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First Words: Sauna Before or After Your Workout?

Drenched in sweat, muscles quivering from an intense workout, you find yourself standing at a crossroads in your fitness journey – to sauna or not to sauna before hitting the weights? It’s a question that is as hotly debated as the sauna itself – and a question we’re about to plunge into. 

Welcome to the steamy intersection of relaxation and exercise, where science meets folklore, and personal preference often trumps all. This article will take you on a journey through the debate, backed by scientific insights and expert opinions, on whether it’s best to embrace the soothing warmth of the sauna before pumping iron or after when every fiber of your being is crying out for rest. 

So grab your towel, hydrate, and let’s revise this sizzling topic. Prepare to have your preconceptions sweated out in the heat of facts and figures.

Also, read – Is Pilates Good for Weight Loss?

How Long Should You Stay in a Sauna? The Ideal Duration for Wellness

Sure thing! So, you’ve thought about the question, how long should you sit in a sauna? In order to get the most health benefits, here’s the scoop.

  • While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, most experts suggest hanging out in the sauna for about 15-30 minutes. This seems to be the sweet spot for soaking up all those good vibes without risking dehydration or overheating.

Research from the International Journal of Circumpolar Health backs this up, saying that saunas may support wellness, but it’s important not to overdo it. Another study found that spending time in a sauna could even help protect your heart, as long as you don’t stay in too long.

But remember, everyone is different. If you’re a bit older or have certain health issues, you might need to cut your sauna time shorter. Even folks in their golden years can enjoy a good sauna session, according to the Helsinki Businessmen Study.

And don’t forget about the heat. Those traditional Finnish saunas can get super hot (we’re talking 176-212 degrees Fahrenheit), so you might want to stay in for less time.

Benefits of Sauna After Workout

Heat Therapy: Sauna Benefits After Workout for Your Body Thanks

After a drastic workout, your muscles are fatigued, your body is flushed with endorphins, and you’re basking in the satisfaction of a job well done. But did you know that stepping into a sauna could help take your post-exercise recovery to the next level? 

When you exercise, your heart rate increases, your muscles contract and relax, and your body produces sweat to cool itself down. This process leads to several physiological changes, such as: 

  • increased blood flow to working muscles, 
  • release of hormones,   
  • rebuilding of muscle tissue.

Sauna bathing after a workout can be a powerful tool to enhance these natural recovery processes. Here are the benefits of sauna after-workout programs:

Increased Circulation

The heat from a sauna forces blood vessels to expand, stimulating increased blood flow throughout the body. This improved circulation delivers more oxygen and nutrients to tired muscles, aiding their repair and growth. A study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics found that sauna bathing can help to support cardiovascular function and improve vascular health.

Reduced Muscle Soreness

Heat therapy, such as that provided by a sauna, can also help alleviate muscle soreness. Research shows that heat therapy can reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) – that achy feeling you get a day or two after a hard workout.

Sweetened Flexibility

The heat from the sauna after workout programs can help increase flexibility, making it a great option for athletes. Heat can raise the extensibility of collagen tissues, improving joint mobility and flexibility.

Relaxation & Stress Reduction

Sauna bathing isn’t just about physical benefits – it’s also a great way to unwind and reduce stress. The heat partly releases the body’s inherent “feel-good” chemicals, called endorphins, and they help to encourage relaxation and overall well-being.

Also, read – The Truth About Does a Sauna Help You Lose Weight

The Case for Sauna Before Workout – Warm Up Your Muscles

​​One of the critical benefits of hopping into a sauna before a workout is its effect on body temperature. Sauna sessions resulted in substantial increases in body temperature. This pre-workout heat acclimation can prime your muscles for the activity ahead, potentially reducing injury risk and enhancing performance.

Research has shown that heat acclimation from sauna use can improve exercise capacity in hot and temperate conditions.

What about fat burning? Evidence suggests that the heat from a sauna could potentially enhance your body’s ability to burn fat during a workout. A proof-of-concept study found significant improvements in body composition, including reductions in body fat percentage, when exercise was paired with sauna suit use.

While these benefits sound promising, the main concern is dehydration:

Saunas can cause your body to lose water, and if you’re not adequately hydrated before your workout, this could lead to dizziness or fainting.

Can You Take Your Phone in a Sauna – Revise Your Safety

Saunas are designed to be hot, often reaching between 180°F and 195°F. 

These conditions are far beyond what most electronics, including smartphones, are built to withstand. According to Apple, for instance, their iPhones have an ambient operating temperature between 32° and 95° F. 

So, while it might be tempting to bring your phone into a sauna to catch up on your favorite podcast or scroll through social media, it’s best to play it safe and leave your device behind. 

Use this as an opportunity to disconnect, relax, and enjoy your sauna session without digital distractions. 

