The straightforward answer is yes, saunas can burn calories.
The heat of a sauna increases your heart rate and metabolic rate, similar to the effects of a light cardiovascular workout. The number of calories burned varies based on several factors, which we will explore further in this article.
Read on to understand how sauna sessions may fit into your weight management plan.
Saunas, especially infrared saunas, can increase metabolic rates by up to 30% and heart rates leading to significant calorie burn, thus aiding in weight management as part of a balanced lifestyle.
Sauna sessions can result in calorie burns ranging from 300 to 500 calories for traditional saunas and 500 to 1100 for infrared saunas, but they primarily facilitate loss of water weight, not direct fat loss.
To safely use a sauna for calorie burning, maintain proper hydration and electrolyte balance, limit session duration, monitor frequency, and consult with a healthcare provider if you have medical conditions.
The Science Behind Sauna Calorie Burning
The intense heat of the sauna prompts your body into a state of increased effort, thus burning calories.
The heat in the sauna, particularly an infrared sauna, increases the metabolic rate by up to 30%. This heightened metabolic rate means you’re burning calories, even while sitting and relaxing.
A rise in heart rate is another key contributor to the calorie-burning process in a sauna. The heat encountered in a sauna induces a stress response in your body, enhancing your heart rate and circulation.
This temporary metabolic rate boost contributes to calorie burn, making your sauna session a valuable addition to your weight loss regimen.
Core Body Temperature Increase
Upon entering a sauna, the heat triggers a process of evaporative heat transfer, which prompts heat dissipation from the body and an increase in the temperature of your internal organs. This process can help you burn a few extra calories during a sauna session.
And it’s not just about the immediate calorie burn. An elevated core body temperature can, over time, elevate your resting metabolic rate (similar to the thermogenic effect from our weight management supplement Naked Burn) and contribute to increased calorie burn during physical activity, particularly in warm conditions like sauna bathing.
This rise in metabolic rate leads to accelerated energy expenditure, contributing to increased calorie burn, which can aid in losing body fat.
So how much does your core body temperature increase? During a sauna session, your core body temperature can typically increase by approximately 0.9 to 3 degrees Celsius. This increase can help you burn calories and potentially lose weight.
Sweating and Calorie Burn
While sweating is a natural reaction to the heat in a sauna, it’s crucial to realize that this primarily contributes to the loss of water weight, not fat loss. Nonetheless, during a typical sauna session, you could experience the following benefits:
Lose up to 2 pounds of water weight
Increased metabolic rate
Elevated core body temperature
While these effects may not directly translate to fat loss, following a healthy diet can still contribute to overall weight loss and improved health.
Infrared saunas intensify this process. They can result in dehydration and possibly a loss of up to 5 lbs of fluid during a single session. Despite not directly resulting in fat loss, the increased metabolic rate and detoxification process can support your body’s ability to burn fat.
Heart Rate Elevation
However, the effects aren’t limited to heat and sweat. The sauna’s heat exposure provokes a stress response, which, in turn, heightens your heart rate and boosts circulation. This can contribute to burning calories and potentially losing weight. The typical range of heart rate elevation experienced in a sauna can vary from 100 to 150 beats per minute.
A higher heart rate contributes to calorie burning by increasing the amount of fat the body burns compared to other calorie sources, such as carbohydrates. Research has demonstrated that individuals with higher body mass, body area, body fat mass, and muscle mass tend to expend more calories during sauna sessions. So, the more you weigh, the more calories you could potentially burn in a sauna.
Types of Saunas and Their Calorie-Burning Potential
All saunas are not created equal when it comes to burning calories. Traditional saunas, infrared saunas, and steam rooms each provide a unique environment with varying levels of heat and humidity, which can influence their calorie-burning potential. Infrared saunas, in particular, are recognized for their ability to burn more calories compared to traditional saunas.
While traditional saunas burn calories, they are less efficient in targeting excess fat.
On the other hand, infrared saunas are more adept at fat burning as they can directly heat the body and elevate the metabolic rate.
Traditional saunas are designed to increase your core body temperature significantly, leading to sweating and health benefits. This high heat and humidity environment increases your body temperature and heart rate, leading to improved blood flow. This can result in up to 500 calories burned per hour.
Research shows that a 30-minute session in a traditional sauna can result in a calorie burn ranging from 300 to 500 calories, influenced by factors such as weight and metabolism. The typical temperature range found in a traditional sauna is approximately 174 degrees Fahrenheit or 80-90 degrees Celsius, making it a hot spot for burning calories.
Unlike traditional saunas, infrared saunas work by directly heating the body, raising the metabolic rate, and increasing calorie burn. In fact, during a one-hour session in an infrared sauna, individuals can typically burn between 500-1,100 kilocalories.
Moreover, infrared saunas assist in weight loss by shedding water weight and supporting mechanisms in the body involved in fat burning. This makes infrared saunas a popular choice for those looking to burn calories and lose weight.
Steam rooms, on the other hand, focus more on humidity than heat. They are characterized by an average temperature ranging between 110 degrees Fahrenheit and 115 degrees Fahrenheit and exhibit high humidity. This high humidity can enhance calorie burn by elevating the heart rate and sustaining that elevation, particularly when used after exercise.
