Almost anyone who has stepped foot inside a decent gym or health club will have seen a sauna as a staple part of the business. An extremely popular way to finish a workout for many, plenty will have even given a sauna a try or even made it a regular part of their own routine.
However, there are also many people who have no idea how a sauna truly works. From helping you to lose weight to relaxing your muscles and reducing soreness after a workout, saunas are touted to offer a wide range of benefits that people regularly exercising can make use of.
The question is, how good are saunas really, especially when it comes to losing weight, which may be the single most common reason they are used? Well, in today’s article, we are going to look at how many calories you burn in a sauna, to show you just how useful a sauna can be for weight loss.
What Does A Sauna Do For Your Body?
There is a wide range of benefits that are heavily touted by everyone from sauna manufacturers and health clubs providing the service to those running medical and scientific studies.
The most commonly claimed and accepted benefits of saunas are their ability to offer detoxification, increase metabolic rate, weight loss, and blood circulation, reduce pain and aging, rejuvenate skin, boost cardiovascular and immune functions, and improve sleep, stress management, and relaxation.
Can You Actually Lose Weight In A Sauna And, If So, How?
A sauna is capable of helping you to lose weight, however, you can’t rely solely on using a sauna to help you achieve results. This is because, while a sauna can help to enhance a user’s metabolic rate, the majority of the weight lost in the immediate aftermath of a sauna will come from water weight.
The heat in a sauna will make you sweat heavily and, as a result, you will shed a lot of the extra water that is being stored in your body.
This means you can lose up to 5 pounds in a single sauna session, depending on your starting weight and how much water you are carrying, but as soon as you start drinking fluids again, you will gain most of it back.
Are There Risks To Using A Sauna For Weight Loss?
While saunas are largely safe, there are risks associated with their use, especially if you remain in them for longer than is recommended. The most common issues people may experience include dehydration, headaches, extreme thirst, dizziness, and fainting.
However, there are some greater risks to using saunas for people who have existing medical conditions, such as heart or kidney disease or diabetes. If you have any concerns, make sure you speak to a doctor before you begin using a sauna.
Are There Different Types Of Saunas & What Is The Difference?
There are a variety of different types of saunas available to use. The traditional option is a wood-burning sauna, where you will be inside a structure that resembles a wooden cabin and control the temperature by pouring water onto heated rocks. These are very low-humidity options.
An electric sauna is a very similar option, only it uses an electric heater on the wall, and you can set the temperature to exactly where you want it. Infrared saunas are very similar to this, in that they also use electrical components to create heat.
However, infrared saunas differ in that they only create heat in the body of the user, rather than in the air of the sauna, and also offer all of the other benefits provided by infrared therapy. This allows their technology to be condensed and used in things like sauna blankets and portable saunas as well.
Some people also consider a steam room or Turkish Bath to be a type of sauna. These create slightly lower temperatures offering some of the same benefits, but in an environment with almost 100% humidity.
Sauna And The Metabolism
When your body is exposed to intense temperatures, such as those present inside a sauna, it has to work harder to function properly, and your heart rate will increase as a result. This will not only help to improve your cardiovascular conditioning, but it also boosts your metabolism as well.
Some experts estimate that the high heat of a sauna set to around 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65.5 degrees Celsius) can boost your metabolic rate by as much as 20%. This can help with both weight loss and muscle building, as the nutrients from your diet are broken down and used more efficiently.
Infrared Sauna Vs Red Light Therapy For Weight Loss
Many people who look into using infrared light will also discover red light therapy, as the two types of rays and therapies have a lot of similarities. While they can offer comparable results in some areas, they will do so in different ways, and each will also offer a range of unique benefits of its own.
We will now take a more in-depth look at both infrared saunas, the most common way of utilising infrared rays, and red light therapy. This will clearly outline the similarities and differences between the two, allowing you to make an informed decision on which is the better option for you personally.
What Is Red Light Therapy?
