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How Many Calories Do You Burn in a Sauna Session?

 

Getting into a traditional or infrared sauna feels amazing, especially after exercise or a long day of work. As you start to sweat out stress and toxins, you also end up burning a surprising number of calories! But exactly how many calories does a sauna session burn?

An accurate estimate helps you understand the full health and fitness benefits of a regular sauna. In this article, we’ll break down the latest research on sauna calorie burn for sessions ranging from 10 minutes to an hour. You’ll learn how temperature, humidity, and body size impact calorie expenditure. We’ll also provide tips to maximize the fat-burning, cardio-boosting potential of your sauna sessions when used alongside a balanced healthy diet and exercise plan.

Read on to understand why more athletes and health-conscious users are making saunas an integral part of their training and wellness routines.

 

how many calories do you burn in a sauna

Factors Influencing Caloric Burn

Does the sauna burn calories? When considering the calories burned and losing body fat during a sauna session, it's imperative to understand that individual results can vary significantly due to several key factors. These factors can influence the effectiveness of a sauna in terms of burning calories and the overall impact on health and fitness.

Body Composition

The composition of one's body plays an important role in determining caloric burn during a sauna bathing. Individuals with a higher muscle mass tend to have a higher basal metabolic rate (BMR), meaning they burn more calories at rest compared to those with a higher body fat percentage.

In the sauna, this principle applies as well; those with more muscle mass may experience a slightly higher caloric burn because their bodies require more energy to maintain core functions under the stress of high heat.

Sauna Temperature

The average sauna temperature inside the sauna directly affects the intensity of the heat stress imposed on the body, which in turn influences caloric expenditure. Traditional Finnish saunas, which can reach temperatures between 150°F to 195°F (65°C to 90°C), may induce a higher caloric burn due to the extreme heat.

In contrast, infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures, typically between 120°F to 150°F (49°C to 65°C), potentially resulting in a lower caloric expenditure. However, infrared saunas penetrate the skin more deeply, which might lead to burning a few extra calories and to different physiological responses worth considering.

Duration of the Sauna Session

The length of time spent in the sauna is directly proportional to the number of calories burned, up to a point. A longer session increases exposure to the heat, thereby elevating heart rate and metabolic rate for a more extended period. 

It's essential to balance duration with safety to avoid dehydration or heat exhaustion. Most health professionals recommend sauna sessions last between 15 to 20 minutes, though individuals acclimated to the heat may safely extend their sessions slightly longer.

Hydration and Nutrition

Hydration levels before and after a sauna session can impact the body's thermoregulation and metabolic rate. Adequate hydration is important for optimal metabolic function and for the body to sweat and cool down efficiently in the sauna. 

The body's nutritional state—such as being in a fed or fasted state—can also influence how many calories are burned. Metabolic rates increase slightly after eating due to the thermic effect of food, so a sauna session post-meal might have a marginally higher weight loss compared to a session conducted while fasting.

Acclimatization to Heat

Individuals who regularly use saunas may develop an acclimatization to the heat, which can affect the number of calories burned.

As the body becomes more accustomed to the sauna's high temperatures, it may become more efficient at regulating its internal temperature and heart rate, potentially leading to a decrease in burning calories over time. This adaptation underscores the importance of varying sauna sessions in intensity and duration to continue reaping the maximum health benefits.

Calculating Calories Burned in a Sauna

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Determining the exact number of how much saunas burn calories can be complex due to the individualized nature of physiological responses to heat. 

Here's a closer look at how to calculate calories burned in a sauna, keeping in mind that these figures are estimates and can vary based on individual factors discussed earlier.

Understanding Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

To begin estimating calories burned in a sauna, it's essential to understand your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the number of calories your body needs to maintain basic physiological functions at rest. 

Several formulas, such as the Harris-Benedict equation or the Mifflin-St Jeor equation, can calculate BMR. These calculations take into account age, gender, body weight, and height to provide an estimate of your daily caloric needs at rest.

Estimating Caloric Expenditure

Once you have an understanding of your BMR, you can start to estimate the caloric burn during a sauna session. While in a sauna, your body works harder to cool itself, leading to an increase in heart rate and metabolic rate. 

Studies suggest that the heart rate can increase by 30% or more during sauna use, which in turn can increase your metabolic rate by roughly the same percentage.

To estimate the calories burned, you can apply this increase to your BMR. For example, if your BMR is 1,500 calories per day, this equates to about 62.5 calories per hour at rest. With a 30% increase in metabolic rate during a sauna session, you could burn approximately an additional 18.75 calories (30% of 62.5) per hour. 

Therefore, during a 20-minute sauna room session, you might burn an additional 6.25 calories (one-third of an hour) on top of your BMR.

 

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Considering Sauna Specifics

Remember to factor in the type of sauna (traditional vs. infrared) and the temperature, as these can influence the caloric burn. Higher temperatures and traditional saunas might lead to a slightly higher increase in heart rate and metabolic rate. 

Whereas infrared saunas, despite their lower temperatures, might have a different impact due to the deeper penetration of the heat.

Adjusting for Individual Factors

Adjust the estimated calories burned based on your body composition, hydration, nutrition, and acclimatization to the heat. For instance, if you have a higher muscle mass, you might burn calories at a slightly higher rate. 

Similarly, if you are well-acclimatized to the sauna, your body may be more efficient, potentially leading to a lower caloric burn.

