Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Does sweating more mean a better workout?

Two friends were out jogging together. One of them sweats buckets while the other just barely breaks a sweat. Does it mean that the person who sweats buckets was burning far more calories than the other person? Sweating is a process that helps to cool down our body temperature. So when your core temperature begins to rise, you will automatically begin to sweat as this is your body's response to ensure that your body doesn't over heat. It helps to maintain your body temperature at an ideal temperature. But when working out, does sweating more mean better than sweating less? Some people in the gym run on the treadmill and steppers for hours, and by the time they are done, they are totally soaked and dripping buckets. But does this mean they are having a more productive workout than the rest of us who just sweat a bit? Does sweating more mean that you are burning more calories than someone who sweats less?

The answer - Not really. As mentioned above, sweating is nothing more than a process to help to cool down the body. When working out, your body's temperature will naturally begin to go up. And the response to this is for you to start sweating. But burning calories has got nothing to do with sweating. Well it does a little, but i would not use that as an indicator of how effective your workout is. A lot of times, people think they have lost a lot of weight after their very sweaty work out, but do bare in mind that any immediate weight loss you see is usually from loss of water due to sweating. So once you refuel and drink water, your will put all that back on again.

Take this scenario. Some one who takes a walk outside during winter can burn more calories than when walking the same route during summer. Even though, during summer, the person will sweat more. Why? Because when our body is in a very cold climate, our muscles will have to perform extra small and rapid contractions (which are usually not felt or seen) and these contractions release heat. This helps to keep our temperature up and stable. Remember, if our body's temperature drops too much, it can result in hypothermia or death. So your body works hard to ensure that your temperature is stable. Sometimes the twitching becomes noticeable and that's what we call a shiver. If you have ever been to a cold country or a very cold place, you will notice that you get hungry faster. Why? Your body is using extra calories just to warm up your body. So this is why sweating is not the best indicator to measure the effectiveness of a workout.

But if that is true, doesn't your body also work extra hard to keep it cool during the hot weather? So isn't working out in hot weather more difficult and therefore more effective? Well that is true to a certain extent - but the amount of extra calories burnt is just a little and not enough for you to start planning workouts at 12 in the afternoon. The point is, if you can burn more calories in winter without sweating, it goes to show that sweating is not a good indicator of your workout. There are far better ways to measure the effectiveness of your workout like heart rate, volume, intensity and so forth.

But doesn't the act of sweating alone use extra calories? well it does, but again, the extra is so little that it wouldn't be worth your effort of trying to wear a winter jacket and run just so you can sweat more. It would be far more effective to just increase the intensity and let your muscles do more work.

So there you go. Sweating is not the best indicator of how well you are working out. Just because the person on the treadmill running next to you is dripping like a waterfall doesn't mean they are doing more than you. So don't get disheartened by it. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.


Jazlyn said...

whew .. i always thought the amount of sweat = how successful is the workout .. then i felt useless when i see people dripping all over the treadmill and i am almost dry .. :(

Sarah Crombie-Wheeler said...

Man, I drip, but who cares. The main thing is that you are trying regardless as to how much you sweat.
Really love this blog.

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