Red light is a type of light that is deemed healthy and has wavelengths at the long end of the visible spectrum, which are usually between 630nm and 700nm. Red light has penetrating properties and can get into the cells of the human body, but it is most effective for use on the surface of the skin.
Red light therapy can activate the mitochondria in our cells, allowing it to help improve some cellular functions in the skin, stimulate the production of collagen, repair damage, regenerate fibroblasts, keratinocytes, and skin tissue, and enhance enzyme activity and electron transfer.
This creates optimal conditions in which for the various parts of our bodies to heal, while also being extremely beneficial for people suffering with conditions like arthritis to alleviate their symptoms.
The wavelengths seen in red light are very similar to those found in infrared light but in this case, are visible to the human eye. The best type of red light is that created with the shortest wavelengths.
Red Light Therapy For Weight Loss
Red light therapy, or low-level laser therapy (LLLT), can offer modest results for both weight loss and targeted fat loss. This is thought to be due to the enhanced activity of enzymes and electrons speeding up a person’s metabolic rate, which encourages fats and calories to be burned much more quickly.
A recent 6-week pilot study of 60 people found that LLLT treatments twice per week could produce a modest reduction of waist circumference of around 0.8 inches (2 cm). However, the findings aren’t considered to be conclusive, due to the lack of a control group.
However, another randomised double-blind study of 67 people found that those receiving 6 red light therapy treatments in a 2-week span lost much more collective inches from their abdomen, hips, and thighs 3.5 in (8.9 cm) than the participants in the control group, supporting the 1st study’s findings.
What Is Infrared Therapy?
Infrared light is a type of electromagnetic radiation and one of the three ways to transfer heat, along with conduction and convection. Much like red light therapy, infrared therapy is great for use on the surface of the skin but can also penetrate around 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) into the tissue of our body too.
Infrared light sits right below red light on the electromagnetic scale, with wavelengths of around 1,000 micrometres (0.04 inches) to 760 nanometres (3 inches), and above microwaves with a frequency between 300 gigahertz to 400 terahertz.
Infrared rays with the shortest wavelengths are known as near infrared light and are very similar to visible light. They are commonly used in devices like TV remote controls, where energy needs to be transferred wirelessly.
Far infrared light has longer wavelengths much closer to microwaves. Far infrared light is invisible to the human eye, as the rays are just slightly above those in our spectrum of visibility, but you will feel its warmth, which is considered to have a comparable effect to the natural rays of the sun.
Far infrared light is what is used in infrared saunas and other therapy devices and is considered safe as our bodies can naturally produce the rays itself and they can be absorbed by our tissues.
Both during and after absorption, users of infrared light can experience a range of positive effects, including pain relief, increased circulation and blood flow, weight loss, detoxification, skin rejuvenation, relaxation, and improved sleep.
Infrared Therapy For Weight Loss
Beyond the obvious effects of causing you to lose water weight and improve your metabolic rate, Infrared therapy for weight loss works primarily by reducing your anxiety and stress levels. This will improve your relaxation, which can help the body to function effectively and prevent snacking.
The improved relaxation caused by infrared light therapy can also help you to keep the weight off as it promotes better sleep. As poor sleep has often been linked to weight gain and even obesity, this makes it extremely beneficial for ensuring you stay on track throughout your weight loss journey.
A 2017 study suggested that a combination of exercise and infrared therapy on a targeted body part (such as the abdomen) can even enhance the weight loss effect in the area, potentially making spot reduction, which is widely thought to be a myth, actually possible.
Steam Room Vs Sauna: Which Is More Effective For Weight Loss?
Steam rooms are extremely similar to saunas in a number of ways and the two are both regularly offered together in places like spas and health clubs. They both involve using heat therapy in a small, enclosed room to help you lose water weight and relax and heal your body.
The only difference between the two is that a sauna uses dry heat from infrared light, heated stones, or wood or gas stoves, while a steam room uses wet heat from boiling water.
Using a steam room after a workout will help you to sweat a lot, even more so than in a sauna, and there are some studies that show it can result in your body releasing more toxins than in a sauna.
