Saunas are popping up everywhere, especially at gyms and health clubs. But is a post-workout sauna session really worth the extra time spent at the gym?
In short, yes!
Although people have used saunas for thousands of years for recreation and relaxation, sauna benefits go much further than that. In fact, incorporating sauna sessions into your training regimen may be just what you need to enhance your athletic performance and improve your overall well-being.
In this article, we will be discussing the health benefits of a sauna after a workout and why staying hydrated is so important during your sweat sessions.
7 HEALTH BENEFITS OF SAUNA AFTER WORKOUT
- Improved Muscle Recovery
- Muscle Mass Maintenance
- Reduced Inflammation
- Improved Cardiovascular Health
- Improved Blood Circulation
- Increased Endurance
Taking advantage of the sauna offered at your local gym can offer myriad benefits. From improving muscle recovery and endurance to fighting inflammation, sauna bathing after your workout may be just the tool you need to push your performance to the next level.
Here, we’ll discuss 7 health benefits of spending time in the sauna post-workout.
After a rigorous workout — especially if you are weight training — microscopic tears can form in your muscles. These tears can lead to inflammation and post-workout muscle soreness. As the tears heal, your muscles can grow and strengthen.
Dry heat generated from a sauna can help improve blood circulation and bring oxygen-rich blood to damaged muscles, which can accelerate the recovery process. Sauna heat also helps your muscles relax and relieve muscle tension.
MAINTAINS EXISTING MUSCLE MASS
According to a 2021 review of studies, heat stress can reduce protein degradation that occurs during muscle disuse by increasing the release of heat shock proteins, reducing oxidative damage, and triggering growth hormone release.
Heat shock proteins can prevent muscle protein damage by scavenging cellular free radicals and supporting cellular antioxidant capacity. These processes help reduce protein loss, which can lead to a net increase in protein synthesis and, ultimately, muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth).
Sauna bathing can not only maintain existing muscle mass, but studies suggest it can actually help build muscle mass by releasing heat shock proteins and human growth hormone.
When combined, heat therapy and exercise work synergistically to increase growth hormone levels, which plays a role in decreasing body fat and increasing muscle mass.
Sauna bathing is a great way to reduce swelling and inflammation throughout the body. According to one 2020 study, the heat produced by a sauna can result in a short-term increase in pro-inflammatory markers that subsequently encourage the production of anti-inflammatory proteins.
Researchers suggest infrared saunas may be a good alternative to exercise to reduce inflammation in people who cannot participate in regular physical activity.
Lower levels of inflammation in the body are tied to increased energy, performance, and an overall sense of well being.
IMPROVES CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH
Time spent in a sauna may be just as beneficial to your heart health as a cardio workout.
One 2015 study followed 2,315 Finnish men between the ages of 42 to 60 for a total of 20 years. Findings from the study suggest that people who used the sauna two to three times a week were 22% less likely to experience sudden cardiac death compared to those who only used it once a week.
What’s more, those who used a sauna four to seven times a week were 63% less likely to experience sudden cardiac death and 50% less likely to experience fatal cardiovascular disease compared to those who only used the sauna once a week.
It’s important to note that sauna bathing is not often recommended in the United States for people with existing heart issues. Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before sauna bathing if you have any underlying health conditions.
IMPROVES BLOOD CIRCULATION
As we mentioned earlier, sauna bathing can increase blood flow throughout the body. Exposure to high temperatures increases your heart rate and makes blood vessels more flexible, and causes them to widen, thus increasing blood flow.
Blood circulation is an important bodily function because it supplies vital organs with oxygen and nutrients needed to function optimally. A healthy circulatory system is vital for everyone, but it’s especially important for athletes.
More oxygen flowing to the muscles will increase time to fatigue. This means you will be able to lift more weight or perform cardio for more extended time periods.
Endurance athletes often use sauna bathing to improve tolerance and performance when working out in the heat.
One 2007 study looked at sauna use on six distance runners. The runners took a 30-minute post-workout sauna bath at 194°F twice per week.
Researchers found that one 30-minute post-workout sauna session two times per week for three weeks increased the time it took for participants to run until exhaustion by 32% compared to their baseline.
People have used saunas for years to help detoxify their bodies through sauna-induced sweating. The belief is that toxins will be pulled out of your body as you sweat.
Though the liver and kidneys are the main organs responsible for clearing toxins from the body, some research suggests that a sauna session may also help.
One review from 2012 found that sweat plays a role in removing lead, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic from the body.
Sauna-induced sweat can also help cleanse the skin and remove dead skin cells, promoting the generation of new, healthy ones.
HYDRATING POST WORKOUT
Sauna use can raise the skin temperature to 104° F, which causes heavy sweating. People can expect to lose around one pint of sweat during the short amount of time spent in a sauna.
When we sweat, we don’t just lose water. We also lose essential electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium, and chloride.
Electrolytes play a significant role in maintaining:
- Fluid balance and hydration
- Blood pressure
- Nerve signaling
- Muscle contraction
Our LYTES replaces lost electrolytes from sweat to keep your body hydrated and performing at optimal levels.
SHOULD I SAUNA BEFORE A WORKOUT?
It may appear to make more sense to jump in the sauna before your workout. However, it comes with risks.
As we’ve mentioned, the heat from the sauna can help relax your muscles. Going into a workout with relaxed and loose muscles can set you up for pulling or tearing a muscle. You definitely don’t want that!
Relaxing in a sauna before your gym session can also cause you to feel tired and lose motivation, leading to an overall crappy workout.
Lastly, sweating too much before your workout can cause you to become dehydrated or overheated, especially if you’re exercising outside.
As you can see, the risks outweigh the benefits, so we recommend reaping all of the great benefits of sauna bathing after working out.
Plus, you can consider it as a hard-earned, rejuvenating, post-workout reward. Be sure to wait at least ten minutes to let your body cool down before entering the sauna after a workout. It’ll also give you time to rehydrate and replenish your electrolyte stores.
Sauna bathing benefits go far beyond mental relaxation and stress relief. After a training session, hopping in a sauna can help you level up your performance by improving your cardiovascular health, blood flow, muscle mass, and endurance. It can also support your body’s natural detoxification process.
Because there are risks associated with sauna bathing before a workout, we recommend scheduling your sauna sessions after a workout to reap all of the great benefits of heat therapy.