There are several good reasons why many bodybuilders and fighters spend time in a sauna prior to stepping on stage or climbing in the ring for their upcoming bout. After several months of regular use I wrote this article to discuss the infrared sauna benefits I've found to be true, as well as dispel the myths and lies surrounding them.
The 6 Infrared Sauna Benefits I Uncovered
Our body eliminates toxins by sweating. The advantage of a infrared sauna over a traditional sauna in this regard is that a regular sauna only heats the air within the sauna. Meanwhile, an infrared sauna heats your body directly causing a rise in temperature without the internal heat of the sauna room itself being as high.
The result - an intense detoxifying sweat at a cellular level.
Here's a study noting the core temperature of an individual in a infrared sauna vs. that of a traditional sauna.
During my research on the detoxification benefits from infrared saunas many experts report detoxification results are up to seven times (!) greater in a infrared sauna vs. a traditional sauna.
Heat is fantastic for stress relief and relaxation, so it comes as no surprise that the infrared sauna is one of the most affective means of stress relief and relaxation that I've personally come across.
As I've discussed before, a high level of stress is a result of increased cortisol levels which is responsible for that 'fight or flight' reaction we get under times of immense tension.
While in an infrared sauna cortisol levels remain relatively stable, however upon finishing off your session in the infrared sauna cortisol levels generally drop quite drastically - resulting in reduced blood pressure, lower heart rate, efficient burning of calories.
The infrared sauna heats your body directly as opposed to a traditional sauna which is a lot more of a harsh and intense experience to sit through for anywhere above 20 minutes, making the experience itself more relaxing and the tangible benefits more noticeable afterwards too!
Improved (Circulation) Recovery From Heavy Workouts
I eat well, supplement smartly and perform active recovery throughout the week, however performing heavy compound exercises such as the squat, bench press, overhead press etc. do all take their toll on the body - especially when working in the 4 - 6 rep range.
Tight muscles, aches and pro-longed delayed onset muscle soreness have all become quite common for me.
Regular use an infrared sauna has drastically improved my recovery time between workouts and overall feeling of my joints and muscles.
You can thank the heat penetrating your body from the infrared sauna increasing circulation and speeding up oxygen flow for these recovery benefits.
Weight Loss (reduced water retention)
Here's where many bloggers and infrared sauna advocates lose all credibility.
A infrared sauna will NOT cause you to drop three pants sizes or unlock six pack abs without doing any exercise. That's not how it works at all and it never will - don't by into these marketing ploys targeting your lethargic nature.
Many fighters and bodybuilders will use infrared saunas in order to cut weight in the form of water weight several days out from their fight/competition/weigh in. It's very important that we differentiate that we're taking about weight in the form of fluid (water retention) we're not talking about fat loss.
Spending time in an infrared sauna will leave you looking 'dryer' and leaner provided your body fat is already relatively low - however this weight can easily be put back on by avoiding the sauna and increasing your fluid intake.
Prior to a photoshoot or event which I want to look my leanest for, a week or two beforehand I increase my water intake, supplement with dandelion root extract and use a combination of Epsom salt baths and infrared sauna sessions. When you're 10% body fat or below implementing these few techniques at the last minute can take your physique from good to great or great to jaw dropping depending on how much fluid you're currently retaining.
Clarity Of Mind
This ties in with the stress reduction mentioned previously.
One area I need to work on is allowing myself more time to relax and unwind - constantly working on a combination of my online businesses, training, coaching and assisting others to reach their goals I have a very limited amount of time to take a step back, clear my mind and re-assess any trials or tribulations that I'm facing.
40 minutes in a quiet sauna is a fantastic time to achieve this clarity.
Reading a book, meditating, listening to relaxing music or journaling are the 4 go-to options for clearing my mind and relaxing in the infrared sauna - it's a matter of finding what works best for you.
A Few Questionable Points Regarding Infrared Saunas....
I don't doubt the benefits of infrared saunas I've listed above, however there's a few points that do not have any set answer or conclusive research regarding (with the majority of these 'studies' being performed by the same companies that are manufacturing these saunas) a slight conflict of interest...
The number of calories burned per infrared sauna session
One of the most common searches regarding infrared saunas is the number of calories burned per session (which is generally between 30 - 60 minutes) the range I've seen claimed is between 200 calories per hour all the way up to 800 calories per hour.
Now, I don't think this number is of much concern as we've mentioned in terms of weight loss the primary reason you'd use a sauna for weight loss is to remove the excess fluid your body is holding, not as an attempt to burn fat - if this is your reason for wanting to start using an infrared sauna then you're wasting both your time and money... HIIT (high intensity interval training) can get you sweating just as much as an infrared sauna, will burn a plethora of calories (resulting in fat loss) and doesn't have to cost you a penny.
Saunas can be used by ANYONE to lose weight and detoxify their body
As relaxing as I've made spending 30 - 60 minutes in a sauna sound it can be quite intense, albeit an infrared sauna is quite a lot easier to handle due to the lower temperature inside the sauna itself. However, I would not recommend an individual that is in poor health or has no knowledge of their current fitness level/blood pressure/heart health start an intense sauna regime, as this could lead to even bigger problems.
Got a bit of extra space at home? Save money and buy your own infrared sauna here.
What's your take on these infrared sauna benefits or saunas in general? Is there anything you'd like to add? Let me know in the comments below!