Why You Should be Using the Sauna after Your Workouts
If you are anything like me, you are instinctively skeptical of any new ‘biohacking’ techniques or ‘get-fit-quick’ tips, and rightfully so! Most fads and supplements have little to no real science or data to back them up. Sauna use is not so. People have been using saunas in North America since the 1630s and in Scandinavia long before that. The benefits of regular sauna use are tried and true, and recent studies have backed that up. So follow with me as I make my case why YOU should be using the sauna after your workouts on a regular basis.
Before I make my case for saunas, I need to give a quick disclaimer. If you have a history of cardiovascular problems or have any questions about your heart health at all, sauna use is not advised. Just like extreme cardio exercise, the sauna is great for those with a perfectly healthy heart, but can be dangerous to those with heart conditions.
The Overall Idea
The human body is an amazing thing. One of the things that makes it so amazing is that it has unbelievable mechanisms for dealing with different forms of stress. When we expose ourselves to high levels of heat for a long enough duration, we start to go into a form of heat shock, or heat stress. That sounds scary, and it certainly is uncomfortable, but it is actually an immensely productive state. Making our body enter and adapt to heat stress triggers a response in the body that has massive positive effects on energy levels, muscle growth, muscle recovery, immune health, cardiovascular endurance, cardiovascular health, and more!
Muscle Growth and Recovery
More muscle mass would be nice, right? One of the key components in muscle growth and recovery is human growth hormone, otherwise known as HGH. Studies have shown that using the sauna after your workout can increase your HGH by 200-500%!
One of the more recent and fascinating discoveries when it comes to sauna use is a protein that the body releases under heat stress called “heat shock proteins”. The main function of heat shock proteins is to aid the body in healing. One specific aspect of this healing is muscle repair. Studies have shown that sauna use can increase muscle regrowth by 30%. This goes a long way in both hypertrophy, recovery, and in fighting age related atrophy.
Sauna Use and Endurance
Working out is hard. Using the sauna on a regular basis can actually make strenuous exercise feel less difficult! How, you may ask? For one, becoming acclimated to high heat levels increases your plasma volume and increases blood flow. More blood means more oxygen that is available for your muscles to use and less stress on your lungs and heart during vigorous cardio exercise. Another important component of endurance is heat regulation. If your body can expel heat quickly and efficiently, you will be able to work harder, longer. Regular Sauna use helps you do just that!
Impact on Overall Health
Heat acclimation and heat shock proteins have benefits that go far beyond the gym! The healing properties of heat shock proteins have a massive positive impact on neurological health. Regular sauna use can help prevent strokes and has been shown to lower one’s chances of dementia.
Saunas also do wonders for our hormones. Some of the benefits include a major increase of norepinephrine which aids with alertness and focus, a 10x jump in prolactin which can aid in brain function, and a decrease in cortisol levels which is the main negative stress hormone.
If on the off chance that you are not convinced to use sauna more regularly, we only scratched the surface of some of the major benefits that it has to offer. You would most likely see a stronger immune system, less negative stress in your day-to-day, better temperature regulation, and increased insulin sensitivity to name a few more benefits. Look into the videos provided below and look into some of the data for yourself!
If you are fully convinced to give the sauna a shot, here are some general guidelines.
Anytime that we are deliberately exposing ourselves to high levels of stress, we need to be careful. Extreme heat exposure is no different. If you start feeling lightheaded or dizzy, get out and cool down. Start slow! If you are new to the sauna, you will most likely only be able to last a few minutes. That is okay! Increase your tolerance slowly. Start by gradually increasing from 5 minutes to 7, and over time, up to 20 minutes. Most of the benefits that we talked about come with sauna sessions of 20 minutes, 3x per week.
Sauna Use as an Exercise Mimetic for Heart and Healthspan
How to Increase Athletic Endurance and Muscle Mass through Sauna Use with Dr. Rhonda Patrick