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The Science Behind Weight Loss with Sauna Use

You’ve probably heard the sauna weight loss claims… “Sit in a sauna for 30 minutes and burn HUNDREDS of calories!” and “Shed pounds FAST by burning calories in a sauna!” Sounds like the sauna is a miracle tool for weight loss, right? In a sense, yes, but not quite to the degree of said claims. Instead of a quick weight loss solution, incorporating sauna use into your health regimen provides a long-term and gradual boost to losing weight.

Person Standing on Scale and Trying to Lose Weight

If you are serious about losing weight and are interested in an effective solution with long-lasting results and a slew of health benefits outside of weight loss, consider infrared sauna treatment. Whether at home, at the gym, or at the spa, see the science behind using a sauna to lose weight:

Sauna Weight Loss Benefits

Boosted Calorie Burn

Increased heat results in increased metabolic rate which results in increased calorie burn. When burning calories in a sauna, don’t expect to burn hundreds of calories in one session by simply sitting there. The burn is more of a slight boost to your regular sedentary calorie burn. Sauna use also increases heart rate by at least 30%, which requires more energy and burns more calories.

To calculate the calories burned in an infrared sauna, multiply your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) by 1.5 for that amount of time. For example, if your BMR indicates a burn of 1440 calories a day, you should expect to burn about 45 calories during a 30-minute sauna session:

(1440 ÷ 48) x 1.5 = 45

The boost is especially beneficial if using a sauna after working out, as it prolongs the benefits of exercise well past stepping out of the gym. Working out or not, the increase in metabolic rate lasts for a few hours after leaving the sauna, giving you an extra calorie burn boost throughout the day!

Muscle & Joint Pain Relief

Exercise is one of the largest factors in getting in shape and losing weight. Experiencing any discomfort in your joints or muscles is a deterrent to getting active, and it is easy to use minor aches and pains as an excuse to not get motivated. You can reduce, and sometimes even eliminate, aches and pains by using an infrared sauna.

The infrared heat therapy penetrates deep into muscles and tendons to release tension. The heat alerts the body of a “false fever” that results in a higher production of white blood cells to help reduce swelling and inflammation. Increased blood flow also promotes faster healing of muscles. With less tension, improved mobility, and more efficient healing, getting active for weight loss is more plausible and enjoyable.

Person with Joint Pain from Working Out

Lipid Regulation

Lipids, namely fat and cholesterol, can be improved by using a sauna. For fat cells, infrared therapy has been shown to penetrate deep into these cells to increase blood flow to the area and promote detoxification. This is seen most in the reduction in appearance of cellulite, where fat cells bulge near the surface of the skin. While cellulite is not an indicator of weight, reducing and smoothing the fat cells is a nice perk while trying to feel more confident.

Studies show that those using a sauna are more likely to see a significant decrease in LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol) and slight increase in HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or good cholesterol). These results are consistent with the positive cholesterol effects of moderate-intensity physical exercise. Lower levels of bad cholesterol are a great sign of weight loss and improved health.

Better Sleep & Relaxation

Sleep might not seem like a big proponent of weight loss, but sleep plays a large role in making sure you mentally stay on the right track. A lack of sleep can lead to impaired judgment in dietary choices, causing you to crave indulgent foods or seek out unnecessary food for more energy. Less sleep can also increase stress and anxiety, which can be triggers for unhealthy eating.

Using a sauna affects the autonomic nervous system to put you in the parasympathetic (rest and digest) state, which helps you unwind and get a great night’s rest. With a sharp mind, you should be motivated and ready to pursue all your weight loss goals!

Woman Sleeping Happily in Bed

Safe Sauna Weight Loss Tips

Using a sauna to help with your weight loss journey is a simple and straightforward process, but requires a few precautions to ensure you are losing weight in a safe and healthy manner. Follow these sauna weight loss tips to feel and look your best:

  1. Stay hydrated! The majority of the weight you immediately lose after stepping out of a sauna is water weight due to sweating. Try drinking cold water to burn even more calories, as your body requires extra energy to process the cold temperatures.
  2. Don’t use the sauna before a workout. As mentioned earlier, post-workout sauna use can prolong the benefits of going to the gym. However, sitting in a sauna before exercising increases your chances of injury and dehydration. Stick to treating yourself and relaxing after working out.
  3. Start off slowly and work your way up to longer times in the sauna. If you suffer from lightheadedness or are sensitive to heat, try a 5-minute session first and gradually increase your time to adjust your body to the experience.

Remember that to see weight loss with sauna use, results won’t show unless you combine infrared sauna therapy with a proper diet and exercise. While there are many health benefits from using a sauna, simply sitting in one won’t be the answer to someone wanting to “burn hundreds of calories in minutes” or “shed weight fast”. Instead, focus on the long-term effects of using a sauna for weight loss and how those results will be much more rewarding and effective than any crash diet or miracle treatment could be!


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