You just spent an hour in and out of the sauna. Now what? Depending on who you talk to, there are many different opinions about what to eat or drink after a relaxing sweat session.
When you sweat, you don’t just lose water. Your body also becomes depleted of electrolytes, which are vital for body function. So, in addition to water, you will need to eat something that is rich in the electrolytes lost in sweat, such as sodium, calcium, potassium, among others.
Perhaps you already have a favorite post-sauna snack. If it’s what works for you, that’s great! The important thing is that you’re listening to what your body wants. But, if you’ve been feeling nauseated or unwell after eating, it might be time to change things up. Read on to see if your favorite snack makes the list!
The best things to eat or drink after you get out of the sauna
The best food and drink for your body after a sauna will be rich in electrolytes. This is because when you sweat, you don’t lose water. You also lose sodium, potassium, and other essential electrolytes that also need to be replaced.
If you’ve ever felt sick from eating after a sauna session, you may have depleted yourself of electrolytes. Also, keep in mind that your blood is diverted away from your internal organs and into your limbs when you use the sauna.
This is important to remember because your digestive system will struggle to digest food with a lowered blood supply. For this reason, it’s best to opt for food that is easier to digest. The less fat, the better – fat takes longer to digest than carbohydrates and protein.
What to drink after the sauna
A nice, cold, refreshing beverage can an excellent way to replenish those vital electrolytes. But, you don’t want anything too sugary, simply because while it may help you feel better for a little bit, the inevitable sugar crash and fatigue soon follows.
That means that, despite the electrolytes they contain, many popular sports drinks that are so tasty may not be the best choice (unless you can find a low sugar or sugar-free variety). Not a fan of diet drinks? You’ve got plenty of other options.
Plain water is great for re-hydration, and there are flavorless electrolyte supplements, like this one, that can be added to your water. If you want some flavor to your water, you have some other options, too. It’s the best of both worlds. It has the electrolytes your body needs, with no artificial sweeteners – and only ⅓ the amount of sugar found in certain popular sports drinks.
Another interesting choice would be any sort of salty mix that pickled vegetables come in. Pickle brine contains both sodium and potassium, which are the main electrolytes lost through sweat. So, if you’ve ever craved pickle juice after a hard workout, it’s not just a weird random thing. Your body is asking you to replenish its electrolytes – so give it what it needs!
Other benefits of pickle juice after the sauna include:
- Fat-free, sugar-free, no calories
- Helps with hydration
- Helps with muscle cramps
- It helps your body recover faster
- Contains antioxidants
- Can help with mild amounts of weight loss
- Boosts gut health
- It helps control blood sugar
- Extra vitamins and nutrients if infused with dill
Does the sauna dehydrate you?
You will only become dehydrated in a sauna if you don’t drink enough water to replenish what is lost. This may look different for different people, but a good rule of thumb is at least a pint of water per sauna session.
Some people may have certain medical conditions that cause an imbalance of water in their bodies. If you have a medical condition or are taking a medication that affects how your body processes water, you should always consult your doctor before using a sauna.
How do you hydrate after the sauna?
Facilities with sauna rooms usually include a cool-down room that has a refrigerator and drinkable water somewhere on site. If you are not sure where the potable water is, ask someone when you enter (you’re going to need it!)
It may be tempting to gulp down as much water as you can in a short period. Try not to do that because even if you drink more water that way, your body will process the water much more efficiently if you take your time to sip your water.
Besides, what’s the hurry? You’re in a place where you’re supposed to relax! Plus, giving yourself time to drink the water will also allow your body to cool back down to a healthy temperature if you plan to go back into the sauna.
There are also health concerns to chugging water, especially if you have been sweating. If you gulp your water down, you could end up drinking too much. This is a problem because it causes you to urinate more than usual. Urine also contains vital electrolytes. So, although it’s a good way to flush those toxins out, there can be too much of a good thing.
Drinking cold water after the sauna
Cold water is an excellent way to cool down after using the sauna. Cold exposure immediately after the sauna has been a tradition in Finland for a long time. Now, it’s no roll in the snow – but it’s still going to help your body cool down faster.
In fact, there are many other benefits to cold exposure after the sauna, which involve boosting the immune, circulatory, lymphatic, and digestive systems. It can also help with certain health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
So, for most people, this type of cold exposure isn’t harmful and can even be beneficial. However, there are always going to be a few outliers in any given situation. If you have any sort of cardiovascular condition, it’s best not to shock your body with quick, extreme changes in temperature.
This is because you are rapidly causing your blood vessels to dilate and contract, which can be harmful if you have a heart condition.
Drinking alcohol after the sauna
Most of the concern involved in drinking alcohol and saunas is related to drinking before or during the sauna rather than after. This is because alcohol can interfere with your body’s homeostatic mechanisms over blood vessel dilation.
Your body knows what’s best for it, so it’s not good to ingest anything that’s going to interfere with its ability to respond to the hot environment of a sauna.
After the sauna, however, is usually not an issue. If you wait long enough after using the sauna and hydrate well, having a glass or two of wine isn’t going to hurt you. You can tell if you’ve waited long enough if you feel completely normal again, or simply follow the 10-minute rule of thumb for waiting between sauna sessions.
What to eat after the sauna
A good sauna session can really work up an appetite, and the food you eat is arguably just as important as which beverage to choose. The simple fact that food contains calories isn’t enough to replenish your body of depleted resources.
Just as you would after exercise, it’s important to choose nutrient dense foods to keep your body healthy after exertion such as working out, or even exposing your body to high temperatures. Anything that is light and contains electrolytes is going to be a good choice, as long as it’s a nutritious food.
You’ll want to avoid food that is too high in fat, because it digests a lot slower than other nutrients. This can cause nausea and indigestion after an activity that moves your blood away from your core. Because of this, it’s best to give yourself some time after leaving the sauna, and keep your snacking light.
Yogurt is an excellent option. It contains calcium, a vital electrolyte that plays as big of a role in muscle function as it does with bones. Some other foods that are high in calcium include milk, cheese, fortified tofu, and broccoli.
Bananas are always a winner. One of the main electrolytes lost in sweat is potassium, and they’re well known for potassium for a good reason – one banana contains a whopping 422 mg of potassium! But, did you know that potatoes contain double the amount of potassium? That’s right! And, who doesn’t love potatoes? Plus, they’re great with salt, so you can restore your sodium that way too. Just be sure that you aren’t reaching for bananas that are fried or have a ton of butter.
Coconut water is a quick and easy way to replenish lost sodium and potassium. It’s refreshing, it tastes good, it contains vital nutrients – what more could you ask for?
Watermelon is another secret potassium hack. So, if you want something sweet but aren’t a fan of bananas, get your potassium on with some watermelon!
Avocado is one of the best things you can eat after losing a lot of sweat. Although it does contain some fat, it’s still relatively easy on the stomach and you can be satisfied with just small amounts of it. It contains even more potassium than potatoes – and it tastes great with salt and lemon juice! It goes with just about anything, sweet or salty. Avocados are a universal snack that your body loves!
Should you eat after the sauna?
Everybody is different, but if you look at it like a mini workout session, that will give you some good guidelines on whether or not to eat. The general rule for post-workout snacks is to eat something that contains protein and is light.
You don’t want to push your body too hard, if you are feeling dizzy or lightheaded, sometimes a snack is all you need to get back on your feet. But, you don’t want to overdo it and cause yourself to feel nauseated.
Some people leave the sauna hungry, others lose their appetite. So do what feels good for you! The important thing is that you replenish your lost water and electrolytes. That can be done with food, your beverage of choice, or even a supplement.