Some manufacturers of infrared saunas claim that everyone can burn from 300 to 1000 calories during one session of 30 minutes. On average, it is from 10 to 33.3 calories a minute! It sounds a bit unbelievable to me, especially if we know that athletes on a treadmill burn approximately 14 calories per minute.
Some experts claim that the human body struggles to maintain the preferred temperature while sweating in the sauna, which affects metabolism. Consequently, accelerated metabolism helps the body to get rid of calories. The other ones deny the impact of the sauna to burning calories. The truth is somewhere in between, as always. Let’s see.
What Is the Sauna and How Does It Work?
Before we discuss how many calories you can burn in the sauna, you should understand the way how it works.
The sauna is a cabin heated to the temperatures from approximately 90 to 194 F (32 – 90 C), depending on the type you want to use. Basically, all of them affect the human body the same way even though the levels of the temperatures and humidity vary.
The most popular types of saunas:
- Wood burning sauna– It is the traditional sauna. The wood-burning stove heats the rocks while reaching the high temperatures. The level of humidity is quite low inside.
- Infrared sauna– The principle of working the infrared sauna is based on using light waves to heat the human body without heating the cabin.
- Electrically heated sauna– That type of sauna uses an electric heater placed on the wall or floor to heat the cabin. It provides high temperatures with a low level of humidity.
- Steam room (Turkish bathhouse)– It is the place offering almost 100% of air humidity, while the temperatures are low.
Is Water Loss The Same as Weight Loss?
The fact is that your body works harder to maintain its temperature while sitting in the sauna that at some other place else. That increases the number of calories you can burn. However, the difference won’t be much more significant.
For example, a man weighing an average of 185 pounds (84 kg) will burn 21 calories while sitting in front of the TV for 15 minutes. The same man will burn about 30 to 40 calories in the sauna at the same time. Still, it is much less than the data referred to in some articles you can find on the Net.
When you notice that you have lost some weight right after the session in the sauna, you can assume that you actually have lost water from the body, not fat. According to the results of research in the Harvard Medical School, you can lose approximately 1 pint (0.47 l) of water while sitting in the sauna for a short time.
Unfortunately, once you drink a few glasses of water after the session, you will replace all the sweat lost and return weight. On the other hand, if using the traditional or infrared sauna regularly, you can lose weight in the long run. Additionally, a hard workout and a healthy diet will help a lot.
How to Calculate How Many Calories You May Lose in the Sauna
The equation is not too complicated, and you can quickly estimate how many calories you can burn during each session.
Multiply the number of calories you can burn while sitting in the sauna for 30 minutes with 1.5. The result will vary depending on your body weight and the temperature in the sauna.
The number of burned calories while sitting 30 minutes x 1.5 = The number of burned calories while sitting in the sauna for 30 minutes
That is an average calorie number you can lose, but it can be higher, as well. You should multiply the number of calories burned in the same period by two if you want to know the maximum number of calories you may burn during the session.
The number of burned calories while sitting 30 minutes x 2 = The number of burned calories while sitting in the sauna for 30 minutes
However, the numbers you get represent a standard range of the number of calories the human body may burn in the sauna. How much calories you can burn in that period, depend on:
- Your height
- Your weight
- Your age
- Your gender
Let’s see what that looks like in a concrete example when you use a Base metabolic rate calculator for this purpose.
An average, 5 feet, 5 inches (165 cm) tall, 30-year-old female weighing 150 pounds (68 kg) has a BMR of 1,492 calories. That is approximately 31 calories per 30 minutes.
If you use the BMR calculator, you will see that this woman will burn 46.5 to 62 calories while sitting in the sauna for half an hour.
Be Careful While Trying to Lose Weight in the Sauna
The sauna is beneficial and usually harmless if you follow the rules of use and take care of yourself. The most severe problem that people who begin using the sauna may face is dehydration.
Since novices often desire to get benefits and lose weight as soon as possible, they may put their bodies in danger. Always keep in mind that extreme heat causes profuse sweating, which means that you will lose a lot of fluid.
If the loss of fluid is much higher than intake, you may become dehydrated. Therefore, you should drink enough water before you enter the sauna, as well as during and after the session.
Ask for a medical emergency if you recognize any of these signs of dehydration:
- Extreme thirst
- Dryness in the mouth
- Lower frequency of urination
Also, you should be highly careful while using the sauna if you are pregnant or suffer from chronic conditions such as:
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Kidney disease
These conditions may accelerate the appearance of dehydration.