Nothing feels better than coming out of a workout drenched in sweat when your end goal is weight loss. You've put in the work, put out the sweat, and hopefully, you're down a couple of pounds.
Many people crank up the temperature and bump up the intensity of their workouts to get their sweat on in hopes of dropping weight or fat. But what's the truth behind the long-standing belief that more sweat = more weight loss?
We're breaking down the link between sweating and weight loss and if it should become your new go-to strategy for shedding pounds. Plus, we're giving you five strategies that may be more effective for dropping weight and keeping it off.
Why Do We Sweat?
While many people prefer not to sweat at all, sweating is a totally natural process that your body needs to function optimally. It's the primary mechanism for thermoregulation, or your body's ability to regulate its temperature. When the body gets too hot, it releases sweat through glands on the skin's surface to cool itself down.
Intense exercise increases heart rate, which causes a subsequent increase in body temperature and sweating. While sweating may not be ideal, it's essential, and we all do it.
However, overweight or obese people tend to sweat more than the average person because excess adipose tissue acts as an insulator, which increases core body temperature.
On the other hand, some people have a condition whereby sweat glands produce too much sweat. In most cases, it's not bad to have overactive sweat glands, but the excess sweat can often cause embarrassment and discomfort.
In the case of a diagnosed condition like hyperhidrosis, these people suffer from more severe cases of sweating, marked by abnormal and excessive sweating that is generally not related to exercise or increased body temperature.
Simply put, when body temperature rises, the body compensates by increasing sweating to cool us back down.
But can sweating do more than just regulate body temperature?
Does Sweating Help You Lose Weight?
Yes and no—sweating likely won't help you lose weight in the long run, but if you're looking to drop water weight, getting your sweat on can be an effective way to do so.
This is why MMA fighters and combat athletes wear sweatsuits when trying to make weight. It's not about boosting fat loss or losing muscle mass to move the needle on the scale so much as it is about shedding water weight.
The logic is this: if you lose 15-20 ounces of sweat, you'll lose 15-20 ounces on the scale. It's precise mathematics to calculate how much time needs to be spent sweating to achieve a specific goal.
However, water weight doesn't stay off, which is where the "sweating to lose weight" debate gets sticky. The minute you rehydrate after a workout (which is definitely something you need to do), you'll put those pounds right back on.
The weight you lose during an intense sweat sesh isn't fat mass, which is the type of weight most people are aiming to lose. Over time, working out and breaking a constant sweat can help you lose weight, but you can't use the level of sweat to determine how effective your workout is.
Sweating And Weight Loss: Cardio Versus Weights
Of course, we're more likely to ramp up the sweat when we're sprinting on a treadmill or hitting the skipping rope. But what does that mean for losing weight?
High-intensity interval training, more commonly referred to as HIIT, is one of the best styles of "cardio" for torching calories. It's a training style that alternates short bouts of high-intensity activity with low-intensity recovery periods.
Research consistently shows that HIIT is substantially more effective for burning calories and boosting fat loss than steady-state cardio 1, 2. In fact, it can burn up to 25-30% more than other forms of exercise 3. And sweating? Yep, you'll definitely be drenched.
But perhaps one of the most impressive feats of high-intensity exercise is its ability to boost calorie burn even after you've stopped exercising 2. It's called exercise post-oxygen consumption, or EPOC for short, and it's the energy expended to return your body back to homeostasis after exercise 4, 5.
That said, HIIT isn't going to produce the same effects as conventional steady-state cardio. You're going to get better results by maximizing the intensity of your workouts and cutting back on the duration.
On the other hand, resistance training may be more beneficial long-term for losing weight and keeping it off. While you may not be sweating anything near what you are with HIIT, the results speak for themselves.
Opinions on weight training for both men and women have changed over the last handful of years as more people recognize the benefits of lifting iron. We're talking about boosting metabolism, burning fat, increasing muscle mass, and enhancing muscular definition. Who wouldn't want that?
But the thing with strength training is that it's more effective for fat loss than it is for weight loss. Because lifting weight means building muscle, you could see the scale go up a bit as opposed to down, but your body composition will take a turn; you'll see that body fat percentage drop, which offers a better incentive to keep going than the scale does.
5 Strategies To Lose Weight (And Keep It Off)
If you're keen to drop a few pounds but aren't interested in having it return once you rehydrate, here are some tried-and-true strategies for melting weight away and keeping it off.
1. HIIT The Weights
Cardio has always been touted as gold for boosting weight loss, but when it comes to burning calories and altering body composition, two training styles will always reign supreme: high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and resistance training.
We talked about the benefits of HIIT before for increasing metabolism and burning fat, so we're not going to cover that here. Resistance training, on the other hand, is one of the most effective long-term strategies for building muscle and burning fat. It does so in a few ways.
