Sweat Does Not Equal Fat Loss


“Sweating = fat loss”: it is one of the token phrases repeated by new trainees, and one of the most incorrect statements available on the market today. It is a myth spread by hot yoga facilities and bro scientists in the deepest, darkest corners of internet forums.

This myth has probably been spread due to the water weight that is lost during periods of intense sweating. Sitting in the sauna for 60 minutes may lead to as much as 8 pounds lost for an individual, however, the weight is quickly regained after fluids have been consumed.

Ah, if only fat loss was as simple as sitting in a steamy room with no pants…what a wonderful life. It has been stated many times on Lift Big Eat Big: Sweating is not an indicator of a good workout.

The act of sweating is a physiological reaction to heat, it is the body’s method of thermoregulation to cool itself down. The body is usually at 98.6 degrees, and really enjoys staying at that temperature. When your muscles heat up, the body wants to get back to that 98.6 as quickly as possible by producing sweat via the millions of sweat glands on the body. This is not an indicator of fat loss, but an indicator of an increase in body temperature and sign of fluids lost.

Cardio in excess may contribute to an absence of fat loss, due its catabolic effects, and in some instances may cause actual fat gain. I have seen this happen when individuals spend an hour in hot yoga or an hour in the sauna, think they have lost a pound or two of fat, and reward themselves with a “smoothie” that has about as much nutritional value as this fella:

Something to consider when engaging on a heavy sweating crusade is the potential for symptoms of dehydration to appear. Headaches, fatigue, chills, and having a pissy attitude can be symptoms of dehydration caused by profuse sweating.

An example of why sweating is not an indicator of fat loss is you could row 2000m in a freezer and not sweat a drop, and by the same token you could sweat profusely walking to the car on a hot day in July. The sweat is being produced to initiate a cooling effect on the skin, but is not an indicator of physical exertion, just temperature regulation.

A simple way to burn body fat would be to increase protein, saturated fat and cholesterol intake, reduce the intake of processed grains, and combine a heavy strength training program with some HIIT. Crossfit is a good way to reduce body fat quickly, it probably won’t get you as strong as other programs, but if less bodyfat is what you are after, then look no further.

Last week I had a few clients complain that they felt the workout I wrote was not effective because they didn’t sweat that much. They seemed to forget the fact that they couldn’t walk correctly for the next 4 days and needed assistance getting off the toilet. That strikes me as a better indicator of a good workout than a sweat angel on the ground.

To burn fat effectively, take off the latex sweatsuit, get off of the treadmill, and become an active member of the Lift Big Eat Big community. Anybody can make you work up a sweat, but real work produces real results, not just glistening skin.

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