Can You Lose Weight in a Sauna? Calories Burned in Sauna

There is a ton of misinformation out there on the world wide web that would like people to believe that you can lose weight in a sauna. Some claim that there are anywhere from 300-1000 calories burned in a sauna session of 30 minutes.

Doesn’t that sound nice? You get to kick back on your bum in a hot room for 30 minutes and use an average of 10 to 33.3 calories per minute? You wish!

If you have ever watched the readout on a treadmill, you’ll know that burning a rate of even 14 cals per minute is extremely high and hard to maintain. So what makes people think that you burn such a high rate of calories in a sauna?

They claim that your body has to struggle to maintain it’s preferred temperature, which causes the metabolism to kick into overdrive, thus using calories. There is truth to that but in no way would that ever cause you to use any more than double the rate of calories for doing exactly what it is that you do in a sauna or steam room; sitting.

How many calories are burned in a sauna?
Here’s an equation you can use to estimate out how many you’re burning:
Number of calories burned in 30 minutes of sitting (specific to your bodyweight) x 1.5 (possibly x 2) = calories burned

For example, a healthy male of 185 pounds burns 42 calories in 30 minutes of sitting. To find the number that this same individual burns while sitting in a sauna, multiply those calories by 1.5 and 2 in order to get an estimate. In this case, the individual would burn roughly 63 to 84 calories. That’s a huge difference from the 300 to 1000 estimate!

Can You Lose Weight in a Sauna or Steam Room?
Yes. But you’re not building muscle, you aren’t burning a significantly raised rate of calories, and you’re really only losing water weight. In addition, not replacing the water you are sweating out can actually make it harder for your body to lose weight.

The weight that you lose while you sit in a sweltering room is purely water, water that you should be replacing as fast as you are losing, otherwise you are just severely dehydrating your body. Not practicing proper hydration while you’re in one of these hotboxes is unhealthy and actually makes it tougher for your body to lose pounds permanently, as hydration is an essential component in shedding extra weight.

Really, you wouldn’t even want to use a sauna for weight loss even in the most temporary instances. For example, if you were trying to lose weight very quickly for an event or to squeeze into a particular dress, you would feel (and maybe even look) terrible if you had used a sauna to drop those last few pounds before the event without rehydrating your body after the sweat session.

The truth is…
You’re much better off with real exercise. You create a true temperature regulation/metabolic boost effect on your body while exercising; when you push your body into strenuous physical activity, your metabolism is stoked as it tries to regulate body temperature, AND all of your muscles are called upon to function in unison, and your heart rate is elevated. That burns calories! Far more than sitting in a hot steam room or sauna.

There’s no problem with joining the leagues of people who make sitting in a hot box a fundamental part of their regular workout regime, in fact, there are debatably some health benefits to be gained from it. Just make sure that your main objective is not solely to lose weight; the calories burned in those sitting sessions are not substantial, you aren’t burning fat, and you are not building muscle.

In closing, enjoying a sauna or steam room in moderation (and with approval from your doctor) is not a bad addition to a fitness routine and it can be very enjoyable and serve as a bit of a treat after a particularly demanding workout. Just don’t erroneously believe that it’s attributing a noteworthy amount of calories burned to your total or that it’s going to help you lose any weight that you wont re-drink in the next hour or two.


06/30/15 9:20am

It would be better to shiver your way to weight loss. Sit in a cold room or outside on a slightly cold day. Your body will use every muscle to shiver and try and stay warm, burning lots of calories! Just don't stay out too long and get hypothermic.


05/31/15 5:28am

It is a wonderful treat after a day of skiing though! But that is all it is: a treat, not a way of losing weight for me...... Just lovely and relaxing after a day of pretty strenuous exercise.


02/05/15 8:44am



10/13/14 8:51am

I can explain this. My source comes from cellular bio, human anatomy, and chemistry textbooks. Heat is a form of energy that is generated from all other forms of energy. However there is very little that can be done to convert heat into anything else.
Energy can't be created or destroyed it can only move from one body to another. Our bodies use many ways to regulate their temperature. Firstly radiation. Our bodies radiate heat because our body temp is greater than room or air temp (typically). Radiation occurs without any work from our cells so we use calories during radiation.

Sweating is our bodies way to remove heat from our cells to the outside through evaporation and osmosis, and also utilizing new cool water we put into our bodies to cool down. You probably already know that evaporation occurs without help from our bodies, but osmosis (the process in which our bodies allow differences in water to travel through our cells from higher concentrations to lower concentrations) occurs entirely on its own as well.

Breathing also is used to remove heat from our bodies, which is why quick shallow breathing occurs during a workout and after. Your lungs increase the surface area through which your body can express heat. When cool air enters your lungs, heat from radiation and evaporating sweat (you sweat inside your lungs) moves to the cooler air. It is true that in a steam room you would breathe more heavily due to your lungs inability to exchange heat and water vapor (only heat in a sauna) but breathing is controlled by your diaphragm, a muscle that requires little energy compared to the heart, and your breathing is only slightly elevated. Plus you could simply breathe heavily on your own (though not recommended because your blood ph may increase causing alkalosis).

So why do people say that your metabolism increases when your body tries to regulate heat? Well, your body functions most effectively at 98.6 degrees F. To ensure the temp stays close to ideal temperature our endocrine system has to intervene. When it's too cold it focuses maintaining heat on our internal organs, when it gets to hot it releases chemicals that attempt to speed up our other cooling methods.

The endocrine system does this all the time and is the only significant organ that is doing elevated work in a sauna/steam room. However it does not need to do that much work, because our bodies are only absorbing a fraction of the heat from outside our bodies, you would have to stay in a steam room until your body was the same temp as the steam room before the ES did any substantially different work. All the time you'd be taking in fresh (non boiling) water, and staying in this long could cause severe skin and organ damage. Even at this temp, the ES only does a relatively small amount of work compared to the heart, brain, nervous system, lymphatic system, etc.

Now when doing cardio your body does work onto a system that causes our body to burn an appropriate amount of calories while also dramatically increasing body temp (much faster than a hot room actually). This increase is due to frictional and mechanical energies losing energy to your surroundings as heat, rather than relying on passive heat exchange.

To my knowledge there isn't much info on exactly how much more work is done sitting in the heat than sitting at room temp, but you would expect that the difference would be insignificant; even more so than what the OP suggested.

The formula he gave is a generalized version of a basal metabolic rate formula. No formula (that I've seen) takes temp into consideration when determining BMR.

Hope that was helpful!

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