Caveats and Considerations

It's imperative to approach these estimates with caution and understand that they represent a rough guideline rather than a precise measurement. The actual calories burned can vary significantly based on individual physiological responses and external factors. 

Most of the water weight lost during a sauna session is due to water loss through sweat, which is replenished once you rehydrate.

You can also use a sauna calories burned calculator to check your progress.

 

RELATED TO: What are the Benefits of a Sauna? Science Answers!

Potential Benefits of Sauna Beyond Calorie Burning

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While the caloric burn from sauna sessions can contribute to overall health and wellness, the potential health benefits of regular sauna use extend far beyond just burning calories. 

Saunas are renowned for their therapeutic effects, which have been celebrated in various cultures for centuries. 

Detoxification Through Sweating

One of the most recognized benefits of sauna use is its ability to promote detoxification. As the body's temperature rises in the sauna, sweating occurs at a much higher rate than normal. 

Sweat is not just water; it also contains toxins, including heavy metals and other pollutants, that the body can expel through the skin. This natural detoxification process helps to cleanse the body, improve skin health, and enhance overall vitality.

Relaxation and Stress Relief

Saunas have been shown to be exceptional places for potential relaxation and stress reduction. The heat from the sauna relaxes the body's muscles, improves circulation, and stimulates the release of endorphins, the body's natural feel-good chemicals. This serene environment allows for a peaceful retreat from the stresses of daily life, offering a sanctuary where the mind can unwind and rejuvenate. 

Regular sauna users often report improvements in sleep quality and a reduction in symptoms associated with stress and anxiety.

Improved Circulation

The heat generated in a sauna causes the blood vessels to dilate, leading to increased blood flow throughout the body. This enhanced circulation can have numerous benefits, including improved muscle recovery after intense physical activity, reduced stiffness and joint pain, and better overall cardiovascular health. 

Improved circulation also means more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to tissues, aiding in the healing process and promoting cellular health.

Muscle Recovery and Pain Relief

The increased blood flow and relaxation of muscles in the sauna environment can significantly aid in muscle recovery post-exercise. The heat helps to reduce muscle tension and eliminate lactic acid and other metabolic waste products. 

People suffering from conditions like arthritis or chronic muscle pain may find relief from regular sauna sessions, as the heat can help to alleviate discomfort and increase mobility.

Immune System Boost

Regular sauna use has been associated with a stronger immune system. The heat stress from a sauna session can stimulate the production of white blood cells, which play an important role in fighting off infections and illnesses. 

The elevated body temperature can simulate a fever-like state, which is the body's natural mechanism for strengthening the immune response and inhibiting the growth of pathogens.

Cardiovascular Health

Saunas can offer cardiovascular benefits similar to those obtained from moderate exercise. The heart rate increases during a sauna session, which can help to improve cardiac output and cardiovascular fitness over time. 

Studies have suggested that regular sauna use may lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, and even decrease the likelihood of sudden cardiac death.

Mental Health and Well-being

Beyond the physical benefits, saunas can also have a positive impact on mental health. The tranquil atmosphere of a sauna can serve as a form of meditation, allowing for mental clarity and the reduction of cognitive stress. This mental downtime can improve mood, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and contribute to a more balanced and positive outlook on life.

How to Safely Incorporate Sauna Sessions into Your Wellness Routine

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Here are some guidelines to help you safely incorporate sauna use into your health regimen:

Start Slowly

If you're new to sauna use, it's important to start slowly and gradually increase your exposure. Begin with shorter sessions of around 5-10 minutes and gradually extend the time as your body becomes acclimatized to the heat. This gradual approach helps prevent overheating and allows you to gauge your body's response to the sauna.

Stay Hydrated

Hydration is imperative when incorporating sauna sessions into your wellness routine. The high heat can lead to significant fluid loss through sweating. Ensure you're well-hydrated before entering the sauna and rehydrate with water or electrolyte-rich drinks immediately after your session. 

Avoid alcohol and caffeine before sauna use, as they can increase the risk of dehydration.

Listen to Your Body

It's essential to listen to your body's signals during and after sauna sessions. If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or uncomfortable at any point, exit the sauna and allow your core body temperature to cool down. Everyone's tolerance to heat varies, so it's important to respect your body's limits and not overdo it.

Consider Timing

Incorporating sauna sessions at the right time can enhance their benefits. Many people find sauna use particularly beneficial after a workout for muscle recovery and relaxation. 

Ensure your body has had a chance to cool down slightly after intense exercise before entering the sauna. Others may prefer using the sauna in the evening as a way to unwind and promote better sleep.

Consult with a Healthcare Professional

If you have any health conditions or concerns, it's wise to consult with a healthcare professional before adding sauna sessions to your wellness routine. Conditions such as cardiovascular issues, respiratory problems, or pregnancy may require special considerations or caution when using a sauna.

Maintain Cleanliness

To ensure a safe and healthy sauna experience, practice good hygiene and follow the cleanliness guidelines of the sauna facility or sauna at home. This includes sitting on a towel to absorb sweat, using footwear in communal areas, and showering before and after sauna use.

By following these guidelines, you can safely enjoy the numerous health benefits of sauna sessions and make them a beneficial addition to your overall wellness routine.

 

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In Summary

So, does a sauna burn fat? Sauna sessions offer more than just a temporary increase in calorie burn; they provide a wide range of health benefits that can enhance your overall well-being. The holistic advantages of regular sauna use are significant. When incorporated safely and mindfully into your wellness routine, sauna sessions can be a valuable component of a balanced health regimen.

 

 

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