Walking back to your gym's change room dripping in sweat somehow gives you the impression that you owned your workout. And while you might have showed the treadmill and free weights who's boss, the amount of sweat on your forehead and shirt aren't related to the calories you burned. The concept of heat helping to burn fat is a common weight-loss myth and can also be dangerous to follow.
Sweat and Calories
It might seem logical that the more you sweat, the more calories you're burning. This theory, however, is a myth; everyone sweats and burns calories at different rates. When you sweat, your body is losing water weight, which can result in temporary weight loss. As soon as you drink water after your workout, however, you'll rehydrate your body and regain the water weight you lost.
Whether you choose to increase the heat of your workout by turning up the room's temperature, wearing a nylon sauna suit, bulking up with extra layers of clothing or just working out in the sun, the extra heat can have several health risks. When you sweat more, you're more likely to experience dehydration and overheating, which can put you at risk of developing heatstroke. Columbia University's Go Ask Alice website reports that the National Collegiate Athletic Association banned its athletes from using sauna suits after three wrestlers died in 1997 wearing the suits while exercising in the heat.
Although sauna suits are not without risks, athletes in sports such as mixed martial arts and boxing commonly use them to drop weight quickly before a fight. Most fighting sports have weight classes, and fighters are required to weigh a specific amount a day or two before the fight. If they're too heavy, they'll often wear a sauna suit while performing an aerobic exercise such as running on a treadmill until they lose enough water weight to make weight.
Despite what late-night infomercials might suggest, burning fat doesn't have any shortcuts. A simple, effective way to burn calories to reduce the amount of fat on your body is to add aerobic exercise to your workout routine each week. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week. The exercises can vary; common aerobic exercises include cycling, in-line skating, jogging and swimming.
- Military.com: Weight Loss Myths
- Go Ask Alice: Working Out While Wrapped in Plastic -- Good for Weight Loss?
- Los Angeles Times: Fat Burner? Your Gut Tells You It's a Stretch
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
- Harvard Medical School: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.