On the other hand, sitting in a sauna provides a cardiovascular workout similar to that of walking on a treadmill. This occurs as the dry heat makes your heart pump much harder to circulate more blood around your body, helping to strengthen it while still offering the benefits of a steam room.
As both saunas and steam rooms are comparable when it comes to weight loss, you will need to pick which to use based on whether you are more interested in cardiovascular strengthening or detoxification, as well as which you find more comfortable and the availability of each option.
Whichever you select, start slowly and spend around 10 to 15 minutes in either one to help you lose some weight. You can then gradually increase the duration of your sessions as your body becomes more acclimatised to the environment.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
Before we end our analysis of how many calories you can burn in a sauna, I want to quickly go over a few of the most frequently asked questions people have on the subject. This should ensure everyone knows where they stand on the issue and whether or not a sauna is a right option for your needs.
How Many Calories Do You Burn In 30 Minutes In A Sauna?
The number of calories you burn in 30 minutes in a sauna will vary from person to person, as it relies on a number of different factors, such as your age, body composition, gender, height, weight, and normal resting metabolic rate.
However, on average a person will burn 1.5 to 2 times the number of calories while sitting in a sauna that they would in the same span while sat at room temperature. This means a person who weighs 185 pounds can potentially burn approximately 60 to 80 calories during a 30-minute sauna session.
There are even some studies that say just a 10-minute sauna at the hottest setting, or any setting where your heart rate reaches 130+ bpm, can burn as many as 100 calories.
Is A Sauna Good For Weight Loss?
A sauna may be able to help you burn some extra calories and fat by boosting your metabolic rate, but don’t bank on sweat sessions alone to shed unwanted pounds.
It isn’t the most effective tool for real weight loss, as you will mostly lose water weight, which you easily gain back when you drink fluids. A sauna can certainly be beneficial for weight loss, it just shouldn’t be relied upon to do all the work by itself.
Does A Sauna Burn Fat, Calories, Or Both?
While most of the weight lost in a sauna will be from water weight, a sauna or steam room will also boost your metabolism. This means they can raise the rate at which you burn both fat and calories.
That said, the amount of calories or fat burned due to the effects of a sauna won’t be as much as exercise alone or even avoiding the calories in the first place. Therefore, it is best used as a part of a larger weight loss routine, rather than your sole solution to losing weight.
How Long Should You Spend In A Sauna?
The average time it is recommended for most people to spend in a sauna is 30 to 45 minutes. This is thought to be the optimal window for you to achieve all of the benefits offered by a sauna, without exposing yourself to any of the risks associated with extended periods of extreme heat use.
It is also suggested that beginners start off with sessions around 10 to 15 minutes long at first, to give their body a chance to adapt to the extreme heat. On the other hand, 60 minutes is usually agreed to be the max length of time you should spend in a sauna, so as to not put yourself in danger.
What Is The Best Type Of Sauna For Weight Loss?
As saunas all work in the same way at their core, they will all have a relatively similar effect on weight loss. The best sauna to use will therefore vary from person to person, based on their own wants and needs, and any aims they have for their sauna beyond just losing weight.
Those simply after weight loss and relaxation may prefer a traditional full size sauna, while those looking to sauna on the go might be better off with a portable sauna or a sauna blanket, in which case options like the HigherDose and Mihigh sauna blankets are great choices.
A sauna can be an extremely beneficial tool for anyone hoping to lose weight, as it can help you to shed water weight and boost your metabolism to encourage the faster burning of calories and fats. However, they aren’t going to produce weight loss miracles on their own.
For those wanting to make the most of a sauna, try to do your session straight after a workout. This will boost your metabolism at the most important time and help your muscles recover, which, when combined with a good diet, will make one of the most well-rounded weight loss routines possible.
Steve is a retired professional wrestler with over 10 years of experience in the personal fitness industry. He is a certified personal trainer working with a wide variety of athletes as well as a fitness writer.