Saunas have a reputation as being great for relaxation, but they’re also gym staples and often considered a weight-loss aid. What can they actually do to help you drop the pounds?
The best way to use a sauna to lose weight is to aim for no more than 45 minutes in the sauna at 175°F to maximize the health benefits, including metabolic increase. Proper hydration and clothing will ensure your body can make the most of its sweat response. Work out before entering the sauna and allow your body to rest and recover after.
Keep reading to learn how saunas can aid in weight loss, plus what you should do before, during, and after your session for the best results.
How sauna aids in weight loss
Dry saunas work by heating the air around your body to temperatures between 150° and 195° Fahrenheit. The heat in traditional saunas is fueled by burning wood, but most public and private saunas now use electricity to get the job done. As you can imagine, sitting in this high heat causes you to sweat – a lot! This provides an optimal environment for flushing toxins that help your body to perform at a higher level.
Saunas aid in weight loss by increasing your metabolism, which causes you to burn more calories. While the immediate weight loss is more likely to be attributable to water weight, the sauna can aid in real weight loss over time, especially when used in conjunction with a diet and exercise routine.
Research has shown that sauna bathing produces similar physical effects to performing moderate exercise, and may boost metabolism by as much as 33%.
It’s easy to see how incorporating the use of sauna bathing into your self-care routine can help achieve weight loss goals.
Want to know exactly how much weight you could lose in the sauna?
Ways to lose weight using a sauna
Intense sweating from sauna use can help temporarily eliminate water weight, but studies have shown it can also produce lasting benefits.
Following these tips can increase your weight loss results:
- Drink plenty of cold water
- Leverage the proper session length
- Use the sauna post workout
Let’s see how each of these can help you lose weight in the sauna.
Drink plenty of cold water
Burning calories is literally a measurement of heat. The body has to release that heat to “burn” the calorie.
Drinking plenty of cold water before going into your sauna session can help in two ways. First, it will help prevent dehydration. Secondly, the body has to work harder to regulate your core temperature when you drink cold water, which in turn, burns more calories.
Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your session is necessary when subjecting your body to the extreme temperatures of the sauna.
Leverage the proper session length
If you’re new to sauna heat, easing into the practice is advised.
To reap all the potential health benefits of the sauna, you’ll want to stay in for 45 minutes. You can’t just jump into the full session, though, especially if you’ve never been in a sauna before.
One scientific report suggests beginning with 10 minutes sessions and gradually increasing in 5-minute increments over the course of at least three weeks until you can safely stay in for the recommended 45 minutes.
Use the sauna post-workout
The benefits of increasing your heart rate with exercise are well known, but did you know the sauna increases your heart rate too?
Post-workout is the perfect time to relax in the sauna to prolong the benefits of exercise. You’ll decrease your recovery time by improving cell regeneration and healing and lengthening the duration of your calorie burn.
Just make sure to wait at least 10 minutes after your workout to enter the sauna. This will allow your body enough time to regulate its temperature so you won’t experience heatstroke.
What to wear in a sauna for weight loss?
Protocol for what to wear in a sauna varies depending on where you’re at and what result you want. There are a few different things to consider when thinking about weight loss.
For optimum weight loss, wear the following in the sauna:
- Choose loose-fitting garments
- Make sure you and your clothes are clean
- Opt for cotton or other natural fabrics
Looking for a general idea of what to wear in the sauna?
Choose loose-fitting garments
Wearing tight clothes may make you feel hotter, but they don’t allow you to sweat as easily.
Loose-fitting clothes allow breathing room for your skin, and you actually sweat more – which is actually something you want in the sauna.
Also, avoid layering clothes (even underwear) unless they are extremely loose and have no underwire. Any type of metal could heat up and be extremely uncomfortable.
Make sure you and your clothes are clean
If you’ve exercised before your sauna session, take a shower and change into clean clothes.
Entering a sauna in dirty clothes can increase odor, clog pores, and inhibit the natural detox that happens while sweating.
