Can you really use the sauna for weight loss?
Saunas have been used for centuries as a way to relax, heal tired muscles and improve muscle tissue quality.
The Finn’s still use these “sweat baths” to rejuvenate their bodies and cleanse them from harmful toxins.
People today are using saunas for weight loss as well as for detoxification and relaxation. Most gyms today will have either a dry or wet sauna and if you are at a good gym then they’ll have both.
The best thing about saunas is all you have to do is sit in them and sweat it out.
Theoretically, all you have to do is sit down and lose weight. It sounds like everybody’s dream!
There are a lot of people today who believe saunas will help you lose weight. They say heating up your core temperature will make your body work harder to bring it back down to cooler temperatures.
A sauna is a room that’s between 150 and 195°F. Finish style are dry saunas while wet saunas have a lot of steam in them. People typically spend 15 to 30 minutes in the sauna.
So is going into the sauna going to liquefy and melt away the fat in your body?
I’m sure you’ll agree using the sauna for weight loss sounds fantastic, but there is conflicting evidence on how effective it really is.
The sauna has a ton of health benefits not only for weight loss. Sauna use is linked with anti-aging, lowering heart disease and improving athletic recovery.
Here you will discover the best way to use the sauna for weight loss as well as the other bountiful amount of health benefits it can give you.
Table of Contents
A study by The Scientific World Journal found using the sauna helped to lose body mass similar to that of exercise in overweight and sedentary people.
The heat from a sauna can cause your body to raise his metabolic rate by up to 20%. This can effectively kickstart your metabolism allowing your body to burn more calories for several hours afterward.
These high temperatures in the sauna can increase your heart rate by up to 30%. Which is impressive considering all you’re doing is sitting still.
The higher your heart rate increases the more calories your body is going to burn.
But the number of calories burned from this increase in heart rate may not be enough to give you significant results.
This research study followed participants going through two 20-minutes sauna sessions with a three-minute cooling period. They ended up having a two-fold increase growth hormone compared to the control group.
Growth hormone is crucial not only for muscle repair but also recovery. Growth hormone also helps your body burn more fat while keeping lean muscle.
This study found infrared saunas helped to improve exercise recovery. The better your body is at recovering after exercise the faster you will be able to exercise again.
As you can see you may not lose weight directly from using the sauna but weight loss will come from indirect ways.
Tips for Using the Sauna To Lose Weight
This 2017 study by the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology found participant’s heart rate stayed elevated for up to 30 minutes after a sauna session.
But keep in mind there are no long-term studies proving the benefits of using the sauna for weight loss.
This one study found using the infrared sauna three times a week for 45 minutes resulted in a body fat drop of 4% in participants.
Using the sauna may help you lose weight by…
- promoting muscle growth
- improving insulin sensitivity
- decreasing protein cannibalism
This study put mice through 30 minutes of heat treatment three times a week for four weeks. The results were a 41% decrease in insulin levels along with a significant reduction in blood glucose levels.
Insulin sensitivity and stable blood glucose levels are both associated with fat loss.
Using the sauna for 30 minutes can increase the expression of heat shock proteins in your body.
This study found hyperthermia (high heat conditioning) resulted in 30% more muscle regrowth than the control group. This was even when the participants were not working out.
This means even if you’re not weight training that day your muscles can still grow. Or at least stay where they currently are at.
Sitting in the sauna probably won’t burn a significant amount of calories to see real results quickly.
You’ll just lose water weight from a single sauna session. Then you’ll regain that water once you rehydrate your body.
Wrestlers and fighters use the sauna for quick and temporary weight loss. If you looking to lose 2 pounds with the sauna then you might be able to do so with a couple sauna sessions for 30 minutes.
You’ll get better fat loss results from doing a HIIT workout for weight loss along with focusing on your diet.
Detox Your Way Thin
Some people say detoxifying your body doesn’t work, but they’re not telling the whole story.
Using the sauna can help your body to effectively rid itself of harmful toxins through skin detoxification.
Your lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs in your body that help to get rid of nasty toxins.
Your sweat is composed of lymphatic fluid and as a sauna makes you sweat the more your skin will expel toxins.
Sweating is a critical human function. Your skin is a major detoxification organ that should be used to get rid of these nasty toxins.
Your metabolism is stunted when you have an accumulation of these harmful toxins. Getting rid of them is critical to losing weight.
These toxins include:
- heavy metals
These are easily absorbed through your environment and foods.
We all know your liver is the main detoxifying organ in your body, but your skin is also very powerful.
Sweating through the sauna will help you lose weight indirectly as these foreign molecules and toxins are no longer keeping your metabolism from running efficiently.
Saunas Help You Stay Young
Another hidden benefit of using the sauna is it will help you fight the aging process.
Heat shock proteins help to ensure proteins in your cells maintain their 3D structure under stress.
This stress can be from:
- normal aging
- UVB radiation
Even just living with a normal metabolism can damage these protein molecules.
This is why heat shock proteins are so powerful in helping you stay young and fight the aging process.
People who have their protein broken down were more likely to have heart failure and other neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
This study found hyperthermic conditioning a.k.a. using the sauna helped increase the lifespan by up to 15% in flies and worms.
The researchers found heat shock proteins increased in response to the stress produced by the heat.
Heat shock proteins are linked to longevity in humans. A study found you’re more likely to live to be 100 years old by 2.7 fold if you have the genotype known as FOX03.
