The sauna suit is one of those pieces of fitness equipment where its efficacy in achieving various health and fitness benefits is hotly debated. One big claim many users often make is that it is effective for improving weight loss and fat burning.
So are sauna suits good for losing fat? Sauna suits may be good for losing fat, although the amount of research to back this claim is limited. However, sauna suits can enhance fitness outcomes by slightly increasing the number of calories you burn and improving your cardiorespiratory fitness, which may indirectly improve fat loss.
In this article, I will go through what a sauna suit is, what the science says about weight loss with a sauna suit and everything you need to know about what it can and cannot do.
What is a Sauna Suit?
A sauna suit is a specific piece of fitness garment that you wear when you exercise to make you sweat more. The suit is made from waterproof and airtight materials such as neoprene, nylon, or PVC.
The suit can put you in a hotter environment by stopping the sweat from evaporating, which would otherwise be able to cool you down. This restriction on the sweat from evaporating will leave your body’s surface temperature warmer as it struggles to cool down, making you sweat even more.
Can You Lose Weight With A Sauna Suit?
The simple answer to this question is yes, you can lose weight with a sauna suit. But the important thing to remember is what we are losing when we lose weight with a sauna suit in the short and long term.
When the sauna suit came out in the 1960s, it was hailed as a must-have garment for people who wanted to lose weight. The problem was that a large proportion of people who used it were not fully aware that the vast majority of the weight they were losing immediately was water weight.
Let’s look at the science of weight loss with a sauna suit.
Study #1: Sauna Suits Produce Only Slightly Better Weight Loss Results in Overweight and Obese Adults
In a study funded by the ACE (American Council of Exercise), researchers tested a group of 45 overweight to obese adults (BMI over 25) who were between the ages of 18 and 60.
The men’s body fat percentages had to be over 22%, and the women’s body fat percentages had to be over 32% in this experiment. The participants were divided into groups and given the same exercise routine, but one wore a sauna suit, and another did not.
The sauna suit group had a body weight reduction of 2.6%, whereas the exercise-only group had a body weight reduction of 0.9%. Body fat percentage decreased by 13.8% in the sauna suit group, whereas it decreased by 8.3% in the exercise alone group.
However, it is also important to realize that this study analyzed a small sample size with only 45 participants. Also, in terms of absolute body fat percentage decreases, the differences between the two groups are negligible.
Study #2: Wearing a Sauna Suit During HIIT Does NOT Burn Significantly More Calories
In another study from 2020, researchers looked at the immediate effects of high-intensity interval training with the use of a sauna suit. The researchers analyzed the energy expenditure (i.e., calories burned) and the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC, i.e., the amount of oxygen needed for your body to cool down after exercise).
For the purpose of weight loss, you need to be in a state called a negative energy balance, which means you need to consume fewer calories than the level needed to sustain your current body weight and all the activity you do. This study can give us a clue as to how much more energy you can burn with a sauna suit.
The researchers found that training with a sauna suit during high-intensity interval exercise brought about a higher energy expenditure when compared to not wearing a sauna suit. Still, it only resulted in an increase of 23 kcal. With such a negligible difference, this study demonstrates that a sauna suit may not benefit weight loss.
How Much Weight Can You Lose With a Sauna Suit? (And Does It Last?)
With the sauna suit, you can lose considerable weight within a single exercise session. You can lose between 1 to 3 lbs immediately after working out in a sauna suit. But the problem with this is that most of it is water weight. This means the weight loss cannot last long enough to help you keep the weight off.
The reason why you will gain the weight back is that you will need to hydrate immediately afterward. You will want to stay hydrated because research has shown that hydration is important to achieving weight loss. When you are dehydrated, it makes you more fatigued and brings down your metabolism.
If you want to lose weight, you should focus on nutrition first. Check out our guide on cutting weight for powerlifting. Even if you’re not a powerlifter, you can apply many of our guidelines to help you lose weight.
Do Sauna Suits Burn More Calories?
Sauna suits may potentially help you burn off more calories, but only a negligible amount. Long term, the way you may be able to burn off more calories from using a sauna suit is through the enhanced improvements in your cardiorespiratory fitness levels, i.e., your VO2max.
This can also improve the amount of training you can do, potentially burning off more calories.
Benefits of Wearing a Sauna Suit
There are other evidence-based benefits of wearing a sauna suit. They are:
- Quick water weight loss
- Improved VO2 max
- Better cardiovascular health
- Improved heat acclimation
- More efficient warm-ups
- Better heat retention in cold weather
1. Quick Water Weight Loss
Using a sauna suit can aid in losing water weight by making you sweat at a faster rate than without it. This can be useful for different people, particularly athletes who need to make weight for a competition in their sport.
