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Does Infrared Sauna Burn Fat? According to a Doctor

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: July 15, 2022

Going into the sauna is often one of the highlights after a tough training session. And when I first started using new infrared saunas at the gym, I got to talk to some of the other personal trainers and doctors about the health benefits.

The topic of body fat and overall weight loss came up, so I decided to dive into the relevant literature to see if going into an infrared sauna promises a good impact on fat cells.

Here’s what my research revealed.

Quick Summary

  • Many people have started going into infrared saunas after training to boost their muscle recovery and weight loss.
  • It’s important to keep in mind that the initial weight loss during infrared sauna sessions comes from sweating and losing water.
  • But the heat from infrared light could also help you burn calories more efficiently and speed up your weight loss journey.

Does Infrared Light Burn Fat?

Pinching side body fats

No, infrared light doesn’t burn fat, and it does not help you lose weight directly.

Studies conducted so far have not shown a clear link [1]. But you do have to take a closer look at how infrared saunas work and what the heat effect can influence.

First of all, scientists have shown that going to the sauna can help you with weight loss [2].

However, when it comes to an infrared sauna, the way your body heats up to cause more sweating is very different, and the result is a limited impact on fat.

What you will lose if you start sweating significantly is quite a bit of water weight. But since you need to replenish that lost water after the sauna, it’s really just a temporary effect.

So, don’t weigh yourself after you finish in the sauna and assume you’re losing weight.

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Is There A Difference Between A Traditional Sauna And Infrared Sauna?

The main difference between traditional saunas and infrared saunas is the method of delivering heat to your body.

Traditional saunas will use hot air and steam to increase the temperature inside the sauna. As you sit inside the sauna, your core temperature increases and your body reacts with sweating, leading to burning fat.

The other thing your body will do both during and after your trip to the sauna is increasing metabolic processes, and it will also help you build up more muscle mass [3].

With infrared saunas, the process is a bit different. They create infrared heat that your body absorbs. Essentially, the air in the sauna room doesn’t heat up, but your body still does.

The big question is whether one or the other is better for burning calories.

Based on my research, there isn’t any conclusive evidence that infrared sauna therapy is better than the traditional type. It’s still a good option, but I personally prefer using the traditional ones.

Related article: Do Sauna Suits Help You Lose Weight? 

Other Benefits of Infrared Sauna

A woman in relaxing in Sauna

Next, I did some research on how your body benefits from using an infrared sauna. And I found some excellent research that listed some important things [4].

First of all, it’s great for exercise recovery and can help relax tense muscles and reduce soreness. And the more you can relax your muscles, the less stiff they’ll feel the next day.

Secondly, that relaxed feeling you get from the sauna should also help you get a much better night's sleep. And that will further improve your recovery.

The other benefit this research highlighted is for the cardiovascular system. The increased body heat and sweating in a sauna can also lower your blood pressure.

And finally, sweating flushes out harmful toxins from your lymphatic system, so it will detox you to support your overall health and immune system [5].

“Far-infrared saunas provide a gentle, side-effect-free, effective mechanism for detoxification. Their waves penetrate deep into the human body, elevating the body's surface temperature, activating circulation, sweating, and excretion of toxins from the lymph and blood through the skin.”

- Marilee Nelson, writer at branchbasics.com. 

FAQs

Should You Use An Infrared Sauna Every Day?

No, you shouldn’t use infrared saunas every day. It’s best to plan these sauna visits for after your tougher training sessions to get the most benefits for your recovery times.

Is An Infrared Sauna Safe For Obese People?

Yes, an infrared sauna is generally safe for obese people. However, if you have other significant underlying health issues due to obesity, like heart and blood pressure problems, then talk to your doctor first.

Setting The Right Expectation For A Sauna Session

I like the idea of infrared saunas, and I have used them regularly for a post-training wind-down and muscle recovery. However, there’s just not enough evidence that these types of saunas will tackle body fat and help you lose weight.

If you want to support your body in burning more calories and fat, then I would suggest that you add a stimulant-free fat burner to your supplement stack.

They trigger natural responses in your body like thermogenesis and can make quite a difference in getting you to your weight loss goals over the weeks ahead.


References:

  1. https://www.center4research.org/infrared-light-therapy-work-weight-reduction
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3766176/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33922289/
  4. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/infrared-sauna-benefits/
  5. https://www.livescience.com/26983-lymphatic-system.html

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