Whether you’re an experienced gym bird or you’re slowly easing yourself into working out, you’re probably looking at adding sauna sessions to your routine, if you haven’t already.
Several gyms offer sauna sessions, so it’s easier than ever before to simply pop into the steam room and sweat out those worries and toxins!
But do you sauna before or after your workout session?
Well, there are those who swear by both, but is one really trump the other? Read on to know!
If you’re looking for a quick and effortless warm-up, want to get your heartbeat elevated before your workout, or want to loosen your muscles and stretch easier, using the sauna before working out is the way to go!
Before you start working out, it’s a good idea to gradually warm up your body instead of going all in; it’s healthier for your body, especially in the long run.
A sauna helps take your body safely from its state of rest to a state ready for a workout, slowly increasing your blood-vessel dilation and thereby increasing blood flow to your skin and muscles, temperature, and heart rate.
By doing all of this, your body is also able to take in more oxygen, especially the muscles that are going to be doing the work during your workout, making it easier and more effective.
While it does have its benefits, using a sauna before you work out could increase the risk of dehydration. As it is, you’re going to lose water when you work out and dehydrate yourself to an extent—by hopping into the sauna before, you’re increasing the amount of dehydration that your body is exposed to, which could prove dangerous.
Additionally, since you’re already sweating when you step out of the sauna, you’re going to sweat a lot more while you exercise.
Some safety tips to keep in mind if you’re going to the sauna before your workout:
Keep your sessions short. Five minutes is good enough to enjoy all pre-workout sauna benefits.
Before you head to the sauna, weigh yourself, and when you come out, weigh yourself once again. You can then intake enough water to make up for the lost water weight, ensuring that you’re properly rehydrated for your workout.
- To ensure proper hydration, you can also sip on the H2O while you’re in the sauna.
Don’t depend entirely on your sauna sesh for a warm-up. While your body temperature does increase, the right muscles (the ones you intend to work out) may not get activated; you can achieve this only through dynamic full-range stretching and mobility exercises, necessary for injury-free working out.
- A sauna session can be really relaxing, but you need to be in a focused and alert state for your workout. Therefore, find the right balance between warming up and relaxing—though we agree that this may prove tough!
Therefore, heading to the sauna before you start working out is a great idea for those looking for a gentle warm-up, especially if health conditions, such as high blood pressure, dictate that they take it easy and also stay away from the sauna post-workout.
As mentioned earlier, sauna sessions before workouts shouldn’t extend beyond 5 minutes, to prevent the early onset of fatigue or overworking your body.
Though the aim is to warm up, you shouldn’t jump straight into your workout after a sauna session. Take the time to cool down so that your body doesn’t overheat while you work out.
15-20 minutes to cool down after your sauna session is sufficient, during which time you can shower, rehydrate, give your body sufficient time to process the water, and prep mentally for your workout!
Using the sauna after a workout has many takers, as it presents more noticeable benefits. Using the sauna before your workout session helps in warming up, but a sauna sesh after you work out can have positive long-term effects.
Some of these effects include:
- Detoxification: By prolonging your sweating, you’re going to break down the lactic acid in your body (lactic acid buildup is the reason behind soreness), as well as other wastes that build up in your muscles and joints during your workout. Sweating helps detoxify.
- A Longer Workout: Your sauna session will keep your already elevated heart rate going, having the effect of a low-impact cardio session. However, this can be harmful to certain people.
- Muscle Recovery: Saunas are a great way to reduce delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS). After an intense workout, you can keep the soreness at bay with a quick sauna sesh, as this increases your blood circulation, pumping in more oxygen-rich blood to the muscles and leading to better muscle recovery.
- Weight Loss: Saunas could extend weight loss benefits; some studies state that increasing the core temperature of the body can help lose body fat.
- Muscle Tension Is Relieved: Heat helps relax muscles and relieve any tension in them.
- Better Heart Health: While it is not the case for those with pre-existing heart conditions, using the sauna can better heart health in other folks.
- Stress Relief: One of the most sought-after and obvious benefits of saunas is stress relief, which also helps improve your overall quality of life!
Therefore, if you’re a healthy person, using the sauna after your workout is a great way to reap the maximum benefits. This is also great for people who wish to start their workout fresh.
Here are a few tips to safely use the sauna after working out:
Take at least 10 minutes after you work out to let your body cool down, stretch, and let your heart rate slow down a little.
- Shower before and after you hit the sauna, for both hygiene reasons and for cooling down (use lukewarm or cold water).
- Pay attention to your body. If your heart rate is too elevated and you begin to feel symptoms such as dizziness and lightheadedness, get out of the sauna, breathe, and rehydrate.
- If you aren’t used to sauna sessions after your workout, start slow—once or twice a week for less than 30 minutes and slowly work your way up.
- Rehydrate after your session. Note down your weight before you head in and after you come out and drink enough water to make up for the lost water weight, but spread the water intake over 2-3 hours instead of gulping it down.
Don’t spend over 15-20 minutes in the sauna after a workout. Anything longer could be harmful due to dehydration and overheating.
While most juries are still out on whether to use the sauna before or after a workout, we believe that a post-workout sauna sesh is more beneficial than one before your workout.
However, if you’re pregnant, have heart issues, or other health conditions that could be aggravated by fluid loss, stay away from the sauna, period. If you really want to use the sauna, check with your doctor before doing so.
Ultimately, do what feels good for you and your body. If you find that the sauna helps you warm up well before a workout and is better than all the post-workout benefits, stick with it, and if you find the opposite works better, stick with that—the choice is yours.