I recently found this statement in an article on the Focus Fitness website: “The truth is saunas can only help you lose water weight, not body fat.” You can find similar statements all over the web, because a lot of people want to debunk the idea that you can lose weight by sitting. It’s true that you lose a lot of water in a sauna and that you will likely replace that water very quickly after you get out. But your sweating system is not as simple as the debunkers would have you believe.
In the August 1981 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a letter to the editor cites the classic Textbook of Medical Physiology on the process of sweating: “a process that consumes approximately 0.586 kcal per gram of water lost.” That is to say, the process of sweating takes energy, and that energy is measured in kcal, or calories. You may replace lost water after a sauna session, but unless you eat disproportionately afterward, you won’t replace the calories that you used in the process of losing the water.
My back-of-the-envelope calculation, based on the Textbook of Medical Physiology value, suggests that for every pint you sweat, you burn about 260 calories. Sweat rates vary from person to person, but you can expect to sweat up to two pints in a 30-minute sauna session. That means about 520 calories per half-hour session. There are about 3500 calories in a pound of body fat, so a half hour in the sauna could mean about a seventh of a pound.
Trying to lose weight entirely by sauna bathing would take quite a while. Even if you did it every day, you wouldn’t lose more than a pound per week if you took no other weight loss measures. But burning calories is not the only way the sauna helps you lose weight. A sauna session relaxes you, and the link between stress and weight gain is very well known. That’s not the same as saying there’s a link between relaxation of weight loss, but at the very least, de-stressing yourself will help to prevent weight gain. Secondly, a sauna session increases your heart rate, which tends to increase your metabolism, which means you burn energy (i.e., calories) faster.
It would be difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the relaxation and increased metabolism effects. And, in any case, sauna should only be one part of your weight loss program. If you’re serious about losing weight, focus on exercise and diet. Add sauna as a support for those and to help you stay on track.
And if you think sauna bathing will help you lose weight, allow me to suggest infrared sauna. Where hot-rock saunas heat the air in order to heat your skin, an infrared sauna heats your skin directly, meaning it can induce sweating at a more comfortable temperature, usually about 50 degrees cooler. Infrared heat penetrates human tissue rather than simply heating the surface of the skin, which allows it to draw about seven times the amount of toxins and heavy metals into your sweat than a hot-rock sauna.
Book an infrared sauna session at Peak Recovery & Health Center today.