Sitting in the heat of a sauna causes you to sweat and temporarily increases your metabolism. Sauna suits have the same effect. Athletes and others seeking to quickly lose weight may be tempted by advertisements for sauna suits that purport to help you take off pounds in a matter of hours. But these claims can be misleading, and sauna suits present real dangers if misused.
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Sauna suits usually consist of a jumpsuit or a separate top and pants made of rubber, vinyl or plastic. The suits trap the heat around your body, causing you to sweat. Some suits have hoods. They usually have elastic at the cuffs and waist to help keep in your body heat.
Exercising in a sauna suit, especially in a warm room or outdoors in summer, causes you to sweat profusely. According to Sharron Coplin, a Human Nutrition specialist with the Ohio State University Extension, you'll lose about 1 lb. of weight for every pint of fluid you lose. Wrestlers, in particular, use sauna suits to lose weight before matches, according to Mike Viscardi, writing for Vanderbilt University.
By exercising while wearing a sauna suit, you are essentially dehydrating your body. As soon as you drink fluids, you replace the water you lost, and regain the pounds lost as well. Real weight loss takes time. Dr. Donald Hensrud, writing for MayoClinic.com, advises that a safe rate of weight loss is 1 to 2 lbs. a week.
Sweating in a sauna suit can lead to dehydration, kidney failure and even death. In 1997 and 1998, three wrestlers died in separate incidents in which they were exercising while wearing rubber suits in an attempt to lose weight, reports Viscardi. Excessive sweating leads to electrolyte imbalances in your body. You could suffer heat stroke or a heart attack as a result of your body overheating.
Safe weight loss of 1 to 2 lbs. a week requires burning more calories than you consume. If you consume 500 fewer calories each day, in a week you will have lost 1 lb. You may lose more weight the first week, but this is mostly water weight, according to Sharron Coplin. Instead of sweating off water in a sauna suit, try drinking more water to lose weight. Brenda Day, a researcher at Virginia Tech, found that people who drank 2 cups of water before every meal lost an average of 5 lbs. over 12 weeks, with no other changes in their habits.