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Does Sweating Burn Fat & Calories? (According to Science)

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: November 1, 2021

We often picture a good workout as dripping in a pool of sweat and feeling the strength-building powers, but does it mean you’ve torched much fat?

Many of my clients have asked the same question, so I dug into research and read tons of articles to know if sweating means you’re burning fat. Read on to learn more.

Sweating Doesn't Mean You’re Burning Fat And Here’s Why

woman tired and removing sweat from her forehead

People often correlate sweating with burning fat, but science tells us sweating is not an indication that you've burned fat; instead, it is your body's way of regulating your temperature.

When our body temperature exceeds 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, our brain activates our sweat glands to release water together with salts, sugar, and other waste products.

When sweat evaporates off our skin, it creates a cooling effect that brings our body back to its preferred temperature.

In short, perspiration is our body's way of bringing the temperature down.

Some people produce more sweat compared to others, even in the same conditions.

It's because the temperature and humidity level are not the only factors to a person's sweat rate, but also genetics (such as having more sweat glands), fitness level, gender, and age.

Bigger people tend to sweat a lot more than others because they have a large body mass to cool down. While leaner people sweat easily because their cooling system is efficient, enabling them to work harder for longer.

Why Do We Sweat During Workouts?

man cleaning off his forehead sweat in a gym

If sweating is our body’s thermoregulation (the process of maintaining the body’s core temperature), then why do we perspire during a shirt-drenching workout?

Sweating during workouts could mean you’re working harder.

When you’re working out harder, the temperature of your body increases. So, to regulate the body temperature rise, you release perspiration.

But a sweaty workout does not mean you’re burning calories and losing weight.

First, sweating cannot be the only indication of exercising harder. The hot or humid environment, wearing heavy clothes, even the coffee drink you had before the workout could cause you to sweat a lot.

Another reason is that sweating is an indication of water loss and not fat loss.

So, if the scale tells you you’ve lost weight after a sweaty workout, that’s because you’ve lost water weight and not the fats.

In order to shed weight, your body needs to have a calorie deficit or torch more calories than it consumes. When a calorie deficit occurs, your body pulls energy from fat cells by breaking it into fatty acids, reducing your fat storage.

As the body breaks down fats consistently, it leads to losing weight.

What Helps to Lose Weight?

man jogging outdoors, and a shirtless man eating salad from a bowl

Here are things you can do to burn calories and speed up reaching your weight loss goals.

Eat Healthy And Whole Foods

Health experts say weight loss is 75% percent diet and 25% exercise.

Research backs it up in one study, which showed that participants who adhered to a year-long weight-loss diet intervention alone lost 8.5% higher than those who adhered to an exercise intervention alone. [1].

It’s because it’s easier to cut calories than burn them off.

So, here are some guidelines on how you can eat smart to help you lose weight:

  1. Avoid refined carbs and processed foods.
  2. Eat more lean protein and soluble fiber.
  3. Consume a balanced meal consisting of fresh fruits, leafy green vegetables, and healthy fats.
  4. Increase your water intake.

Follow A Regular Workout Regime

woman wearing gym clothes working out with dumbbells

When you exercise regularly, it helps build a lean body and also helps you lose extra pounds.

Strength training

Strength workouts help your body produce more muscles which help in burning more calories.

Try to do two to three sessions of strength exercises per week and choose full-body workouts which engage multiple muscles at a time.

HIIT exercises

High-intensity interval training workouts combine intense and quick cardio exercises with short-term rests or less-intense exercises. HIIT workouts help you increase your calorie burn and, at the same time, build lean muscle mass.

Aerobic exercises

Cycling, walking, stair-training, and other cardio or aerobic exercises help increase your heart rate to increase metabolism and burn extra calories.

To lose weight, it is recommended to try 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise five times per week or 25 minutes of high-intensity cardio exercise three times a week.

Health Risks Of Sweating Or Not Sweating Enough

Sweating excessively is a condition called hyperhidrosis, and it can affect the whole body or be localized.

The cause of localized hyperhidrosis is still unknown, but it can go away on its own with age. If excessive perspiration affects the whole body, it can be a sign of health issues such as infections, thyroid problems, or diabetes.

Menopause can also cause excessive sweating.

On the other hand, not sweating normally is a condition called anhidrosis, and it can lead to overheating, heat stroke, headaches, dizziness, weakness, and pricking pain.

This condition can be caused by drugs, central and peripheral nervous system disorders, and dermatological disorders [2].

FAQs

How Much Weight Can You Lose By Sweating?

Sweating does not result in dropping off a few pounds. It is your body’s way of regulating temperature and not burning fats.

Do Sweat Belts Help Burn Fat?

Though sweat belts will help you sweat more in the abdomen area, it does not help burn fat. First, local or targeted fat loss does not work, and sweating does not necessarily mean you’re burning fats.

Does Sweating Burn Calories? The Verdict

How much you sweat when working out is not a measure of the number of calories you've burned.

And though it may indicate hard work during exercise, dripping in sweat is only your body's way to cool you down.

When it comes to losing weight, it takes more than just the ounces of sweat you produce. That means combining a healthy diet and a consistent exercise regimen.

Let us know what ways have you tried to burn more fat.


Reference:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3406229/

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