Not to mention it’s rude to anyone else in there with you!
Opt for cotton or other natural fabrics
It’s natural to assume that moisture-wicking fabrics like those used for workout attire would be a good choice for the sauna, but the opposite is true.
Natural fibers like cotton, linen, or hemp will allow airflow to the skin and increase the natural process of perspiration.
Sweating is the body’s way of cooling off, so it’s important not to impair it in the sauna. Choose a cotton towel, a big t-shirt, or a tank and shorts for prime calorie-burning results.
What to do after using a sauna?
Keep activity light immediately after use, as it may take an hour or more to cool down. You’ll still be burning calories and may feel relaxed, thirsty, and hungry.
Consider taking some of these steps to get maximum weight loss benefits from your time after a sauna session:
- Eat a healthy snack or meal
Remember – allowing your body to recover is a necessary part of the process!
You drank loads of water before entering the sauna, but now it’s time to refill your water bottle.
After 45 minutes of intense sweating, it’s important to replenish yourself.
If you think you’re drinking too much water, don’t worry. You should drink 1-2 liters of water a day to lose weight – without needing to recover from the sauna!
Eat a healthy snack or meal
Eating a balanced diet is always a good idea for supporting any weight loss journey. If you worked out and then spent time in the sauna, you will likely be hungry. Choosing a meal or snack that will replace the fluids and electrolytes lost through sweating is a great choice.
To replace electrolytes, opt for a snack like a watermelon, oranges, or strawberries. If you want a full meal, some things to consider are spinach salad with tomatoes or chicken with broccoli.
No matter what your food choice is, make sure to drink lots of water to help your body rehydrate and flush the toxins that may be limiting the effectiveness of how your body is functioning.
The research continues to pour in on how good quality sleep can affect nearly everything we do. Weight loss can be added to the list.
Improved sleep quality and duration have been shown to reduce caloric intake and elevate energy levels in just two weeks’ time. Using the sauna has been shown to help sleep quality as well.
So, help yourself reduce those cravings and the need for larger portions by limiting screen time before bed, implementing a bedtime routine, and relaxing in the sauna regularly for better sleep.
What’s the best sauna temperature for weight loss?
Your heat tolerance will usually determine what’s the most comfortable temperature and duration for your sauna session. Having said that, there have been studies that indicate what temperature may be ideal.
Most studies agree that a sauna of about 175°F produces the most overall health benefits, including calorie burn.
Remember, build up gradually to the 45-minute session, and always make sure to exit the sauna if you feel light-headed.
How to safely use a sauna for weight loss
Using the sauna consistently continues to be proven effective for extending healthspan and supporting weight loss.
Here are a few tips for how to safely use the sauna:
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
- Don’t overdo it
- Use proper sauna etiquette
Why are these important? Keep reading to find out.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
The most immediate benefit of your sauna session will be the hard sweat you experience from the heat. Studies indicate that just how much fluid loss you experience is determined by your body mass.
Always drink plenty of water before and after your sauna session. Generally, the equivalent of 3-4 bottles of water.
Dehydration will negatively affect several body processes, including permanent weight loss.
Don’t overdo it
Sometimes it’s thought that more of a good thing is better, right? Not always, and sauna sessions are one of those things.
Scientific studies have indicated that staying in the sauna for no longer than 45 minutes may have the most health-related benefits.
Resist the desire to stay in the sauna for extended periods of time (more than an hour) and save yourself from the risk of dehydration and heatstroke.
Use proper sauna etiquette
Sauna etiquette improves not only your sauna experience but also those around you.
Shower or rinse off before and after your sauna session to improve your sweat quality and remove any toxins that have been excreted.
Following this advice will keep the sauna smelling fresher and make sure your skin is primed for clean pores to sweat efficiently.
Overall, using the sauna for weight loss is a great option as long as you make sure to add it to a healthy lifestyle routine.