Can Sweating Help You Burn Fat? (Or Only Water Weight?)

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Sweating while exercising makes you feel you did a good job and lost a lot of weight. You certainly lose water weight but do you also lose extra fat?

Exercise is a common method to lose more weight. Certainly with cardio exercise you can sweat a lot. Usually more if you exercise more intensely and for longer. If you exercise harder and longer you often burn more calories too.

This creates an association between sweating and calorie burning in your mind. But does sweating actually help you burn fat and just water weight?

Does sweating help you burn extra calories?

Sweating itself helps you lose water weight but there is not enough evidence to conclude it helps fat burning in a significant amount. Once you replenish your water and salt stores the only fat loss will be because of the exercise.

Situations that make you sweat can be both good and bad for your health and weight.

Exercising, sauna and just sweating because of warm weather during the day can be beneficial for your health.

On the other hand, sweating at night usually means your sleep temperature is too hot. This decreases your sleep quality. Sleep is important for weight loss so you preferably want to avoid sweating at night.

Another example of a situation not preferably for your health is fever. While fever is a mechanism your body uses to fight disease, the cause of the sweating, disease, is most likely not something you want.

Burning calories without sweating

Sweating is not required to lose fat. Even exercising itself can help you lose weight without making you sweat. A weight lifting workout might not leave you drenched in sweat but it does help you burn more calories.

The water in which you swim might be cold enough to cool down your body. Nonetheless you will still burn calories.

people burning fat without sweating by swimming

Why do you sweat?

In short, sweating is your body’s way to control body temperature. You release water, salt and some waste substances onto your skin and this mixture starts evaporating.

Evaporation causes cooling because the process requires heat energy. The energy is taken away by the molecules when they convert from liquid into gas. This makes your body cool down. A fascinating physics process.

Why do some people sweat more than others?

The amount of sweat you release from moving is different from person to person. Here are a few factors that influence this:

  • Genetics: This factor explains itself. People are different, your body might react stronger to heat than someone else.
  • Fitness level: The more active you are the more you will sweat (1).
  • Gender: Men generally sweat more women (1). This might be because men tend to be heavier.
  • Environment: Some obvious factors are how warm it is, what clothing you are wearing and the humidity of the air around you.
  • Weight: The heavier you are the more mass you have to cool down. This also requires more evaporation for the same amount of temperature control.

Most of these things are not something you need to pay too much attention too. You do have to keep in mind that you might need to compensate more if you lose more fluid and salt.

Things you need to do to avoid risks from sweating

Sweating also has consequences. You need to replenish the water and salt you sweat out. Otherwise your body might become deficient in these things.

Dehydration and not enough salt in your body can have serious consequences so pay attention to your water and salt intake in sweaty situations.

For example long distance runners and other long duration athletes often consume salt supplements during their competitions. Without it they would sweat out all the salt in their body which has disastrous consequences.

Although sweating is a fairly natural thing, you can also sweat too much. If you think this is the case with you it might be smart to contact your primary care provider. You might have an underlying condition causing this.

Fat burning or only water weight loss?

Body fat burning happens when your body uses more energy, measured in calories, than it absorbs from food. Sweating might require a tiny amount of energy from your body but not in a significant amount.

You can use sweating as an indicator of how intense your exercise is up to a point. However, something like your heart rate is most likely a better way to measure workout intensity.

The most important thing to pay attention to regarding sweating is that you replenish your water and salt stores.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.