You asked and we’ll answer: Will I lose more weight if I sweat more? Should I keep my sweatshirt on?
Sports nutritionist Nate Green recently lost 20 pounds in 5 days to demonstrate what many boxers, wrestlers, and combat athletes do leading up to a contest. He achieved his drastic weight loss by doing things like exercising in sweatshirts and sitting in a sauna to increase his sweat rate. But despite Nate’s drastic weight loss, his body fat percentage remained the same. What gives?
Weight Loss Does Not Equal Fat Loss
One of the most common misconceptions in fitness is that weight loss = fat loss. Although Nate lost 20 pounds in his experiment, nearly all of it was water weight and stored carbohydrates, which were replenished within 24 hours. To think about this on a smaller scale, if you lost 2 pounds during a training session by sweating more, you’d likely gain the same 2 pounds back later that day. Weight loss can easily be manipulated; fat loss, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult (and more important). Fat loss or gain primarily relies on a person’s energy balance, or calories in vs. calories out.
Consequently, exercising in a sweatshirt or sauna suit won’t affect your fat loss efforts all that much. Research has shown time and time again that sweat rate during exercise has little to no effect on how many calories you burn or the amount of fat you lose. I mean, think about it: Layers aside, some people naturally sweat a lot more or faster than others. That doesn’t mean they’re losing weight faster as well.
Benefits of Warm Workouts
With that being said, as long as you are properly hydrated, exercising in a sweatshirt or warm clothes can’t hurt. Exercising in warmer conditions could even have a few hidden benefits:
- Maintaining warm muscles and joints could reduce your risk of injury.
- Heat exposure during exercise may improve insulin sensitivity, endurance levels, and nutrient delivery due to improved blood flow—all of which could have a positive effect on fat loss.
- If a sweatshirt allows you to exercise harder, it’s probably a good idea. An increase to exercise intensity has the ability to cause favorable adaptations beyond fat loss or calories burned.
- The placebo effect: If you feel like exercising with a sweatshirt on helps you burn more fat or enhances your workouts, keep it on. Rocky Balboa exercised in a sweatshirt, so there must be something to this, right?!
I hope this helped ease your mind about exercising in extra layers. Always remember: Hydration is essential and should be your top priority during exercise. Excessive sweating should always be paralleled with excessive water intake to avoid heat exhaustion, stroke, or other complications of dehydration.