First, strength training facilitates increases in muscle mass. Higher levels of lean muscle increase the demand for energy expenditure, both during exercise and at rest. In other words, people with more muscle mass tend to burn more calories daily than people with lower levels of muscle mass.
Second, resistance training, along with HIIT, can increase the amount of oxygen the body needs to return to homeostasis (i.e. recovery) after exercise. This is what we talked about before with the EPOC effect 6, 7.
Studies show that both resistance training and HIIT can elevate the metabolic rate for anywhere from 12 to 48 hours post-exercise; a higher metabolic rate means more calories burned.
Third, the hormonal environment created by high-intensity resistance training is a conducive environment for supporting muscle growth and fat loss 8, 9; strength training increases levels of testosterone and growth hormone, both of which are needed to build muscle and burn fat.
And if you want to take it a step further, using a research-backed fat burner like Burn Lab Pro® alongside good nutrition and a solid training program is an ideal way to ignite and rev your metabolic engine to burn fat and build muscle. It's an innovative and ultramodern fat loss formula that can help you achieve your body goals quicker and easier.
2. Get Enough Sleep
When it comes to weight loss strategies, sleep may just be more important than anything else. Poor sleep is associated with a number of negative health outcomes, especially if you're trying to lose weight. Here's why sleep is important 10-14:
- Lack of sleep negatively affects neurotransmitters that regulate appetite (leptin and ghrelin) and increases the need to consume calories, especially those that are high in carbs and calories
- Poor sleep is associated with metabolic dysfunction, which results in elevated levels of oxidative stress, glucose intolerance, and insulin resistance
- More time awake may increase the number of opportunities to eat
- Lack of sleep disrupts circadian rhythm and can lead to weight gain
3. Manage Your Stress
The hormones associated with stress can be weight and fat losses’ worst enemy. There's a fair bit of research showing the link between activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and energy homeostasis.
Cortisol, the main stress hormone, is catabolic by nature, meaning it breaks down muscle tissue and causes you to store fat rather than lose it. Not to mention that the body metabolizes slower under stress, which leads to a slower metabolic rate and a decrease in energy expenditure 15.
What's more, stress and glucocorticoids (cortisol) play a regulatory role in food intake and energy expenditure; increases in glucocorticoids have been shown to increase the consumption of foods high in fat and sugar 16.
So, if you want to reduce a raging appetite and watch the scale go down, implementing stress management techniques is key to keeping stress hormones at bay.
4. Eat A Balanced Plate
Ever heard of the saying "abs are made in the kitchen"? It's a classic in the fitness world, and it has a lot of merit. You can train hard every day, sleep well, and manage your stress, but if you're not eating properly, you're never going to see results.
You cannot outwork a bad diet.
That means cutting out the refined carbohydrates and sugar, eliminating industrial seed oils, and removing processed foods of all kinds. Replace that with lean proteins, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and an abundance of fruit and vegetables—then you'll see results.
But it's also about not going overboard with the calories. Just because you're eating healthy foods doesn't mean you can eat in abundance. Weight loss, to some degree, still boils down to calories in versus calories out. If you're consuming more than you're burning, regardless of what the food is, you're never going to lose weight.
While not a long-term solution, tracking food intake for a few weeks may increase awareness for some people about what and how much they're eating. That way, you can look at your food diary and figure out where you need to make adjustments to see the pounds fall off.
5. Stay Hydrated
Sweating isn't necessarily an indicator of how hard you trained. Perspiration rates differ drastically between people and workouts alike, some people will sweat substantially more than others.
However, whether you sweat buckets or not, replacing the electrolytes lost through sweat is critical for your performance and recovery, as dehydration can come with some nasty side effects.
On top of that, many people confuse the feeling of thirst for hunger, so instead of satiating the need for water, they grab food. Ultimately, that results in more calories consumed and a greater risk of long-term weight gain.
Weight loss is no easy game, but when you can pinpoint the factors that interfere with it, you can accelerate the process.
Sweating is, of course, a beneficial thing for the body, but don't look to sweating to help you lose weight. Implementing good diet and lifestyle habits will always come out on top where weight loss is concerned.
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- PH Falcone, CY Tai, LR Carson, et al. Caloric expenditure of aerobic, resistance, or combined high-intensity interval training using a hydraulic resistance system in healthy men. J Strength Cond Res. 2015;29(3):779-785.
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- Greer BK, O'Brien J, Hornbuckle LM, Panton LB. EPOC Comparison Between Resistance Training and High-Intensity Interval Training in Aerobically Fit Women. Int J Exerc Sci. 2021;14(2):1027-1035. Published 2021 Aug 1.
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