So the more of these heat shock proteins you have activated in your body the more likely you are to fight inflammation and slow the aging process.
Saunas Lower Your Blood Pressure
This newer study by JAMA found regular sauna use may help keep your heart healthy and extend your life.
The researchers found using the sauna helped to lower the risk of sudden cardiac death by 22% as well as fatal coronary heart disease.
The participants found using the sauna help to extend their life even from cancer. Participants who had 4 to 7 sauna sessions per week for 20 minutes ended up having the most benefits.
High heat levels from the sauna can cause your blood vessels to open up and move closer to the surface of your skin.
As these blood vessels expand it will improve the circulation in your body promoting your blood pressure to lower.
This Finnish study found taking a sauna bath for 30 minutes helped to lower blood pressure. The sauna also increased their heart rate like medium intensity exercise.
In this study by the Journal of Neurology found people using the sauna for 2 to 3 times per week had a 12% reduction in stroke risk.
The people in the study using the sauna for seven times per week had a 62% reduction compared to those only using it one time per week.
There are many studies finding heart health benefits with using the sauna. The sauna reduction of heart disease is an extra bonus for anyone trying to use it to lose weight.
Here’s another study finding sauna use was comparable to short moderate exercise for improving your blood pressure.
Just a word of caution though if you have any heart trouble then it’s a good idea to avoid the sauna unless you get the okay from your doctor.
Saunas Have Mood Boosting Powers
Using the sauna can boost your mood by helping to reduce stress and releasing endorphins.
Using the sauna can help soothe your sympathetic nervous system by reducing perceived stress.
The less stress you have in your body the less likely your body is to release the stress hormone cortisol. High cortisol levels are linked to belly fat gain as well as decreasing muscle.
You can also use a sauna to get into a meditative state. This will help clear your mind of any troubles that may be bothering you.
This study found using the sauna help to increase the release of anti-inflammatory compounds such as:
- growth hormone
The researchers found using the sauna can put a positive stress on your body known as eustress. Even though it’s a stress it is a good stress for your body similar to exercise.
Researchers found using the sauna causes your body to release natural painkilling endorphins. More than 50% of the participants reporting temporary pain relief.
Whenever you’re having a bad day try jumping in the sauna for 20 minutes. Then take a cold shower right afterward for even more mood-boosting benefits.
Your body will feel great as it releases endorphins and your stresses melt away.
How to Get Results When Using The Sauna for Weight Loss
It’s best practice to implement using the sauna with your workout routine.
I recommend using the sauna for 20 minutes after your workout.
Using the sauna may help you lose some weight but it will not help you build any lean muscle.
If you are lifting weights then using the sauna will give you health benefits you otherwise wouldn’t have.
Many studies have found the hotter the sauna the better it is for your health. Keeping the sauna at 174°F and using it up to seven times per week was found to have the most benefits in studies.
The water you sweat out from using the sauna can easily lead you to dehydration. This is why it’s important to rehydrate after you’re done using the sauna.
Just make sure you don’t spend hours sitting in the sauna desperately trying to lose weight.
It can be quite dangerous as the average person loses one pint of body fluid in just a brief sauna session.
I like to take a cold shower right after using the sauna for an increase in benefits. But if you have heart trouble then jumping from extreme temperatures could cause your blood pressure to rise.
Infrared vs. Wet vs. Dry Saunas
Infrared saunas seem to be the latest and greatest thing.
There is some evidence using infrared saunas can penetrate your skin more deeply than traditional saunas.
This can supposedly increase your metabolism while helping your body to burn a significant amount of calories in short time.
Keep in mind there isn’t much evidence to support these claims. But if you have access to an infrared sauna then it doesn’t hurt to use it.
I recommend using the dry sauna that’s set to around 174 degrees Fahrenheit.
The only problem with wet saunas a.k.a. Turkish style saunas are they usually have lower temperatures with much higher humidity.
Most studies have found the higher the temperature of the sauna the more benefits you will get from it.
Is a sauna good for weight loss?
Yes the sauna can definitely help you with weight loss. It isn’t going to work better than focusing on your diet and exercise program but using the sauna can help the weight loss process.
Can you lose belly fat in a sauna?
You will lose some weight and burn some fat by using the sauna especially after you do it post workout. And naturally the more weight you lose more belly fat you will lose as well in the process. You shouldn’t expect your belly fat to be completely gone just from using the sauna but it will definitely help at least a little bit to get rid of it.
The Last Word
You may be able to use the sauna to get some results with weight loss, but it’s definitely not a magic pill.
You should still be following a workout and nutrition program that focuses on fat loss.
Then adding the sauna on top of will indirectly help you lose weight while giving you a plethora of additional health benefits.
For the best fat burning workout and nutrition program check out my Flat Belly Formula system.
It contains everything you need with science-backed plan specifically designed to burn stubborn pounds of stomach fat that you may not be able to lose otherwise.
Sauna and weight loss may help give you some quick temporary losses in water weight. You’re more likely to lose weight in the long term consistent use from it.
Try adding the sauna for 20 minutes after you finish your workout to help your body build more lean muscle, burn more fat and improve your overall health.
Josh Schlottman, CSCS CPT
Josh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and he’s a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) by American Council on Exercise. He’s worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at the high school and college levels. He has over 15 years of experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach. He is also the author of The Flat Belly Formula. He strives to bring inspiration and results for people to live healthier lives through smart diet and exercise.
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