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Does sweating help lose weight?

The link between sweating and weight loss is a myth that's been around for a long time — here's why.

Does Sweating Help Lose Weight? | Juniper

If you work out with the goal of losing weight, you've probably wondered whether sweating burns fat or calories.

Most exercise is, indeed, a tool for burning fat and typically, you're left sweaty after what feels like a good workout. But here's the truth: the link between sweating and weight loss is a myth and one that's been around for a long time. Read as we separate fact from fad.

What is sweat and why do we produce it?

Sweat is 99% water and 1% salt and fat, and it is your body's way of cooling you down. As soon as you begin to overheat, you'll start to sweat to regulate your body temperature.

There are 2 types of glands in our body that produce sweat:

  • The Errcine sweat glands: They're located all over your body but mainly around your hands, the soles of your feet, and your forehead. Their primary function is thermoregulation and they tend to produce light and odourless sweat.
  • The Apocrine sweat glands: Found in the armpits, groin and scalp, these glands produce more concentrated secretions of sweat. This is the type of sweat most frequently associated with body odour.

Does sweating burn calories?

The short answer is, no — at least not a significant amount. If you jump on the scales, technically you'd weigh less but this would be water weight and only a temporary loss.

So, if you ever felt like your gym buddy was burning more calories because they were sweating more or that you needed to do high-intensity cardio in order to achieve results, know that that isn't necessarily the case. Some people sweat more than others and some workouts don't make you sweat as much (even when you're doing everything right).

However, the internal cooling process we mentioned before is a good sign that you are burning calories. We'll dive into that in more detail shortly.

Can you sweat too much or too little?

Sweating too much or too little are 2 very different conditions, but both can impact your body temperature:

  • Hyperhidrosis (a.k.a sweating too much). Excessive or uncontrollable sweating doesn't often have an exact cause, though in some cases, it can be triggered by weight gain, an overactive thyroid gland or taking new medication [1]. It can develop at any time during your life and affect any part of the body.
  • Hypohidrosis (a.k.a sweating too little). Hypohidrosis or partial loss of sweating can occur for a number of reasons including skin disorders, dehydration or an underactive thyroid [2]. It may cause temperature regulation issues which could be detrimental to your health in the long run.

The benefits of sweating

Sweating is beneficial to your health in many ways:

It increases circulation throughout the body

A healthy circulatory system ensures both blood and oxygen continually flow, allowing every organ in your body to function properly. Increased circulation will help heal wounds faster, and keep your mind sharp and heart healthy.

It's a performance indicator

When you exercise, the body breaks down fat and carbs to give you energy. This process is how we expend energy and in turn, this burns calories. If the workout is more intense, a higher amount of energy is expended by the body during the movement [3].

Movement results in the production of heat and as it accumulates, the core body temperature increases. The more energy being exerted, the more heat the body will generate. Sweating is simply a result of the body regulating temperature — as sweat evaporates, you will cool down. The internal cooling process is also a good sign that you're burning calories.

So yes, sweat is a good performance indicator for those who do high-intensity workouts, it's part of our cooling process.

It improves your skin

Sweating opens up your pores, allowing them to purge out dirt, dead skin cells, and other bacteria. Sweat isn't only water, but includes a component called "urea" which helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and can rehydrate dry skin. Plus, it also improves circulation giving your skin a healthy glow from within.

It gets rid of toxins in your body

A 2011 study found that many toxic elements in the body can be excreted through sweat [4]. Whether it's through a good workout or regular sweat-filled activities, working up a sweat can act as a full body cleanse.

Sauna therapy is another popular way to get sweaty without raising your blood pressure. It has been proven to rid the body of toxins and is a safe way to lower blood pressure and overall improve cardiovascular health [5]. Drinking enough water will also assist the body in naturally cleansing toxins daily and keep your kidneys healthy.

How does your body burn fat?

While sweating alone doesn't necessarily maximise your fat burn, it is a sign that you're heading in the right direction.

The body will burn fat through a calorie deficit, which is achieved when you eat less and spend more energy, causing your body to use energy from stored fat cells to survive [6].

A healthy diet composed of whole foods, having a rough idea about how many calories you consume in a day, and being conscious about what you choose to snack on will all help burn fat faster than relying solely on intense workouts.

Not all movement has to be a super sweaty workout in order to aid the body in burning fat. Something as simple as increasing your steps during the day through incidental exercise is enough to put you in a calorie deficit. Walking could be a better workout for you in the long run, and of course, eating the same amount of food every day. The body will go on to excrete fat cells through either carbon dioxide or urine.

Do you lose weight when you sweat from exercise?

One of the biggest misconceptions in the weight loss industry is that more sweat during a workout amounts to losing fat.

If you look at the reason you're breaking a sweat like taking part in a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) class, then yes this style of exercise can promote the body to burn fat at a higher rate purely by getting your heart rate up. This very action will also cause your internal body temperature to rise which will get you sweaty.

For example, someone with more body mass is also more likely to sweat easier, as fat retains more heat than muscle and somebody with a lower fitness level might break a sweat from a lower-intensity style workout.

In short, while sweating is beneficial for the body and releases endorphins and feel-good hormones, you're more likely to be losing water weight than achieving fat loss.

Healthy ways to sustainably lose weight

Losing weight is a process that more often than not leaves a lot of people feeling defeated when they don't see instant results. The best strategy lies in adopting healthy habits you can maintain (and in being patient):

Start every day with a nutritious breakfast

There are 2 things you always want your breakfast to have. One is protein. Since it digests slowly, it allows your body to feel fuller for longer, meaning you're less likely to snack later.

The other one is carbs. Yes, carbs! Contrary to popular belief, carbs are not the enemy — particularly complex ones like whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, which offer important nutritional value and provide most of the fibre required in your meals [7].

Increase your incidental exercise

Getting off the bus a few stops earlier and walking to your destination, riding your bike instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the elevator... there are many instances in your everyday life where you can increase your incidental exercise. And though such low-intensity activities may seem too small to make a difference in your weight loss journey, they do add up, especially when paired with a caloric deficit.

Stay hydrated

Water boosts your metabolism, suppresses your appetite, makes exercise easier... in other words, it plays a bigger role than you'd think in helping you lose weight [8]. Keep a bottle with you at all times and make sure you stay hydrated every day.

Get enough sleep

You may think sleep has nothing to do with weight but that's not what the science says. On the contrary, sleep deprivation has been linked to higher body weight, increased appetite, and a higher risk of obesity [9]. Keeping a regular sleep routine, avoiding eating before bed, and sleeping in a dark room are all ways to improve your sleep quality.

Join a weight loss programme

We know that there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution to weight loss, and that's why we've created a long-term solution that combines proven medication, health coaching and ongoing support to help you lose weight and keep it off: Juniper’s Weight Reset Programme.

We prescribe Wegovy, a GLP-1 medication containing semaglutide. Semaglutide is clinically proven to reduce your appetite and make you feel fuller for longer, while also reducing cravings by targeting the rewards centre in the brain.

For long-term success, changing your eating and movement habits is also crucial, so we offer a comprehensive programme that includes 3 core pillars of lifestyle change with the assistance of our UK clinicians. You’ll have everything you need to lose weight safely and sustainably, helping you achieve a healthy weight and maintain it for good.

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