated to weight loss, stress can cause a person to make poor dietary choices, leading to weight gain. This is because stress increases the production of cortisol which makes the body crave calories.
Saunas are able to help the body produce the antithesis of cortisol, endorphins, which keep the mind happy and able to make cognitive decisions. Saunas are able to put your mind into a meditative state which can also help with mental illness.
In 2018, it was found that men who had sauna sessions 4-7 times a week has a 78% reduced risk of developing psychosis when compared to men who only had 1 sauna session per week.
Sitting in a sauna also gives you time to focus on your own self-care. For 20 minutes you don’t have to think about the outside world or worry about other people. Having a clear mind can also help with problem-solving.
So if you’re stuck on an issue, you might find the solution after a sauna session. You can make your session more relaxing by including calming music, massage, or pleasant-smelling essential oils.
Supported Endocrine System
The endocrine system is the part of the body that is made up of all the different hormones and regulates all your bodily processes. A supported endocrine system essentially means living a longer and healthier life.
The process of sweating helps to increase the production of the antidiuretic hormone. This hormone helps regulate water conservation, improving stamina and hydration levels.
The effects that saunas have on hormones are short-lived, with the benefits not usually spanning more than a day. This is why it is important to go to the sauna a few times a week. Saunas are also shown to help improve vascular function.
It was found that in a study between saunas and cardiovascular disease and strokes, 49% of men who went to the sauna once per week died, 38% of men who went to the sauna two to three times per week died.
31% of men who went to the sauna four to seven times a week died. This study was performed over the course of 20 years.
However, if you have a pre-existing heart condition, saunas are not recommended.
While they can benefit heart health, those with heart disease or heart failure may experience negative effects as your heart will react poorly to the changes a sauna could provide.
If you have any of these conditions, consult your doctor before using a sauna.
Provides A Better Nights Sleep
A lack of sleep can severely affect both your physical and mental health. It can lead to an impaired judgment which can cause you to make poor dietary choices.
The lack of energy can make you crave unnecessary foods that will provide a quick energy source rather than healthier foods. You will also want drinks that are high in caffeine to help you stay awake, but these drinks are also high in sugar.
Being tired can also cause higher stress levels and anxiety, leading to your body craving unhealthy foods.
The way that saunas help you sleep is by affecting your autonomic nervous system. This system is the part that regulates involuntary actions like heart rate and respiration. Just be sure to take a shower after your sauna session!
Saunas can put your body in a parasympathetic state which replicates rest and helps your body to unwind.
Being well-slept is a key part of losing weight. You can stay active for longer, and it also helps you to stay motivated on your weight loss journey.
Helps Muscle & Joint Pain Relief
The worse part of working out is the muscle and joint pain afterward. Saunas are able to relax your muscles after a long workout so that they are less sore the next day.
This is very beneficial when you first start out your weight loss journey as the lack of muscle pain can help you start motivated.
Muscle and joint pain are also common excuses for not working out. This can de-motivate you as you feel like you aren’t working to the best of your abilities.
When the pain is relieved you are able to move easier which can help with flexibility and muscle strength.
The way it works is that the heat of a sauna creates a ‘false fever’, this makes the body create more white blood cells in order to combat this.
White blood cells are able to reduce swelling and inflammation in the body, which in turn helps your muscles.
Saunas are also able to increase the blood flow around the body which can help to repair muscles faster.
For more long-term pain such as rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, saunas are also able to help. Similar to how they treat temporary pain, the same effects can be done to help other conditions.
Of course, you will need to attend the sauna more frequently to consistently help the pain.
As you can see, using a sauna provides the body with a lot of benefits and can help weight loss and general wellness.
While going to a sauna by itself may not provide too many benefits, incorporating it into a routine of diet and exercise will help to boost their effects and allow you to lose weight faster.
When starting out your sauna journey, start in small sessions and only a couple of times a week.
You want to build your body up to be able to use a sauna for 15-20 minutes after every workout. As we’ve shown, using a sauna daily can provide the body with a lot of benefits.
Saunas are able to provide effective and long-lasting weight loss. This is because it helps you to lose weight healthily rather than rapidly losing weight like fad diets.
Rapidly losing weight can cause you to gain back the weight just as fast, or get sick in the process.
The goal of weight loss is to reach a weight that is sustainable to obtain. This should be done through regular exercise and proper diet choices. Saunas can be used to assist in your weight loss journey, but shouldn’t be the only part of it.
The popularity of saunas has caused many to use them not only for weight loss, but also relaxation and for the social aspects of them. They are a nice treat no matter what your purpose for going in one is.
Wherever where you go, there is almost always a sauna nearby for you to visit. Previously they were thought to be only available in spas or resorts.
Many gyms now have their own sauna, and you can even have one installed in your home if you have the space. Just remember to follow the safety precautions when using a sauna.