The Secret Behind Sweating and Weight Loss

Jessica Smith
by Jessica Smith
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The Secret Behind Sweating and Weight Loss

You’ve just had a seriously sweat-filled workout, and you’re already feeling lighter. You step on the scale, and your suspicions are confirmed — you’ve actually lost a pound! Yes!

This proves sweating helps you lose weight, right? Not exactly.

While you did step on the scale and see that your “weight” has dropped, it’s due to fluid loss, not permanent weight loss. In other words, as soon as you rehydrate (which you should do, stat, especially if you’ve seen a drop in your scale weight since before your workout), your weight will return to the level it was prior to the start of your session. For proper rehydration, the general recommendation is to drink 16–24 ounces of water per pound lost during exercise, which is important because dehydration can cause everything from muscle cramps to dizziness if not addressed quickly.

OK, but doesn’t sweating a lot mean you’re burning more calories, and that will help you lose weight faster?

That isn’t exactly true either. Despite what some brands or products claim, those heated yoga classes or sweat suits won’t help you permanently drop pounds by increasing your sweat level alone. Why not? Your calorie burn isn’t measured by the amount of sweat you shed during a workout but rather by the amount of intensity or effort you put into it. Measuring your heart rate or tracking your perceived exertion level during your workout is a much more accurate way to track your expenditure than by how sweaty you are by the end.

And if you don’t get super soaked during your gym session, don’t “sweat it” either — the amount each individual perspires has to do with the number of sweat glands you were born with. (Most of us have somewhere between 2–4 million of them.) The functions of sweat are to help cool your body and to regulate your temperature, whether you’re rocking it out in cycling class or waiting for the bus on a hot summer day.

So, what does it all boil down to? Sweat is a good thing — it’s your body’s cooling system, but don’t count on using it as your gauge for lasting weight loss. Breaking a sweat (and the amount you perspire) has more to do with your genetics and the temperature of your environment than the intensity of your workout or the amount of calories you are burning. Skip trying to simply sweat off the pounds with saunas and sweat suits. For true, lasting weight loss, instead keep your focus on a consistent, balanced workout plan and a healthy diet with the right caloric deficit.

About the Author

Jessica Smith
Jessica Smith

As someone who struggled to lose weight for years, Jessica found that the key to her own 40-pound weight loss was making small, healthy lifestyle changes that led to big, lasting results. Now, as a certified wellcoach, fitness instructor and personal trainer, she has spent the last 15 years helping students and clients reach their goals in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami. She now reaches millions online through her YouTube Channel and home exercise DVD series. Please visit walkonwalkstrong.com to learn more about her fun, results-driven programs for all levels of exercisers.

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12 responses to “The Secret Behind Sweating and Weight Loss”

  1. Avatar kevinmhuff says:

    How is this a secret??? You tricked me into reading one of the biggest “DUH” blogs I’ve seen. What a waste.

    • Avatar Mike G says:

      Yeah this article is just weird. I thought I was going to read something breakthrough or at the very least , informative..

      However, it’s just a catcher title, with forced content.. I don’t think ANYONE at all was thinking “oh if i sweat, it means im losing weight!” what the heck

      • Avatar Kat Damodred says:

        Unfortunately, there ARE people who actually do think that. I have a coworker who legitimately believes that saunas and working out with saran wrap around your middle will cause real weight loss due to sweating.

        There’s simply no reasoning with those types, alas.

    • Avatar Dina says:

      I agree, Kat. I know people who will wear hoodies and sweats on an 85 degree day so they will lose more weight during a workout. Weird.

  2. Avatar La Bandita says:

    Older and old school work out people still use those silver sweat suits or put on heavy hot 100% cotton hoodies in the middle of a heat wave. Its funny to watch. Its more a generational thing.

  3. Avatar dayna says:

    I think this is a great article. So many people are looking for the easy way out (like a sauna or sweat suit) when they should be eating for weight loss and exercising for health.

  4. Avatar debra says:

    Can sweating help you lose inches?

  5. Avatar Adrian Sanchez says:

    wow…

  6. Avatar Adrian Sanchez says:

    Dear author, thanks to this catching headline about the “secret” behind sweating, I clicked on your article. Congrats. You got me. The bad news is that I’m now unsubscribing from my fitnesspal because of it. Great job.

  7. I skimmed the article, and there’s nothing wrong with it–it’s good information. However, I’d also say a better focus is to especially emphasize consistency with nutrition, if weight loss is the goal. Working out hard can actually increase appetite, so moderation and consistency in whatever exercise you do is probably wise…and then track your daily dietary intake and see what works for you! Tweak as necessary, stick with it. Everyone gets discouraged at times, so just get back up whenever you falter or struggle, keep going when you stall, and eventually, you’ll WIN!

  8. Avatar Angela says:

    I’m grateful that the article debunked an assumed association. Trainers and the like always berated me for not “working hard enough” because I’ve never been a big sweater. Now I can tell anyone who cares to take a long walk off of a short pier and just let me work as hard as I can.

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