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If you love to work out, you love to sweat. And if you sweat like crazy—don’t apologize for it! Despite what many people think, heavy sweating during exercise doesnt necessarily mean youre out of shape. Regardless of your fitness level, sweating is a good sign because it means you are properly hydrated and your body is working the way it was meant to. In fact, you should be more concerned if you arent sweating during your workout.
The popularity of hot yoga classes has brought hot workouts into the forefront, with other hot workout classes popping up all over the place. Many promise to help you lose more weight while you work out. But before you crank up the thermostat, lets take a look at what sweating actually is and how it affects your body.
Throughout the day, every day, you sweat. A blend of waste byproducts like urea, salt, and ammonia seep from your pores, shuttled there by the water in your system. You have millions of sweat glands all over your skin, but the eccrine sweat glands—located on your palms and soles, forehead, and arm pits—are the ones that regulate your body temperature, using sweat to cool you down as your internal temperature rises. This is why not sweating during exercise can be a sign of dehydration. If you are dehydrated, you do not have enough water in your system to carry that waste away and cool you off.
When your body temperature rises, due to anything at all—a warm climate, exercise, or even spicy foods—your hypothalamus in your brain will tell your body to start sweating to cool you down. The act of sweating itself (sending water and waste to the surface to cool you) doesnt take much energy, which means it doesnt burn many calories. So, while a hot room will make you sweat more to cool yourself down, the amount of sweat you produce has little to do with how many calories you are burning.
Therefore, the act of sweating itself does not cause significant weight loss and simply being in a hot room does not burn more calories. The only way to burn calories is to heat the body from the inside out, not from the outside in. Sweating caused by forcing your body to use energy is not the same as sweating because you are sitting in a hot room. Simply being in a hot room isnt making you work any harder- even though it will probably feel like it.
But, you probably already know that after a good sweaty workout, you weigh a few pounds less. What gives?
Your weight can fluctuate about 5 pounds throughout the day and it all has to do with your hydration levels. Drink some water and you will see the scale go up. Go to the bathroom, the scale goes down. Eat too much salt, the scale goes up. Take a Bikram class, the scale goes down.
The more you sweat, the more water you lose, and the less you will weigh. So, short term, sweating will help you see a smaller number on the scale, but the second you rehydrate, that weight comes right back on, making it a temporary fix.
So why not just stay dehydrated? Because youre 75% water, thats why.
Wrestlers, fitness competitors, fighters, and other people who need to make weight will use sweat as a last resort- and they hate every second of it.
Dehydration, even mild or acute, can negatively affect all areas of your health. Symptoms include extreme thirst, decreased energy, irritability, dizziness, nausea, and lack of sweating. Prolonged dehydration can lead to heatstroke, kidney damage, and cardiovascular issues. You should always aim to drink 64 ounces of fluids every day to replace the water you lose from your system and to prevent dehydration.
But if you love hot workouts, dont kiss them goodbye just yet. Hot workouts do have benefits you cant get anywhere else. For one, when your muscles and connective tissues are warm—either for internal or external reasons—they are more pliable, making hot rooms the best environment to work on your flexibility. Plus, a good sweat just feels good. Its detoxifying, leaving you feeling refreshed, re-energized, and, yes, maybe even a little lighter.
But hot workouts arent for everyone, either, so dont force yourself if you dont enjoy them. They can overwhelming, physically and mentally, not to mention uncomfortable, so if you dont react well to hot environments, rest assured, you arent missing out on any magic pill for burning more calories. Plus, if you dread your workouts, you will be more likely to give up and lose motivation. You should love the workouts you do.