If you’re a fan of MMA, Boxing or any martial art, chances are you’ve seen one of your favorite fighters training in a sauna suit. Before a fight, fighters will try to cut down any excess weight and water weight to make weight, which can translate to a pretty significant weight advantage over their opponent.
But what exactly is a sauna suit? And more importantly, how does a sauna suit work? Does a sauna suit even help with weight loss? What are the benefits of a sauna suit? In this article, we’ll briefly go over these questions and provide you with the answers so you can make an informed decision about getting one for yourself.
WHAT IS A SAUNA SUIT?
A sauna suit is a set of pants and a shirt/jacket that is typically used to increase sweating, blood circulation and weight loss. It’s usually recommended that sauna suits are to be worn by professionals only, because there can be a risk of losing too much water, which can lead to a host of other issues.
Sauna suits are often worn by boxers, MMA fighters and athletes in other sports to lose the last bit of weight / water weight before a competition.
Why do fighters want to lose weight before a competition? Advantage.
Fighters try to weigh in at the lowest weight class physically possible for themselves to make, because it can then translate to an advantage during the fight. For example, let’s say that you walk around at 180lbs, but you fight in the 155lbs division. If you’re able to lose 25 lbs and weigh in at 155lbs, which typically involves dehydration, you can then regain some weight right before the fight. That extra weight during the fight can lead to a significant advantage over your opponent.
And that’s where a sauna suit comes in.
HOW DOES A SAUNA SUIT WORK?
When fighters cut down to their fight-weight, there’s usually a bit more to lose than just fat. If you’ve watched YouTube series like UFC Embedded, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at what fighters put their bodies through before a bout.
Often times you’ll see fighters take salt baths, train in sauna suits and sit in the sauna / steam room for lengthy periods of time to try and get rid of as much water weight as possible.
What's the point of a salt bath? Well, water moves where salt is, and it's thought that by sitting in a salt bath, water moves out of a fighter’s body and into the salt bath.
With regards to how a sauna suit helps with weight loss, it does the opposite of what great workout clothes are designed to do.
Workout clothes are primarily made to be breathable. When you’re running, hitting the bag or lifting weights, you want your body heat to escape. You want your clothes to be breathable to promote air flow underneath them and onto your skin. One way your body does that is through sweating, a natural process where little droplets of water, salt and other minerals form on your skin. When these sweat droplets come into contact with the air, they evaporate and help cool your body down.
A sauna suit basically prevents this from happening. A great quality sauna suit will usually have a rubberized interior, and rubber doesn’t breathe like cotton, spandex or your typical fabrics used in training clothes.
Instead, it keeps the outside air out, which prevents that sweat-meets-air cooling process from taking place. By blocking the cooling effect of sweating, your body gets into a cycle:
- Training increases body temperature
- Body sweats to cool itself down
- Sauna suit prevents the cooling effect by limiting exposure to the air
- Body doesn’t cool off
- Body sweats to try and cool itself down
By trapping body heat in a make-shift bubble and preventing the cooling effect of sweating, sauna suits put your body in a sweating cycle, which keeps repeating itself as long as you’re working hard.
You can imagine that during a 1 hour workout consisting of conditioning, bag work and general fight training, an athlete is going to lose a ton of water weight because of the function of the sauna suit. If you’re a trained professional (with supervision), this could be great, especially if you’re trying to make weight for a fight. If you’re a beginner, it could potentially dangerous, which is why we recommend that our Contender Sauna Suit only be used if you know the potential risks.
BENEFITS OF A SAUNA SUIT
Sauna suits can also have benefits beyond weight loss, ranging from increasing blood circulation to reducing injury risk and promoting muscular growth.
INCREASED BLOOD CIRCULATION
When your body heats up during training, everything starts working harder. Your heart starts pumping more blood to try and keep up with the demands of your muscles, joints and tendons, supplying them with more nutrients and oxygen. By keeping your body temperature high during a workout, a sauna suit can help push your body through a hard training session by ensuring that all your muscles and joints are given a constant supply of oxygen.
REDUCED RISK OF INJURY
MMA and fight training in a sauna suit helps fight muscle tightness and rigidity by decreasing lactic acid buildup (this is what the burning sensation in your muscles during a workout is) and muscle soreness. Because building heat builds flexibility; when your body’s warm, your muscles relax.This is why it’s usually recommended to warm up before engaging in intense exercise – an increase in body temperature means loosening of your muscles, and a reduced risk of injury. By keeping your body temperature high, a sauna suit can reduce your risk of injury.
INCREASED CARDIO AND BETTER PERFORMANCE
A study in the International Journal of Research in Sports Physiology showed heat therapy combined with exercise improves cardiovascular health by triggering maximal oxygen uptake, or VO2 max - a measure of how much oxygen your body can take up and efficiently use during exercise.
In this study, the researchers matched 14 healthy and endurance trained men and women and had them complete a usual volume and intensity of training for 14 days, with 1 group performing all training sessions in a sauna suit.
After the 14 days of training, the group that trained with the sauna suit showed some pretty remarkable improvements in different domains. The researchers saw that the athletes that trained with a sauna suit showed improvements in VO2max, ventilatory threshold, and time trial performances. In simple terms, the athletes that trained with a sauna suit were able to take up more oxygen and efficiently use it during exercise as well as perform better in timed endurance tests. Incredible.
When our bodies are exposed to intense heat, it releases proteins called "heat shock proteins". These heat shock proteins are made by our cells when they're exposed to higher-than-normal temperatures to try to mitigate the metabolic stress, which helps protect, grow and recover muscle cell during and after exercise. This increase in muscle cell growth and recovery is yet another benefit of wearing a sauna suit during exercise – the heat and exercise together creates a perfect storm for muscular growth.
HOW SAUNA SUITS WORK AND BENEFITS OF SAUNA SUITS
That’s basically how sauna suits work and help with weight loss, training and recovery. The whole thing is simple, really. Sauna suits help with weight loss and water-weight loss by keeping your body hot and blocking the cooling effect of sweating by preventing skin contact with the outside air. The rubber lining doesn’t allow heat to escape and prevents much outside air from coming in contact with your skin, which throws your body in a cycle of sweating in an attempt to cool off.
The increased body temperature that comes along with training in a sauna suit can also have a host of other benefits, from reduced injury risk to muscular growth and better performance. But like most things, they should be used in moderation – you should never overwork your body. That being said, a sauna suit is a fantastic addition to your training arsenal, and we’ve crafted the premium, anti-rip Contender Sauna Suit to help you with your training. Whether you’re a professional fighter, boxer or just someone who likes to push themselves in the gym, we recommend giving the Contender Sauna Suit a go.