There’s a hot debate about when you should use that sauna at your gym in line with your workout schedule. Should you use it before or after the workout? Should you even use it at all? Why are saunas bundled with the gym?
Should you go to the sauna before or after workout? A sauna session after the gym encourages quick muscle recovery, relaxation, and cardio benefits. On the other hand, it is believed that sauna before a workout can risk muscle injuries and serious dehydration. It is best to sit in the sauna after your training.
The reason saunas are bundled with gyms is that they improve the endurance performance of those who work out.
However, this only works if used at the right time with the workout session. Scientific evidence points to the heat from saunas being instrumental in occasioning an enduring effect on the body when used at the right time. And the right time is after the workout, not before it.
When used after your workout, a sauna session have various advantages among them the facilitation a quick workout recovery, muscle relaxation, and giving cardio benefits to the body.
Using the sauna before working out has disadvantages such as dehydrating the body, increasing the likelihood of workout injuries, and not having any meaningful calorie-burn effects on the body even with the sweating.
Sauna After Workout?
The hot temperatures in the sauna are beneficial to your body after a workout in the following ways:
- The increased blood flow carries away the lactic acid and other wastes from the muscles allowing you to recover faster.
- The heat also relaxes the muscles. It is the same reason you’re advised to get a hot shower after working out.
- As you soak in the heat, your heartbeat rises thus pumping blood around your body faster. This has cardio benefits for the body.
On the other hand, going to the sauna before the workout session has the following weaknesses:
- You will get dehydrated going into the sauna first thing before the exercise. The sweat is water and losing it to a sauna hampers your performance in the gym. We recommend waiting for at least 15 minutes while dehydrating after the sauna before hitting the gym.
- The sauna is meant to relax your body and mind after an intense workout. However, if you start with the relaxation before the workout, you are doing it wrong as it increases your chances of injuries and lowers your workout spirit.
- It also tricks your body into thinking the sweating is a part of the workout yet you’re burning no calories sitting in the sauna.
Proponents of going to the sauna before workout theorize that the sweating is part of warming up the body in readiness for the actual workout. This is an erroneous way of looking at it given that a proper warm-up involves actual physical activities including stretching. The sauna has none of these.
In fact, trying to use the sauna experience instead of a warm-up or the actual exercise increases risks of injuries and makes your workouts ineffective.
Properly Using the Sauna after the Gym
To properly reap the benefits of a sauna in your workout routine, go to the sauna immediately (within 30 minutes) after you’re done with the gym. For a start, spend 5 minutes in the room then step outside. Each day after that, spend a minute more in the sauna or as you find comfortable. With time, you will be able to spend as much as 30 minutes in the sauna for maximum benefits.
What Happens to your Body in the Sauna?
As your body takes in the heat in the sauna, several things occur. They include the following:
- The heart rate increase to between 120 and 150 beats per minute.
- Your body temperature goes up.
- You sweat.
- Body chemicals such as growth hormones and noradrenaline are released.
These occurrences, coupled with the calorie burn from the workout, provide the best conditions for muscle growth and the burning of excessive fats and sugars in the body. They also allow you to recover faster than if you just took a shower when relaxed. The heat and thin air in the sauna also prepares your body for competitions in hot or high altitude areas.
When using the sauna after the gym, there are some precautions to take note of to stay safe. The period after working out is a delicate one and staying safe will involve looking out for the following aspects:
- First, always stay aware of your body’s behavior. If you start feeling uncomfortable in the heat, step out and relax till you feel okay again before going back in.
- Do not get into the sauna after drinking alcohol or doing any strong drug as the sauna heat will increase your chances of having a heart attack.
- Do not use the sauna if your joints, muscles or other part of the body has an ache, redness, swelling or tenderness. Wounds and bruises that are still fresh should also not be exposed to the heat of the sauna.
- Avoid drinking too much water or fluid at once during or after the sauna. The fluids cool down the body rapidly thus losing the benefits of the sauna heat on the body.
- Avoid showering using cold water as it cools the body rapidly and, besides losing the heating effects, may lead to a lightheaded feeling.
Even without exercising, the sauna alone helps you prevent general mortality caused by heart disease, dementia, severe inflammation from arthritis and many others.