When I was training martial arts years ago, there was a guy training while wearing a huge insulated jacket in the gym. It was 25 degrees outside. He was trying to slim down for a fight he would have 3 months from then. He was sweating like a pig (speaking about the iron ore smelting, of course). In the training session, you felt sweat from this guy dropping on your face. That guy honestly thought that losing sweat means losing fat.
Does sweating burn fat? I wish I would’ve had the necessary knowledge back then, because if so, I could have told him that it doesn’t work this way.
Why we sweat
We sweat to minimize body temperature. Our body tries to be on a constant 37°C body temperature with slight fluctuations during the day. At this temperature, the enzyme activities of your body work the best.
Once your body exceeds these comfortable 37°C, it activates your sweat glands. You start to lose water along with salts, sugar and tiny amounts of waste products. You have about 2 to 4 million sweat glands in your body that cool you down.
The amount you sweat heavily depends on your genetics. The temperature and humidity level does influence your sweat rate, but so does your gender, age and fitness level.
You sweat more in heat and humidity, but that doesn’t mean you’re burning more calories or fat. It simply means your body has to release perspiration to bring your body temperature down. People with a higher amount of body fat tend to sweat a lot more because they have a greater amount of body mass to cool down.
Sweat and body fat
Fat gets released from fat cells to provide your body with energy. Your body breaks down the fat into its parts — fatty acids and glycerol — which are then metabolized.
Fat is quite hard to metabolize, but it’s possible. Read this article to see how I’ve lost my body fat or get in contact if you’re looking for a coach. The more energy you need, the more your body pulls from your fat cells. The bodily function that causes you to use fat for energy operates independently of the one that causes you to sweat.
Purposefully exercising in a hot or humid environment doesn’t mean you’re working harder to burn more fat. You’re simply raising your body temperature to a point that prompts you to sweat more.
When I was younger, I also thought that sweating increases the rate of body fat that you burn. If you sweat more, it simply means that you’re working harder, am I right?
But we have to realize that sitting on a beach on a 100-degree day doesn’t require a lot of energy and doesn’t use notable amounts of fat. You sweat because your body is just in need of serious thermoregulation.
On the other hand, when you work hard in sub-zero temperatures such as jogging in winter, you still burn fat even if your body doesn’t sweat as much to cool you down.
Weight loss or just water gone?
You may notice that after a shirt-drenching workout, the number on the scale has gone down. You haven’t dropped a few pounds of fat, but you have lost a fair amount of fluids. This is also why training with a jacket can make sense for a martial artist to lose weight short-term (to fit the right weight-class), but not months ahead of the competition.
But for normal people looking to get fit, you should replace that lost weight with water or a sports drink to avoid dehydration.
If you enter a workout dehydrated, you may not sweat at all. Your body increases in temperature but is unable to cool down efficiently again. This results in a decreased ability to perform. This is also why hydration is critical to reaching your performance goals.
Consume about half a litres until you begin a workout and at least 0.3 litres every 20 minutes during the workout session. In the end, you can drink 0.5 litres again (this might also help in muscle buildup).
Pro Tip: Weigh yourself before and after the workout and then compare the two numbers. When the scale says you’ve lost weight, drink fluids immediately. At best 0.5 litres to make up for every kilogram that you’ve lost.
You’ve probably heard about “Sweat is fat crying”. While I know it’s just a saying to get people stay motivated, now you know that it’s not true.
Sweating more doesn’t mean losing more fat. You sweat because your body is just in need of thermoregulation.
The harder you work out, the more sweaty you get because you are raising your body temperature to a point that prompts you to sweat more to cool down your body.
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