At the end of a long and arduous workout, the sweat dripping off your body might seem like a badge of honor, showing your determination and effort to achieve health and fitness. But that sweat is not actually a symbol of your fat-burning abilities. In fact, it is simply the residue of your body’s cooling system. Although sweating is necessary to help you achieve weight loss, it does not actually cause the pounds to melt away.
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What Is Sweat?
Quite simply, perspiration can be considered the body’s internal cooling system. During exercise, your body’s internal temperature slowly rises. If your temperature remains elevated for too long, it can have dangerous effects on your organs. To avoid these risks, your body automatically begins producing sweat in response to temperature changes. Once sweat is produced, it leaves your skin through tiny pores. As the sweat evaporates off your skin, your body cools down slightly. This process continues throughout your exercise session until your body eventually returns to a normal temperature.
Whenever any substance is removed from your body -- whether it is sweat, waste, fat or even hair -- you will lose some weight. So the short answer to the question is yes, sweating does mean that you are losing weight. However, weight loss caused by sweating is only temporary. As soon as you eat or drink water, the weight returns to your body. To achieve permanent weight loss, your body must burn fat through exercise. And although a healthy sweat session generally accompanies a fat-burning exercise session, the sweating process does not directly result in permanent weight loss.
Excessive sweating is a popular method of weight loss in the wrestling and boxing industries. In some cases, people actually wrap themselves in garbage bags or exercise in saunas to encourage excessive sweating. And although the process may give them the temporary results they desire, it is actually quite dangerous. Although sweat is composed mostly of water, it also includes electrolytes. When your body loses too many electrolytes, it can easily result in kidney damage, cardiovascular problems or death. In some cases, your body’s sweat glands may be unable to keep up with your body’s demands. When this happens, you might experience heatstroke or heat exhaustion, both of which can be extremely detrimental, or even fatal, to the body.
Although sweat is generally a good thing, it can lead to dehydration if you do not put water back into your body. To avoid dehydration, drink at least 8 oz. of water 20 to 30 minutes before and after exercise. During your exercise session, drink 7 to 10 oz. every 10 to 20 minutes. You might also take a minute to weigh yourself immediately before and after exercise. Any weight lost during your exercise sessions is simply water weight -- not fat loss -- and it must be replaced to prevent dehydration. Drink 16 to 24 oz. of water for every pound of body weight lost.
- KidsHealth from Nemours: What's Sweat?
- Military.com; Weight Loss Myths; Stew Smith
- American Council on Exercise: Healthy Hydration
- The Body; Eating for Exercise; Timothy M. Brewi; July/August 2002
- "Shape"; Does More Sweat Mean You Burn More Calories? Surprising Sweat Myths; Lisa Johnson
- FitSugar: You Asked: Does Sweating Mean You're Burning More Calories?