Does Sweating Burn Fat?

“Turn off the AC and put on your eskimo jacket when you work out.
Get drenched in sweat.
More Sweat = More Fat Loss.

No, that’s absolutely not what I’m asking you to do.
In fact, I’m going to unveil the truth behind this much touted, over-generalized statement of alarming popularity, which may sound convincing to many people who have probably just set off in their fitness ships, or even to many captains of their own ships.

Let’s start with the basics by trying to understand what sweat actually is, and why we sweat.

What is sweat?


Sweat is mostly water, with traces of minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, along with some by products of protein breakdown. Along with this, it may contain some traces of lactic acid and other minerals as well.

Hold on to this basic fact, we’ll come back to this later.

Why do we sweat?
The human body needs to maintain itself at a constant temperature of 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s at this temperature that all your physiological and biochemical functions occur at their optimum levels. Increase or decrease this temperature, and your body goes haywire.

But hey, your brain is one smart machine! It tells your body to autoregulate its temperature by either burning fuel at a more rapid rate (if the temperature drops, that is, in cases of hypothermia) or by releasing fluids from your body if the temperature attempts to rise – fluids which evaporate from the skin surface, thereby cooling you off.

Now this is what is known as sweating, perspiration, or diaphoresis.
It happens not only when you run or work out, but also if you stand doing nothing for 5 minutes in the harsh Kolkata sun in the summer, or if you see a ghost in a dark alley!

So going by the above two facts, sweating is just a mechanism by which your body thermoregulates itself, and the single major component of sweat is – water, not fat. The chemical composition of water and fat are very different from each other and one cannot convert into another. Trust me, even Professor Dumbledore’s spells won’t be able to do it, or for that matter, Tom Riddle’s!

So to clear one of the biggest myths in fitness history, and sum up what I’ve covered so far – SWEATING DOESN’T BURN FAT!!

Now that we’ve got that squared off, let’s proceed to understand what fat actually is and why you shouldn’t force yourself to sweat.

What is fat?

See, fat is an energy source, an organic compound commonly known as lipid. It technically doesn’t melt or burn. It gets used as energy. When your body needs energy to perform its normal biological functions and does not have available glucose to use, it turns to your adipose tissues, which in turn release the fatty acids which then get used as energy in a process called lipolysis, thereby producing other by products in your body. And these other by products do not include sweat.

Also on the other hand, the rate of perspiration varies from one person to another. See, the number of sweat glands isn’t constant across all human bodies. You may be born with 2 million whereas the guy running on the treadmill beside you may have 4 million of those. So if you see him drenched in sweat while you’re not, it doesn’t mean that he’s working harder than you or that he’s burning more fat than you. It can merely mean that he has 2 million more pumps to pump that sweat out!

Why you shouldn’t force-sweat

You sweat during any strenuous physical activity because your core temperature rises and your body has to thermoregulate with the help of perspiration. So it is vital that you replenish your water after or during your workout. Drink enough water and take enough salt. Don’t cut down on it.

However, never force-sweat by wearing extra clothing and working out in very hot conditions just to achieve that sweat flow. Chances are, you may get dehydrated and may collapse on the ground in more serious conditions. It’s dangerous.

If it really worked then there would be no one fat in a tropically hot country like India, going by the amount we sweat night and day. Also, by that logic, everyone in Canada would be fat as polar bears!

Here are few things you should keep in mind:

  1. Switch on the AC, work out well in comfort. No pressure.
  2. Don’t force-sweat if you don’t want to collapse on the ground and get admitted in Emergency.
  3. Replenish your fluids during/after workout. You can lose upto 2-3 litres of water. That’s a LOT!
  4. Not all perspiration is visible. You ALWAYS perspire and lose water. It’s important to drink enough water through the day. 3-5 litres is a good number to target.

 

So, stop believing the sweat-hype. Sweating neither signifies fat loss, nor causes it. Sweat it out in the gym metaphorically, but on a literal level, do crank up that AC or those fans, and concentrate on your form and workout intensity, instead of trying to saturate your t-shirt with perspiration!

 

Article Credits – Dev Biswas

Dev Biswas

Dev Biswas

Editor-in-Chief - FITMAG and Senior Nutrition Consultant at SQUATS. Engineer, Writer, Musician, Singer - overall a connoisseur of creativity. Engages in philosophical rants about the world and existence when he's not writing, planning diets and workouts for clients or singing. Get in touch with him at www.devbiswas.com