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Yes, this is going to be another soapbox post, so get ready. (Don’t worry, we’re going to try and not make this a habit.)

What we’re going to talk about today is sweat. (You know… what happens when you train hard or find yourself overdressed in a high heat environment.) It has come to my attention that some people still think that the more you sweat during a workout, the more weight you lose as a result… and I am starting to see a few folks at the gym wearing layers of heavy clothes in order to sweat the weight off.

Please, if this is you (or someone you know and care about) please put an end to this dangerous and ineffective habit right now.

I’m not going to go into the reason why human beings sweat, but let me just throw a couple of little points your way:

  • Sweating is one of the ways that your body regulates its temperature.
  • Your body can handle elevated temperatures, but only to a point. If your core temperature reaches 107 degrees F, for example, it’s only a matter of time before you DIE. Think about having a high fever. Elevating your body temperature too much while you exercise can do pretty much the same thing. (So, it isn’t to anyone’s advantage to try and raise your temperature too much for too long. It’s dangerous. very dangerous.) You don’t want to get in the way of your body when it is trying to cool off, so take off the layers.
  • As you sweat, your body loses water weight. So, technically, yes, sweating a lot makes you weigh less. For a little while. But guess what: You aren’t lighter because you lost fat. You’re lighter because you’ve lost moisture in your tissues. This is moisture you need to stay alive, so you’ll put that water weight right back on in a few hours.
  • Making yourself sweat more by wearing heavy clothes or plastic bags instead of lightweight breathable fabrics won’t make you lose weight faster. It will just make you lose sweat faster – which makes you tired faster – which makes you quit workouts too soon, which makes you burn less calories in the long run. (Not a god plan.) You won’t be burning more calories or building muscles. You’ll just be losing water/sweat weight.

So Monday evening, I’m watching this guy on the treadmill next to me, and he’s wearing so many layers that he would be hot running in 16 degree weather, only we’re indoors, and it’s at least 80 degrees in the cardio room. His face is all red. He is barely able to run, so he settles into a fast walk, but he’s already to tired to even do that. He looks miserable, and I’m wondering if I’m going to have to do CPR on him if he passes out. His clothes are so saturated with sweat that he’s probably lost 4-5 lbs of water.

What exactly it is that he is trying to accomplish: Run faster? Nope. Get fitter? Nope. Get healthier? Nope. Have fun with his workout? Nope. He’s probably trying to lose weight, fast, and he thinks that sweating buckets is the way to do it.

I bet that as soon as hewas done, he walked back to the locker room, stripped down to his skivs, and weighed himself. And guess what: He probably lost 3-6 pounds in one hour. Woohoo!!!!!

Only by the next day, once his dehydration headache is gone, that water weight he lost will be right back, and he will have accomplished absolutely nothing.

This reminds me of the people I saw this summer running around in 94 degree heat wearing long-sleeved plastic shirts on (basically thick trash bags with sleeves). If you’re a wrestler trying to make your weigh-in, I can almost see it… But for anyone else, nope.  This is the kind of nonsense that kills people. Remember what happened a few years ago to comedian Martin Laurence? That very thing. He went out for a run, dressed in plastic “sweat” clothes, and ended up in a coma for a few days.

Okay, folks. Here’s a word for you: Heatstroke. ‘Nuff said.

Because repetition works, here it is again: Making yourself sweat as much as possible to lose weight doesn’t work, and it’s dangerous. Please don’t do it. #1: You won’t actually lose weight. You’ll just dehydrate. #2: It can kill you. #3: Everyone who knows this thinks you’re a dweeb, but they’re too embarrassed to actually tell you.

There’s only one way to truly lose weight: Burn more calories than you take in.

That’s it.

If you sweat a lot while you’re burning the calories, that’s fine… but it is completely irrelevant.

Forget about sweat-inducing clothes or gastric bypass surgery or lipo or diet pills. Forget about the sauna and the sweat suits and the miracle diets. I’m not suggesting that you should never do any of these things… but alone, they won’t help you be healthy and fit long-term. Some can be downright dangerous, if not potentially lethal.  Burn more calories than you take in. Period. That’s the ticket.

The good news is this: For most of us, that simply means training more without eating more than you are now… (which is healthier than training no more than you are now but eating less, by the way.) So if you’re taking in 1600 calories per day and run three miles twice per week, in theory, you can start losing more weight by still eating 1600 calories per day and running 3 miles four times per week. (See? Simple.) We’ll talk about that in more detail some other time.

Back to the sweat thing: Do things that make you sweat, but don’t focus on the sweating itself. Sweating is just a cooling mechanism. That’s all it is. You might as well try to lose weight by filing up a gallon drum with spit.

Wearing too many clothes to make you sweat more is like plugging up all the vents in your house and cranking up your AC until its motor burns out.

So let your skin breathe. Try and stay cool while you train. Buy a big turbo fan and set it up by your bike trainer or treadmill if you have your own set up at home. Drink lots of fluids. Dump the cotton and wear lightweight performance fabrics.  Do what you can to stay cool while you exercise and sweat.

What you want to do is train your muscles and your cardiovascular system, not your sweat glands.

Let sweat be a side-effect of a workout, and not its purpose.

One last thing: If you sweat a lot and work out for more than 45 minutes, you aren’t just losing water.  You’re also losing electrolytes.  Remember to rehydrate using electrolyte replacement drinks.  If you don’t mind the calories, most sports drinks like Gatorade, Cytomax, and Powerade – for example – will help take care of that for you.  If you don’t want the extra calories, look for electrolyte replacement drinks that have very little sugar or are sweetened with Splenda or other non-toxic sweeteners.

If you have any questions about hydration and electrolyte replacement, be sure to drop by either store or call us at 864.331.8483 or 864.676.04.08.  We’ll be able to steer you in the right direction.

Okay, that’s it. I’m putting the soapbox away now. Have fun, train hard, and be safe. 🙂

Remember that this Saturday morning is the Downtown Cleveland Street YMCA 5K, so come burn some calories and have some fun with us there. The start is at 8:00am and the course is gorgeous. For more info, contact the Cleveland Street YMCA at 864.242.4651.

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