Sauna use offers some pretty amazing health and fitness benefits. Most people can get some form of benefit from getting into the sauna on a regular basis, but for athletes or fitness nuts, the benefits are all the more impressive.
There’s a lot of discussion in the fitness community about timing - like the best time to take certain vitamins, to work out, to drink protein, to name a few. And the sauna is no different.
If you’re using the sauna in conjunction with working out, you may be unsure whether it’s best before your workout, or after.
Keep reading, and we’ll explain what you need to know.
Benefits of Using a Sauna
There are a number of well-studied benefits to using a sauna regularly. Some are beneficial for athletic performance, while others are great for overall health and wellbeing.
Let’s take a brief look at them now.
Recovery is one of the most important, and most often overlooked, elements of working out. Sauna use may help speed up the recovery process, and thus accelerate your gains and let you get back in the gym more often.
Studies show that heat therapy (including sauna use) post-workout may increase recovery speed, by boosting blood flow and allowing the muscles to be supplied with oxygen and vital nutrients quicker.
Another interesting benefit that has been observed from sauna use is an improvement in performance for endurance athletes.
A study done specifically on saunas for competitive runners showed an improvement for those who used saunas after working out, in that they were able to run for longer before reaching exhaustion.
Good for Cardiovascular Health
There are general health benefits to saunas too, most notably for heart and cardiovascular health. You experience an increased heart rate when you’re in the sauna, which is similar to doing low to moderate-intensity exercise.
As a result of this, it’s been shown that saunas can lead to decreased blood pressure and lower risk of death by cardiovascular disease.
Sauna use decreases inflammation and increases white blood cell levels.
What does this mean for you? It means better immune health. White blood cells are an important part of the immune system, so the positive effects of saunas in this area can help you fight off sickness.
Good Stress Release
Finally, a sauna is a good stress reliever.
Studies show a decrease in cortisol after multiple sauna sessions. Cortisol is one of the major hormones related to stress. In simple terms, lower cortisol levels mean you feel calmer and more relaxed.
Should I Use a Sauna Before or After a Workout?
Now, to the question. Is it best to hop in the sauna before you work out - and help your body get warmed up before an intense workout - or after?
Whatever you choose, you’ll still get benefits from the sauna. It’s going to be great for immunity, stress relief, cardiovascular health, and all that good stuff either way.
But the ideal sauna timing - especially if you want to get the benefits for athletic performance - is post-workout.
The studies done on sauna’s benefit for recovery and endurance performance were all done post-workout. The idea is to use the increase in circulation and decrease in inflammation from the sauna to help your body recover quicker.
The stress relief benefits are also something you’d want after working out, to help bring you back to a level state after an intense workout.
However, there is one thing to consider. If you have cardiovascular issues, you may be better off doing sauna before working out, not after.
That’s because the sauna increases heart rate and blood pressure, similar to working out. When you jump in the sauna right after a workout, you put more stress on your cardiovascular system.
While that may lead to benefits for healthy people, if your cardiovascular system is compromised, it may be harmful.
Are There Risks to Using a Sauna?
Either way - and whether you are otherwise healthy or not - be wary not to push yourself too far in the sauna, and get out if you feel discomfort.
There can be some risks. As we just mentioned, it does put a strain on the body, particularly, the heart, which can have damaging effects for some.
There’s also a risk of dehydration. You’re going to sweat a lot in the sauna. And if you just finished a tough workout, you probably sweat a lot before the sauna too. That’s a good way to get dehydrated.
So you’ll want to make sure you properly rehydrate if you’re going to use the sauna. Drinking water is a start, but it’s not ideal. You need to replace the specific minerals and nutrients you lose via sweat, such as potassium, calcium, and sodium - known as electrolytes.
To best avoid dehydration, take an electrolyte supplement like our citrus electrolyte powder Nakedade.
Nakedade provides all you need to actually replace what you lose when you sweat, so you recover faster and avoid doing damage to your body through dehydration.
Finally, we’ll just mention that if you have any doubt over whether sauna use is safe for you, or if you have any pre-existing conditions at all, check with your doctor first.
Regular sauna use is beneficial for most of us, no matter when you do it. You can get in the sauna before working out, after, or on your off day.
If you want the best results, particularly for performance, use a sauna after working out. This appears to be best for recovery and endurance performance.
Take a short break between your workout, and rehydrate. A great plan would be to take 5-10 minutes after your workout to give your cardiovascular system a rest, and rehydrate with your electrolyte supplement.
If you’re going to use a sauna, do it safe, and get the benefits with less risk.