Infrared saunas are awesome for your health. They get your heart beating, make you sweat out impurities, relax you, and ease chronic pain, among other benefits. But can a sauna habit help you to lose weight, too?
The answer changes depending on where you look. Some proponents claim that a 30-minute sauna session can burn 200-600 calories; other, more moderate estimates put the number at 50-200 calories; and others argue that the only weight loss from saunas is water weight.
With so many different ideas about the connection between infrared saunas and weight loss, how can we know where the truth is?
The answer lies somewhere in the middle. There is not much evidence that chilling out in an infrared sauna can be a meaningful weight loss tool, but research has suggested that there’s more going on than just water weight loss.
Let’s take a look at the four mechanisms by which infrared saunas are said to bring down that number on the scale.
Loss of Water Weight through Sweating
No matter your stance on saunas and weight loss, everyone agrees on this one. Following a sauna session, you will see brief, but definite, weight loss due to water loss from sweating. This water weight will come back when you rehydrate.
Increases Metabolic Rate
The big weight loss benefit from exercise is not calories burned during the workout, but rather calories burned due to your amped-up metabolic rate throughout the day. That’s why there can be a slimming boost to working out in the morning.
Infrared saunas are said to increase metabolic rate by exciting body cells when the infrared photons penetrate deep into the skin. This excitation, together with increased heart rate due to the heat, causes those big calorie-burning events.
Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence to back up that method of weight loss action, or even to explain how the photons would increase metabolism. One small study did find that regular sauna use was correlated with a 4% reduction in body fat over 8 weeks, but the researchers did not control the diet and exercise habits of study participants and so causation could not be established.
There are other possible explanations for their observation. Regular use of infrared saunas has been shown to increase human growth hormone levels, which stimulates muscle growth. A sauna session by itself might not be enough to increase musculature and metabolism, but a sauna session combined with resistance training and smart diet could very well increase metabolism sufficiently to aid weight loss. Think of it as a weight-loss booster for your workout plan.
Another way infrared saunas help bathers achieve weight loss goals: they can make exercise easier and more enjoyable, leading you to exercise more often.
Getting to the gym can be difficult when you’re sore from yesterday’s workout or experience chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia. Infrared saunas relax your muscles and have been found to improve post-workout recovery and ease chronic pain, making it easier to get moving.
When used together with a workout, infrared saunas can improve endurance, muscle-building, and athletic ability beyond what you would achieve by working out alone. For more details on the link between saunas and athletic performance, check out our 5 Reasons for Every Athlete to Get in the Sauna.
The number one benefit of infrared sauna bathing (my personal favorite!) is the lasting positive impact on my mood. Regular sauna users report less stress and more satisfaction with their lives.
Stress is a well-known risk factor for weight gain. Directly, stress tells our body that we are in a survival situation, which causes us to store fat. Indirectly, stress can cause us to overeat, shirk exercise, and engage in other unhealthy habits.
Lowering your stress levels with regular sauna usage will provide long-term health benefits that can include achieving your weight loss goals. Saunas are also extremely enjoyable so why not invest in a home sauna and start a new habit for your health?
Explore our Sauna Shop to see our selection of infrared saunas, and give us a call today with any questions you may have!