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Does a Sauna Burn Calories?

Does a Sauna Burn Calories?

Saunas can be amazing tools within fitness, find out more within this article

Key Takeaways:

  • Sauna use does burn calories.

  • The true caloric burn is actually lower than some like to portray.

  • Sauna use causes a temporary up-regulation of metabolism

  • This increase in metabolism is the primary factor in increased caloric burn from sauna use. This increase is found to be approximately 20%.

Sauna use is becoming a popular tool in optimizing health. Health benefits of a sauna are vast, they can range from a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, improved brain function, improved circulation and can even burn a few extra calories. It is common for people to try and find shortcuts to fat loss and increased caloric burn, oftentimes sauna use serves as a replacement for a workout rather than supplementation.

How are Calories Burned in a Sauna?

Lady using a portable far infrared sauna at home
  • Heat exposure causes a stress reaction

  • Elevated core temperature

  • Increased heart rate

  • Temporary increase in metabolic rate

Sauna use, especially in the form of an infrared sauna, directly heats the body in order to increase core temperature. This increase in core temperature will cause an up-regulation of metabolism. Within a given sauna session, this can create up to a 40% increase in metabolic rate, while in the sauna. An infrared sauna generally accomplishes this the best, simply due to the methods in which it heats the body. Traditional saunas heat the air around the body causing more water weight lost, rather than heating the body directly, meaning core temperature elevation will be higher in an infrared sauna meaning burning calories will be more efficient. Contrary to popular belief, the weight loss within a singular sauna session actually pertains to water weight rather than any sort of fat loss, but yes saunas burn calories just not the amount some claim.

What is Basal Metabolic Rate

The basal metabolic rate is the number of calories burned while your body performs life sustaining functions. Understanding how a sauna burns calories, starts with understanding the effect saunas have on the basal metabolic rate. For every degree of core body temperature increase, the sauna will increase basal metabolic rate by 10%-13%. The reason the body burns more calories is because it puts a strain on the cardiovascular system and makes your heart work harder to pump blood and nutrients throughout your body. This is why saunas can aid in getting to a healthy weight but are no substitute for a healthy diet, because the amount of body fat burned from a 10%-13% increase in calorie expenditure in very minimal.

How Long Should You Use a Sauna?

how long should you use an infrared sauna

It takes roughly 10 minutes of sauna use to increase the core body temperature and get the full effect on the metabolic rate and start burning calories while using an infrared sauna. In order to for sauna use to contribute to calories burned, a minimum of 15-20 minutes is advised. However the increased calorie burning effect only lasts while core body temperature in elevated. The main benefits of a sauna is more based around overall cardiovascular health improvements, decreased risk of cardiovascular related death, improved blood flow, improved immune system, improved brain function and many more. This is why, instead of focusing directly on the number of calories burned in a sauna session, you should view the activity as a whole.

How Many Calories Do You Burn With Sauna Use?

Based off a 2000 calorie basal metabolic rate, and considering the first 10 minutes of your sauna sessions is to elevate core temperature to an optimal calorie burning state, in an average 20-30 minute sauna session, you can realistically expect to burn an additional 130-160 calories, primarily burned in the later portions of the sauna sessions. There is also a small amount of calories burn during the cooldown process post sauna session, but that amount is very small.

True Purposes Behind Sauna Use

purposes behind sauna use

In many scenarios, sauna companies will heavily exaggerate the amount of calories burned and well metrics related to burning fat in a sauna session. When diving into the science behind it, the actual amount of caloric expenditure through regular sauna sessions is much lower than many claim. This is all to say that a frequent sauna sessions cannot directly replace a healthy diet. Surely they can supplement good health or a workout plan, but their primary focus is related to some amazing health benefits such as:

  • Decreased Risk of Cardiovascular Related Death

  • Improved Organ Function

  • Decreased Chronic Pain

  • Improved Blood Circulation

  • Decreased Stress Hormones

  • Improved Skin Health

  • Detoxification of Heavy Metals and Pesticides

  • Improved Brain Function

Saunas and Weight Loss

Infrared Saunas and Weightloss

Infrared saunas will cause you to lose weight immediately. However, that perceived weight loss is not fat loss. The immediate weight loss from a sauna is water weight due to sweating during your regular sauna sessions. Due to the extreme heat from sitting in a sauna the body will produce sweat to try to cool itself, which causes weight loss. While you will burn calories the amount of calories burned will not lead to any noteworthy weight loss or fat loss. This is why it not a replacement for a good exercise and diet only a supplementation for achieving your weight loss goals.

Does a Sauna Burn Fat?

Oftentimes people may wonder if infrared saunas directly burn fat. While far infrared saunas do penetrate far below the skins surface and heat the body from within, they do not directly burn fat; however there are many processes of the body that are upregulated during a sauna session, that may contribute to an overall fat loss routine. Since blood flow to all places of the body is increased, infrared sauna use can assist vital mechanisms that are used to burn fat within the body.

Avoiding Dehydration from Sauna Use

Proper sauna use hydration

To avoid unwanted poor outcomes from regular sauna use, preparing correctly is vital. These are some examples of how to prepare correctly:

  • Drink a few glasses of water prior to using a sauna.

  • Rehydrate with another glass of water accompanied by a snack.

  • Add electrolytes when necessary

  • Add sodium when necessary

  • General Recommendation is 32oz of water per every 30 minute sauna session

Drinking plenty of water prior to utilizing a far infrared sauna will aid in your bodies ability to cope with the extreme heat, it also lowers the chances dehydration and provides an overall better sauna experience. Further rehydration after using a sauna is important because it replenishes any water lost from sweating, a small meal or snack after will also help to get you prepared to move onto the next part of your day. It is also important to replenish the body with nutrients such as sodium and electrolytes, because a large amount of these are generally excreted through sweat.

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