If you’re looking for a relaxing way to unwind after a long day or an intense workout, a sauna might be just what you need.
Saunas have been used for centuries to promote health and well-being by promoting cardiovascular health, detoxification, and quality sleep. But are they perfect for you as a bodybuilder? Can they increase your fitness level and promote weight loss? And are there any risks involved?
In this article, we’ll explore the benefits and risks of saunas and take a closer look at who should and should not use them. Whether you’re a sauna enthusiast or simply curious about the hype, read on to discover whether saunas are perfect for you.
What is A Sauna?
A sauna is a small heated room or space between the temperatures of 150°F -170°F that promotes relaxation and provides other health benefits through the use of dry air.
Although there are various saunas, a typical sauna is often a room with unpainted wood interiors, temperature controls, and rocks. Unlike other steam rooms that use wet air with higher humidity, the air usually has less than 20% humidity. Other saunas have rocks used as a heating element. You pour water on rocks to create a stream, adding humidity to the room.
The practice of sauna originated in Finland, where it has been used for centuries for its therapeutic and social benefits. The Finnish sauna experience involves sitting in the hot room for 10-20 minutes, followed by a cool shower or immersion in cold water. This process can be repeated several times, with breaks for relaxation and hydration.
Today, different saunas, including infrared and steam saunas, have evolved and are found worldwide. Many people, including bodybuilders, have adopted them to improve their health and fitness. But still, the traditional Finnish sauna remains the most well-known and popular.
Benefits of Saunas
To understand the benefits of saunas, you must know how it works. Sauna works by raising the temperature of your skin to about 40° Celsius or 104° Fahrenheit. As the temperature raises, a heavy sweat occurs, and your heart rate increases as the body tries to cool down. This loosens your muscles and opens your skin, leading to relaxation, detoxification, and many other health benefits.
Below is some of the major benefits of sauna use:
Bodybuilders often engage in high-intensity workouts and consume large amounts of protein to build muscle which can lead to toxins in the body, impairing performance and recovery.
Even though the liver and kidney are the main organs responsible for removing toxins from our body, the sauna can also help.
During the sauna, the heat from the room causes you to sweat profusely, which helps to flush out toxins and impurities through sweat from your body, promoting detoxification.
Sauna use increases the activity of your body’s natural detoxification processes. One of them is the production of glutathione—a powerful antioxidant that helps to neutralize harmful toxins in your body.
By reducing the buildup of toxins in the body, you can improve your energy levels, immune function, and recovery time.
Enhances Cardiovascular Health
Cardiovascular health is very crucial as it improves endurance and fitness level.
During the sauna, the heat causes your body to sweat. Your heart rate raises as your body tries to cool down, causing blood vessels to dilate. This process increases blood and oxygen circulation to your heart and strengthens your muscles over time, enhancing heart health.
A study on 2300 sauna bathers for 20 years discovered that bathers who used the sauna regularly (4-7 times a week) had a lower risk of dying from heart disease and stroke.
Furthermore, saunas increase your cardiovascular fitness level. Cardiovascular fitness level is the ability of your body to deliver oxygen to the muscles and other organs during a workout.
If your CTL is low, using the sauna for 15 minutes after your workout can help you increase the ability to deliver oxygen to your organs and body, preventing heart attack. If your CFL is high, incorporating sauna baths into your workout routine may help you reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death.
Relieves Pain and Reduce Inflammation
Sauna use can effectively manage pain, including chronic pain conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and back pain. Since sauna heat increases temperature, the blood vessels dilate, increasing the blood supply to the muscles. This process loosens tight muscles, breaks knots, and prevents adhesion that causes pain, relieving pain.
The heat from the sauna can also reduce inflammation and ease tension in your muscles and joints by increasing circulation to the inflamed areas, which can help to alleviate pain and improve mobility over time.
The high temperature under the sauna makes your body release endorphins which are natural pain relievers.
Under sauna heat, your body releases endorphins which can minimize pain, leading to a speedy recovery.
Also, the Sauna opens up vessels that increase blood flow, oxygen, and other crucial healing nutrients to the muscles. It also helps detoxify lactic acid from the muscles, speeding up the body’s natural healing process.
Speedy recovery allows you to train more frequently and intensely, increasing muscle growth and gaining strength.