What Do You Wear in a Sauna Session? Dressing for Comfort

  • For Women

A swimsuit or bikini made of cotton or other natural fibers can be an excellent choice. These materials are breathable and absorbent, helping you stay comfortable during your session. A loose-fitting dress, skirt, or sarong can work well if you prefer more coverage.

  • For Men

Men can opt for a classic oversized t-shirt, shorts, or a loose cotton towel. These items are ideal because they absorb excess heat and allow your skin to breathe.

  • At the Gym

If you’re hitting the sauna at the gym, clothing like T-shirts, tank tops, sports bras, and shorts can work well. Just remember to bring a clean towel to the bench for hygiene. 

Proven Benefits of Steam Room After Workout: Foggy with a Chance of Relaxation

1. Hydrate First

Before you step into the steam room, it’s crucial to hydrate. After a workout, your body needs to replenish the water lost through sweat. Drinking at least eight ounces of water post-workout can help prevent dehydration in the steam room. Also, replenishing electrolytes can help to restore some of the minerals lost during sweating.

2. Relax and Breathe Deeply

Deep breathing can help clear your nasal passages and improve your respiratory health. Plus, concentrating on your breath can help you relax and de-stress after your workout.

3. Pair with a Cool Shower

After your steam room session, consider taking a cool shower. This can help close your pores after they’ve been opened by the steam, keeping your skin clean and refreshed. Plus, it can be a refreshing way to end your post-workout routine.

Does Sitting in the Sauna Burn Calories? Sweating it Out!

Yes! The heat from a sauna increases your heart rate and metabolism, which in turn can lead to calorie burn. 

  • A study found that, on average, males expended 73 calories during the first 10 minutes in a dry sauna. 

Another study indicated that a 30-minute session in a sauna could burn between 300-500 calories, depending on your current weight and metabolism.

Practical Strategy How to Use a Sauna at the Gym for Recovery

Start Small

If you’re new to saunas, you’re advised to start with small intervals in the beginning. This allows your body to adjust to the heat and humidity without overwhelming it.

  • Consistent Schedule

Consistency is critical when it comes to sauna use. Regular sauna sessions can increase exercise efficiency and speed up recovery, so try to incorporate it into your routine in a way that works for you.

  • Pre-Sauna Shower

To enhance sweating during your sauna times, give yourself a quick wash before entering the sauna to help clear any perspiration or debris from your skin.

  • Combine with Other Recovery Methods

Stacking recovery activities with a sauna, such as stretching or foam rolling, can further enhance your recovery process. This approach can accelerate healing and prevent injuries.

  • Pay Attention to Your Body

While some recommend staying in the sauna until a certain amount of sweat has dripped off your face, listening to your body is essential. If you start to feel dizzy or uncomfortable, it’s time to step out.

Also, read – How to Workout With a Busy Schedule

What’s the Best Time to Sauna for a Rejuvenating Sessions?

The best time to use a sauna can vary based on your needs and daily schedule. However, there are specific times during the day when a sauna session could offer more benefits:

1. Morning Sessions

Starting your day with a sauna session can be a great way to awaken your senses and kickstart your metabolism. The heat can help loosen your muscles, reduce morning stiffness, and get your blood flowing. It can also provide a calm, meditative start to your day, setting a positive tone for what lies ahead.

2. Post-Workout Sessions

Using a gym sauna can help in the recovery process. The heat increases blood flow, helping to speed up micro-tear healing in your muscles caused by exercise.

3. Evening Sessions

An evening sauna session can serve as a relaxing end to your day. The heat can help to relax your mind and body, promoting better sleep. 

Benefits of Sauna After Workout

How Much Weight Can You Lose in a Sauna? Cut Your Pounds in the Heat

Firstly, keep in mind that any immediate weight loss from a sauna session is primarily due to water loss through sweating, not fat loss.

  • During a typical sauna session, you could potentially lose around 1-2 pounds of water weight, depending on factors such as your current weight, humidity, temperature of the sauna, and the duration of your session. 

However, this weight is typically regained once you rehydrate, which is crucial to avoid dehydration.

As for fat loss, saunas can indirectly contribute to it over time, but they aren’t a standalone solution

Also, read – Pre Workout Breakfast to Help You Get Fit

Wrapping it Up: Is Sauna Good After Workout Sessions?

And lastly, the gym sauna—which is frequently disregarded—is quite helpful for both muscle relaxation and healing. Not only does it help with detoxification through frequent sweating, but it also improves circulation, which carries oxygen-rich blood to fatigued muscles to support their growth and repair.

After testing our physical boundaries, a post-workout sauna session can be an effective way to decompress and find mental clarity. Furthermore, because of the sauna’s intense heat and elevated metabolic rate, there’s a chance for weight loss.

Chris Churan
Certified Exercise Physiologist

Chris is a certified exercise physiologist with over 13 years of experience in fitness and wellness. With a Master of Science in Exercise and Wellness, Chris has been a educating the public as a writer, editor, and trainer. He is passionate about creating evidence-based content in an engaging way to make learning fun.