When I was a kid growing up in Japan, it was common to “sweat out” your cold or other illness. It’s kind of funny thinking back now, because I never thought anything about it. As a kid you just do what your parents tell you to do… whether it’s right or wrong. So are there any real health benefits to heating up your body and sweating? Or is it one of those health practices passed down from generations without much scientific merit.
Admittedly, I haven’t “sweat out” a cold since I left Japan 30 years ago, but I may have prematurely stopped a good thing. Come to find out, my parents knew what they were doing, research is now showing that sweating is actually quite beneficial to your health.
Hyperthermic Conditioning Boosts Your Health and Athletic Performance
Hyperthermic conditioning is a scientific term for what happens to your body, when you’re exposed to very hot conditions like a sauna. When you sit in a sauna, your body goes through several physiological changes:
- It increases plasma volume, which is a good thing because it improves blood flow to the heart. This means your heart doesn’t have to work as hard, yet it’s still able to pump the same volume of blood. This in turn helps lower your heart rate and reduces the strain put onto your heart, which lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease as well. Studies have also shown that this effect also improves your endurance in both highly trained and untrained athletes!
- It increases blood flow to your muscles, which helps fuel them more effectively with essential nutrients (including oxygen). And since nutrients are transported to your muscles faster, it decreases your reliance on glycogen which means you can go longer without running out of energy. Keep in mind that when you run out of glycogen (glucose) you’re essentially “out of gas”. One study found that hyperthermic conditioning reduced muscle glycogen use by 50%. Which is HUGE if you’re looking to boost your endurance!
- The increase in blood flow also makes your muscles more efficient at removing metabolic wastes like lactic acid, which in turn also helps increase your muscle endurance.
- Another thing that happens in hyperthermic conditioning, is you start to sweat. This helps keep your core temperature from rising too high and allows you to keep exercising without overheating.
- Sweat not only helps regulate your core body temperature, but it also helps get rid of toxins that have accumulated in your body. Toxins are stored within your fat cells, and when you sweat you mobilize fat cells. So in essence sweating enables you to kill two birds with one stone by eliminating both toxins as well as your fat cells.
Hyperthermic Conditioning Increases Lean Muscle
Hyperthermic conditioning not only increases your endurance, lowers your risk of heart disease and helps get rid of toxins but it also increases your ability to gain lean muscle! It may be hard to believe but it’s true. Exposure to heat decreases the amount of protein breakdown and in turn helps increase protein synthesis. Remember protein is the building block of muscle, so the more protein you have available, the better you’re able to build lean muscle mass.
Hyperthermic conditioning increases muscle gain through three important steps:
- Heat shock proteins (HSP). The mechanism of HSP isn’t clear, but it’s a protective stress response, in which stress (heat) protects protein from being degraded. This process helps preserve proteins, which in turn prevents lean muscle loss.
- Growth hormone. Hyperthermic conditioning triggers the secretion of growth hormones, which increases muscle mass.
- Improves insulin sensitivity, which enhances your uptake of glucose into your muscles. Glycogen increases your muscle size, so the more effective your muscle is at storing glucose the better.
How to Maximize Your Time in the Sauna
Here are a 3 easy but effective tips you can use to maximize the benefits of hyperthermic conditioning.
- When you sit in a sauna, stimulate the surface of your skin by brushing, scratching, or tapping on your back, belly, legs, and arms. These motions should be very gentle, you don’t want to aggravate or irritate the skin. As you stimulate the skin, it helps to activate and open the pores, and doing so enhances circulation in that area. This accelerates sweat production, which helps regulate your core temperature and it also brings blood closer to the surface of the skin, which helps get rid of toxic waste more effectively.
- It’s also been said that repetitions of the warm/cold routine is an effective way to condition your immune system. After you’re done with your time in the sauna, take a quick dip in cold water or take a cold shower. The cold temperature helps close your pores which helps to strengthen your immune system. It’s thought that the cold temperature causes your blood to move from the surface of your skin, back into your core where the vital organs are stored. Fresh blood flow stimulates the functions of your organs and immune system.
- There is no set protocol for hyperthermic conditioning for improving your endurance or strength. However, most of the studies performed the hyperthermic conditioning, twice a week, one to two sessions each time. The durations of the sauna ranged from 15 minutes to 30 minutes, the temperature ranged between 80 - 105 degree (F) and each session was followed by 30 minutes of cool down.
NOTE: Hyperthermic conditioning, it’s important to note that this is NOT for everyone. Hyperthermic conditioning can be very dangerous if its not used correctly or if you have any medical issues. The material on this article is for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before undertaking the protocols, diet, exercises, techniques, training methods, or otherwise described herein. The author (me) expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein.
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