Every so often I see someone in the gym in a full-on sweat suit, complete with hoodie over their head, pouring out so much sweat it makes me hot just looking at them. Even sitting in a sauna wearing nothing but a swimsuit is pretty miserable in my opinion, much less exercising in those kinds of conditions.
Needless to say, people’s desperation to lose weight continues to fuel all kinds of crazy fads. The latest one is sweating it out. Ways to increase the heat and get your sweat on include wearing traditional sweats, plastics sweat suits (also called sauna suits), sweat belts and even wearing garbage bags. Listen, the only time I’ve ever run wearing a plastic garbage bag is when I didn’t have an umbrella, and it wasn’t a pretty sight. Call me crazy, but wearing any of those things during a workout seems like torture.
So, why are people so eager to sweat it out? Their goal is to lose weight, but does sweating more really help?
How It Works
Sweating it out in clothing that makes you sweat more is nothing new. Athletes, like bodybuilders, boxers and mixed martial arts fighters, have been using this trick to make weight for years. The idea is to maintain increased body heat throughout the workout.
In normal circumstances, your body uses sweat as a cooling system to help regulate your body temperature. When your body gets to a certain temperature, your sweat glands begin to produce sweat. The cooling affect begins as the sweat evaporates off your skin.
If the body is wrapped in thick clothing or plastic, sweat is unable to evaporate and the cooling system fails. Your body will then continue to produce sweat in attempt to regulate body temperature. The end result is sopping wet clothes and a lot of fluid lost.
Will you weigh less after running in a 30-gallon multipurpose garbage bag? Yes, but the weight loss is simply from a loss of fluids – not fat. It is a very temporary weight loss, and is not a healthy weight loss at all. Your body weight will go right back up as soon as you eat or drink again.
Pros & Cons
If you need to lose weight very fast, sweating off the pounds works like a charm. My husband drove three hours to a bodybuilding competition in sweats with the seat warmers on and heat on full blast (in the middle of the summer) to make weight for a bodybuilding competition. It was the most miserable ride of my life but he made weight and won his class.
While sweating the weight off is a necessary evil in some sports, the risks outweigh the benefits for traditional exercise. Since your body is approximately 75% water, and requires ample fluids for your body to function properly, this kind of dehydration can be detrimental to your health.
In case you aren’t completely convinced yet, losing this amount of water and electrolytes can cause heat exhaustion, which can then lead to cardiac arrest. This is not something anyone should take lightly or try without supervision. Unless you are an athlete who has to make weight to compete, I’d say you should put the trash bag back in the garbage can.
Let’s be honest here. People don’t just want to lose weight, they want to lose fat. Everyone, in my opinion, should stop using the title ‘weight loss programs’ and start calling them ‘fat loss programs’. Losing excess fat should be the goal, not losing any kind of weight at all. Fat is unattractive. It’s bumpy, flabby, unshapely and downright unhealthy. Water, on the other hand, is essential for your health.
The truth is, if something sounds too good to be true it normally is. Weight loss is more than what you wear, but more about what you do. The only safe way to really lose unwanted pounds, and lose it for good, is to decrease calories (while improving the quality of food choices) and increase activity.
The good news is you don’t have to look absolutely ridiculous wearing a sweat suit to your gym in the middle of the summer. And, the more comfortable you are during the workout, the more likely you are to stick with it.
The Bottom Line: Fit or Flop?
So, when it comes to exercise attire, stay cool and wear what you feel good in. Have fun with your fitness fashion and save your sweats for the winter. While some fitness fads are worth trying, sweating it out is a big fat flop.
FIT TIP:The American Council of Exercise recommends drinking 16-24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost in exercise. Not sure how much you lose working out? Just for kicks, try weighing yourself before and after your workout.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion: