I often hear people recommending sweat-inducing activities in order to help others get back into shape. Apparently, sweating alone can make a drastic difference in weight loss, and if not, at the very least speed up the process. Wearing a hoodie during your workout can help, as can wearing those track-style suits meant to maximize sweat production. The concept is simple, more sweat equals more weight loss. However, does maximizing sweat production really matter? Can sweating actually help you lose weight (fat, specifically)?
Most people tend to focus their progress solely on the scale. If their weight fluctuates, they act accordingly. Gained a couple of pounds? Time to diet. Lost a couple of pounds? Everything’s going great. The problem with this, however, is that actual fluctuations in weight that can change your body composition for the longer-term do not occur in a day or two (well, unless you’re participating in severe binges composed of cake-eating contests – we’ll assume that’s not the case). Therefore, looking at the scale from day to day to gauge whether you’ve lost or gained weight is not a proper way to assess what’s going on.
If you want to be sure you’ve gained or lost weight, you must check the scale on a weekly basis and see what the results are from week to week. Daily changes mostly occur based on the foods you eat, and are not an accurate depiction. Without veering off track, the reason they’re not accurate is because they are based off of the amount of water weight that is in your system. Ever wonder why you look your best upon waking up? The amount of water weight in your system is low, because you have not eaten since the night before. As a result, your body’s glycogen stores are lower and your body has dumped some water out of your muscles and liver. This makes you feel leaner, and look leaner, albeit temporarily. Once you eat, you’ll start looking fuller and feel as if you’ve gained a couple of pounds in one day. Rest assured, that’s not the case.
Without writing a thesis on this topic, the reason we’re discussing water weight is because that’s the only thing that sweating affects. Sweating, in and of itself, does not help you lose weight. What it does, however, is lower the amount of water weight in your system. Naturally, if you’ve got a couple of pounds of water weight in your body and you begin to sweat profusely, you’re going to sweat some of that weight away. People mistake this slight fluctuation with actual weight loss, and that’s how this myth came about.
Now, a good benefit of getting people to sweat is the fact that producing sweat usually involves engaging in some type of physical activity, which will burn calories. By burning calories, you can aid your fat loss goals by increasing your caloric expenditure. Consistently being in a slight caloric deficit (by burning more calories in a day than you consume) is the key to successfully losing fat. To learn about the optimal caloric deficit, visit our Calories Per Day article.
Outside of pushing you to burn more calories by doing physical activities and sweating, sweating itself plays no other beneficial role in weight loss. As you’ve learned, water weight is a daily fluctuation that is based on what you eat, so even if you sweat some water weight away, it can be back after one meal. Imagine if sweating actually played a major role in losing weight, don’t you think people would simply sit in a sauna and come out 10 pounds lighter each day? Maybe some believe that’s possible, but they’re certainly misinformed. Sure, by sweating some people may quickly see a weight fluctuation, but it is a temporary difference. Always keep that in mind. The key to successful fat loss is not sweating, but consistency with diet (and physical activity, ideally).
In order to really focus on losing weight, you need to learn how to eat below your maintenance calories, and over time accomplish your goals in a healthy and satisfying way. Weight loss is a long-term objective, and sweating isn’t a long-term solution. Focus on the only thing that matters, the calories. Good luck!
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