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Sweat ? Fat Loss


“What is the point of working out if you don’t sweat?”

“I burn a ton of calories in Bikram Yoga, I sweat like a pig.”

“I’m burning fewer calories because I don’t sweat.”

Believe it or not, I’ve heard all of these statements at one time or another on the workout floor. There is a misconception that if someone is sweating, they are burning more calories. People see sweat as fat loss, when in reality it’s only temporary weight loss. Any weight lost through fluids during a workout will be restored by the end of the day if an individual is properly hydrated. I am not saying you should not be sweating during your workouts, I am simply stating that the intensity of a workout should not be based on how much an individual is sweating. Calorically speaking, sweat has very little significance when it comes to fat loss!

Again, I’m NOT saying that people shouldn’t be sweating during exercise and this article is not a scapegoat for someone who wants to lower their exercise intensity to avoid sweating. I just want to point out that many factors should be considered when looking at how much an individual sweats. Internal temperature and skin surface temperatures during physical activity, elevated environmental temperatures, and even hormones influence how much an individual sweats.

Our bodies have millions of sweat glands (eccrine glands). How much you sweat depends on how many sweat glands you have. A person is born with about two to four million sweat glands which start to become fully active during puberty. Sweating is controlled by the nervous system and is not under your direct control. As you perspire, the sweat evaporates from your skin. EVAPORATION of sweat from the skin’s surface has a cooling effect and is critical for thermoregulation.

With this said, you are not enhancing your workout by wearing sweatshirts, sweatpants or any other type of clothing that raises your core body temperature but does not allow the sweat to evaporate. As I’ve said, the water you lose from perspiring can mislead you into believing that you’ve lost more fat and body weight than you may have actually lost. Water weight is replaced when you subsequently consume fluids.

Purposely wearing clothing that increases your perspiration can be potentially dangerous. Rubber sweat suits were actually banned by the NCAA after the death of three wrestlers in 1997. The athletes were attempting to lose weight by wearing the suits and exercising in hot weather. Since the evaporation of sweat is a cooling mechanism, their bodies were unable to keep up with demand from the heat and their body temperatures rose to nearly 106 F. This can be (and in this case was) fatal.

For all exercise, “dressing for success” means wearing clothes that let your body breathe. You are not burning more calories just because your body is drenched with sweat. The thought that sweat is some sort of mechanism your body uses to ooze out liquid fat is not only a disturbing visual, it is wrong! Stop using sweat as a physical marker of the intensity of your workout. As long as you’re working as hard as you can while exercising…don’t worry if your shirt isn’t soaked when you leave class.

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