Common examples are boxing and powerlifting, where athletes must meet a certain weight range for their weight classes.
If you’re a powerlifter who’s trying to cut weight to make a lower weight class, check out Powerlifting Cutting Program: 7 Rules To Follow.
2. Improved VO2 Max
Various studies have shown that the addition of a sauna suit to your own exercise routine, particularly one that includes cardiovascular exercises, can actually enhance the improvement of your VO2 max, which is a measure of your cardiorespiratory fitness.
This may be useful for people looking to improve their endurance performance, such as marathon runners or other athletes in other sports requiring endurance.
3. Better Cardiovascular Health
Adding a sauna suit in conjunction with regular exercise can help improve your cardiovascular health.
In one study, researchers concluded that exercising in a sauna suit can reduce the risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Wondering what kind of cardio is best to do alongside powerlifting? Check out 10 Best Cardio For Powerlifters (Science-Backed).
4. Improved Heat Acclimation
The sauna suit has been shown to be effective at helping you adapt to physical activity in the heat. This makes it a useful tool for people who are preparing to perform or exercise in a different country with a hotter climate.
However, it cannot fully replicate the adaptations your body may make when performing physical activity in hot weather.
5. More Efficient Warm-Ups
With the sauna suit’s ability to reduce your capacity to dissipate heat, it can be a very effective tool for reducing warm-up times for training, whether it is strength training, endurance training, or sports training.
This can be incredibly useful for anyone where time is a scarce resource, such as part-time athletes or those with busy schedules. It also offers more time spent on other parts of the workout.
6. Better Heat Retention in Cold Weather
There is better heat retention with using the sauna suit. The airtight and waterproof feature of a sauna suit stops your sweat from evaporating as easily, which would otherwise help you cool down.
For this reason, it can be very useful for improving heat retention in training in cold weather. If it can keep your muscles warmer for longer, it may also reduce your chances of injuries.
Risks of Wearing a Sauna Suit
Using a sauna suit is not without risks, as there have been cases in the past where misuse has led to athletes suffering from severe dehydration.
However, these extreme cases can be avoided by using a sauna suit properly – i.e., not using one in a hot climate, not wearing one for longer than 60 minutes, and not using one if you have pre-existing conditions such as diabetes.
When wearing a sauna suit, you should always stay hydrated. You must also seek advice from a relevant qualified medical professional before using a sauna suit or following any exercise program.
Risk of Dehydration
The inability of your sweat to evaporate is what causes your body’s surface skin temperature to decrease, which encourages you to sweat even more. This aggressive condition can rapidly bring you to a state of dehydration.
You will need to rehydrate when you start to become dehydrated. Possible symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, low concentration, dark and low urine output, headaches, and lightheadedness.
Risk of Hyponatremia
Along with the water loss from the extreme sweating from wearing a sauna suit, you will also lose electrolytes, which include minerals such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
Sodium is very important for the healthy functioning of your nervous system and muscular system. When you deplete too many electrolytes, you are at risk for something called hyponatremia.
You may experience symptoms of hyponatremia, such as nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps or spasms, confusion, irritability, and physical weakness.
Risk of Hyperthermia
The sauna suit stops you from losing a lot of heat, and combining it with exercise can make your body very hot.
This can lead to a condition called hyperthermia, which has different stages depending on how severe it is and can present with symptoms similar to those of dehydration.
Should You Wear a Sauna Suit?
Yes, you should wear a sauna suit if you’re looking to improve your heart health and cardio fitness. Even though there is limited research to confidently support the sauna suit’s efficacy on fat loss, the evidence to support its ability to enhance your improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness levels makes it a very useful product.
Remember to seek advice from a medical doctor if you are about to partake in physical activity with a sauna suit.
Additional Sauna Suit Resources
- Sauna Suit Results (Here’s How Much Weight I Lost)
- 7 Sauna Suit Benefits & Are They Worth It?
- How To Wash a Sauna Suit (What NOT To Do)
- 7 Best Sauna Suits (Tried & Tested)
- How To Use a Sauna Suit To Cut Weight (Step By Step)
About The Author: Norman Cheung ASCC, British Powerlifting Team Coach
Norman Cheung is a powerlifting, and accredited strength and conditioning coach under the UKSCA. He has been coaching powerlifting since 2012 and has been an IPF Team GB coach since 2016. He has experience coaching various lifters, from novices to international medallists and international university teams. Alongside coaching, he takes interest in helping powerlifters take their first step into coaching. He currently runs his coaching services at strongambitionscoaching.com