Steam rooms offer several benefits, including:
Elevated body temperature, which promotes increased blood flow, relaxation, and potential relief from stiffness
Detoxification through sweating
Clearing of congestion in the respiratory system
Hydration of the skin
However, it’s important to note that the moisture in the steam room can impede sweat evaporation, hindering the body’s ability to effectively cool itself and resulting in a higher core temperature.
Realistic Expectations: Calories Burned in a Sauna Session
While saunas can certainly aid in calorie burn, setting realistic expectations is essential. The estimated calorie expenditure during a typical 20-30 minute sauna session is 130-160 calories. And although it might sound tempting to think of a sauna as a magical weight loss chamber, it’s important to note that the sauna burn calories typically ranges from 1.5 to 2 times the normal rate of calories burned when compared to just sitting on the couch.
Certain factors, such as individual health and heat tolerance, can influence the number of calories burned. For instance, elite athletes may exhibit a higher capacity for work and calorie expenditure during sauna sessions in comparison to individuals with less experience.
Sauna Use for Weight Loss: Pros and Cons
As with any weight reduction strategy, utilizing a sauna comes with its benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand, sauna use can potentially assist in weight loss and fat burning. However, it’s important to note that the primary weight reduction from saunas is typically attributed to the loss of water weight through sweating, rather than fat loss.
On the other hand, sauna use contributes to weight loss through processes such as detoxification, an increase in metabolic rate, and the reduction of water weight. But remember, sauna use should not be viewed as a substitute for exercise and diet but rather as a complementary aid in achieving weight loss objectives.
Benefits of Sauna for Weight Loss
The use of a sauna can lead to an increase in metabolic rate, which in turn can result in a higher number of calories being burned throughout the day, potentially aiding in weight loss. Moreover, relaxing in a sauna can aid in weight loss through sweating and fluid loss. However, it is important to note that it is not a comprehensive solution for significant weight loss.
So while the sauna can help you burn some extra calories, it’s the overall lifestyle that truly matters when it comes to weight loss. A balanced diet and a regular exercise routine are the true key to losing weight and keeping it off.
Limitations of Sauna for Weight Loss
A sauna isn’t a magic solution for weight loss. While it does burn calories, most of the weight you lose in a sauna is water weight, which is quickly regained once you rehydrate. Therefore, to achieve weight loss through sauna use, it’s essential to complement it with a suitable diet and exercise regimen.
Without a calorie-restricted diet, a sauna is not a viable approach for substantial or sustainable weight loss. Regular exercise plays a crucial role when using a sauna for weight loss as the sauna alone is not adequate for substantial weight loss. While it may contribute to burning some additional calories, the comprehensive benefits of weight loss are only enhanced through a consistent exercise routine combined with the use of a sauna.
Safety Tips for Sauna Use and Calorie Burning
While there are potential benefits of using a sauna for calorie burning, maintaining a focus on safety is paramount. To prevent dehydration and maintain electrolyte balance when using a sauna, it’s recommended to consume water before and after the sauna session, and to supplement with electrolytes and sodium as needed.
Additionally, certain signs of dehydration should be monitored during sauna use. If you experience symptoms like:
a very dry mouth
a low need to urinate
It’s a sign that you might be getting dehydrated and should leave the sauna.
Hydration and Electrolyte Balance
Maintaining hydration is of utmost importance when utilizing a sauna. The use of a sauna can result in dehydration as a result of fluid loss through sweating. Therefore, it’s crucial to limit the duration of time spent in the sauna to mitigate the potential for severe dehydration.
To ensure optimal hydration, it’s advisable to consume a minimum of 350ml of water during a 30-minute sauna session and approximately one liter of water following the session. Additionally, it’s important to replenish electrolytes lost through sweating to uphold balance and facilitate the body’s recovery process.
Sauna Duration and Frequency
How long and how often you use a sauna can impact your calorie burn. The optimal duration for a sauna session is generally between 15-20 minutes. Beginners should start with shorter sessions of 5-10 minutes to gradually adjust to the heat.
As for frequency, it’s recommended to have up to three sessions per week for traditional saunas, or two to five times a week for infrared saunas. Remember, the goal is to enhance your wellness, not to overexpose yourself to heat, so always listen to your body and take breaks when needed.
Before you start using a sauna for calorie burning, it’s crucial to consider any existing medical conditions. Sauna use can pose significant risks for individuals with cardiovascular issues or those who are pregnant. Therefore, they should consult with a medical professional before using a sauna.
Conditions such as pregnancy, kidney disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases can heighten the risk of dehydration during sauna use. So, if you have a medical condition, always consult with your healthcare provider before using a sauna.
In conclusion, while using a sauna can indeed burn calories and assist in weight loss, it’s important to set realistic expectations and understand the science behind it. The heat in a sauna can increase your metabolic rate, make you sweat, and elevate your heart rate, all of which contribute to calorie burning.
However, most of the weight you lose in a sauna is water weight, which is quickly regained once you rehydrate.
Therefore, it’s crucial to complement sauna use with a balanced diet and a regular exercise routine, maintain proper hydration and electrolyte balance, and always consult with a healthcare provider if you have a medical condition.