Sauna suits can be a great tool to elevate your workouts. The benefits of properly using a sauna suit range from improved cardio and muscle growth to enhanced recovery. However, like with anything, overusing a sauna suit can have some cons. In this article, we take a brief look at some of the pros and cons of wearing a sauna suit, whether it be for MMA, boxing or weight loss.
WHAT IS A SAUNA SUIT?
Before getting into the pros and cons of using a sauna suit / sweat suit, it’s best to properly define what it. A sauna suit is a set of pants and a shirt/jacket that is typically used to increase sweating, blood circulation and weight loss. Sauna suits are usually used by athletes (typically fighters, boxers and wrestlers) to lose weight for a competitions that have strict weight requirements.
SAUNA SUIT PROS AND CONS: THE PROS
We’ve previously gone over the benefits of wearing a sauna suit for workouts and weight loss in another article, but we think they’re such great tools in an athlete’s arsenal that it’s worth going over them again - especially when directly comparing sauna suit pros and cons.
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.
SAUNA SUIT PROS AND CONS: THE CONS
Like with all things, there are definitely some drawbacks to overusing a sauna suit or overworking yourself when wearing one. These cons can be pretty much avoided completely if you understand how a sauna suit works and how to properly use it as a tool in your training.
Working out in a sauna suit isn’t easy. The increased body temperature puts extra stress on your body, and while pushing yourself beyond your limits can sometimes be beneficial, it can also be detrimental and lead to overtraining. The higher body temperature, increased blood circulation and sweat from using the sauna suit combined with high intensity exercise (hitting the bag, sparring, lifting weights, sprints etc.) is a recipe for an incredible workout, but it also requires some rest and recovery.
Overtraining happens when you exceed your body's ability to recover from intense exercise. When athletes are overtrained, they usually have a period of worse performance and plateau. Simply put, when you push your body too hard and don’t give yourself time to recover, it starts to give out.
Know your capabilities, work hard, but don’t overwork yourself.
Up to 60% of the human adult body is water. Water carries nutrients to our cells in our body and oxygen to out brain. It helps us absorb and distribute minerals, vitamins, amino acids and other nutrients. It flushes out toxins and wastes.
Our body is constantly battling between water intake and water loss. Drink more water and your body will get rid of more. Drink less water and your body will hold on to what you have.
When we work out and our body temperature gets high, our body starts sweating as a cooling process. Sweat too much without rehydrating and you might kick your body’s water balance out of whack. Since working out in a sauna suit kicks sweating into overdrive, overusing it without properly rehydrating and consuming electrolytes like sodium and potassium can lead to some issues.
If you’re going to use a sauna suit for weight loss, fighting or for any other purpose, be sure to stay hydrated.
Like all tools, sauna suits have their pros and cons. However, when used properly and under supervision, sauna suits could be a great addition to your training regimen. Their benefits are hard to ignore, and if you understand the risks and train smart, there’s no reason why you can’t reap it’s benefits.