Bodybuilding can be a high-stress physical and mental activity since it involves intense workouts. This can cause soreness, pain, and inflammation of muscles.
Sauna is known for its ability to promote relaxation. When you sit in the sauna, the heat increases your skin temperature and heart rate, causing your blood vessels to dilate.
The dilated vessels increase the blood flow, carrying more nutrients and oxygen to your muscles and tissues. This process can help to release tension and soreness in your muscles, leading to overall relaxation.
Improves Skin Health
If you want to boost your self-confidence and your appearance, try the sauna.
When you use the sauna, you sweat profusely. Sweating cleanses bacteria from your skin layer and sweat glands. The dead skin is also removed and replaced by new ones, making your skin look younger and healthy. The open pores improve capillary circulation and allow the skin to absorb moisturizers and other skincare products better.
Additionally, sauna use can improve the health and appearance of your skin by increasing blood circulation and promoting collagen production. Collagen is a protein that helps to keep your skin firm and elastic.
Improves Brain Health
Sauna use increases blood flow to the brain, improving cognitive functions and reducing the decline of brain functions, such as in people with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Jari Laukkanen and his colleagues at the University of Eastern Finland conducted a 25-year research with over 2,300 people. They found that frequent sauna use (four to seven times per week, at 176 degrees F) for 19 minutes reduced the incidence of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Sauna use also improves sleep quality which is essential for brain function. Good sleep is linked with improved cognitive function, improved memory, and mood.
Improving brain health boosts your workout concentration and motivation leading to improved training results. It also reduces the risk of burnout or other negative mental health outcomes.
Improves Range of Motion
When muscles are tense or stiff, it limits their ability to move through their full range of motion. This can become a problem for bodybuilders, who rely on proper form and technique to maximize their muscle development and performance.
The heat from the sauna can help to relax muscles and reduce stiffness, leading to improved flexibility and a wider range of motion.
Promotes Weight Loss
Sauna use can promote weight loss, although it’s important to note that sauna use alone is not a sufficient method for long-term weight loss.
It promotes weight loss by increasing the body’s metabolic rate, which can increase caloric burn. The increased calorie burn can help to create a calorie deficit, which is necessary for weight loss.
Sauna use can also lead to water loss through sweating, temporarily reducing weight. However, it’s important to note that this weight loss is due to water loss, not fat loss.
Risks of Using Saunas
The following are the risks of using saunas.
Since the sauna involves much sweating, you lose water, leading to dehydration. To prevent dehydration, drink a lot of water before and after using the sauna and spend less time in the room as more time increases the chances of dehydration.
If you stay dehydrated, you can experience the following:
- Low blood pressure
- Kidney failure
- Coma unconsciousness
- Heart stroke
So leave the sauna immediately if you feel dizzy, thirsty, or have a headache.
Reduction in Sperm Production
Researchers have discovered a link between using saunas and males losing their fertility. According to a 2018 study, using saunas significantly reduced the amount of sperm that Finnish males produced when they experienced two 15-minute sauna sessions per week for three months. However, it was discovered that the effect might be reversed.
High Risk of Blood Pressure
Switching between sauna heat and baths is not advisable as it can raise your blood pressure. It may also cause your blood pressure to fall, so if you have low blood pressure, consult your doctor before using it.
Who Should Not Use Saunas
Saunas are suitable for most individuals. However, some health conditions cannot stand saunas or steam rooms. They include:
- Asthma or other breathing conditions
- Cardiovascular diseases
- High or low blood pressure
- A drunk person
- People using tranquilizers, stimulant medications, or other drugs that affect the mind
When Should You Avoid Using Sauna?
You should not use saunas when you are:
- Have very low or very high blood pressure
- You have a heart disease
- When you’ve used stimulants
The benefits of saunas are undeniable, and they have been enjoyed for centuries by many cultures worldwide. Saunas provide a range of benefits, including PAIN relief, improved cardiovascular health, and detoxification. However, it’s important to remember that sauna use also comes with risks, such as dehydration and overheating, especially for those with pre-existing medical conditions.
To enjoy the benefits of saunas while minimizing the risks, practice caution and follow safety guidelines. These include staying hydrated, avoiding alcohol and drugs, limiting sauna time, and consulting with a doctor if you have a medical condition.
Take advantage of the many benefits of saunas while being mindful of the potential risks.