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Article: The Benefits and Drawbacks of Sauna for Recovery: Boost Your Muscle Recovery

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Sauna for Recovery: Boost Your Muscle Recovery

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Sauna for Recovery: Boost Your Muscle Recovery

Written by Chris Lang

It’s natural and normal to feel worn out after a hard workout. And it’s important to enjoy some post-workout care to tend to those tired muscles and help your body recover. One of the most common ways athletes like to do is by spending time in sauna for recovery. But, before stepping into the steam room, it’s important to be aware of the benefits and drawbacks of using a sauna for muscle recovery.

Fortunately, using a sauna regularly has far more benefits than drawbacks. Spending some time in a sauna can, in fact, work wonders for your aching muscles and help you get back in peak condition, ready for the next training session. However, there are also a couple of risks and precautions to take into account before you use a sauna for recovery. This guide will cover all you need to know on the subject.

What Happens to Muscles After a Workout?

Before looking at the benefits of sauna for recovery, it’s important to understand what happens to muscles when you exercise. Effectively, as you work and strain your muscles to lift weights, jog, swim, or any other kind of exercise, the little fibers within each muscle stretch and tear. That might sound like a bad thing, but it’s essential for building the muscles back bigger and stronger than before.

During rest, the body reforms the muscle by injecting more fibers to mend the tear, which grows the muscle.

Why Do Muscles Get Sore?  

As explained above, the little tears that form during exercise can cause muscles to get sore. In addition, when you work out for quite a while, your body can start to produce lactic acid to keep the muscles moving. The build-up of that acid, combined with the presence of the tears, can cause aches and soreness for a while during the recovery phase.

More specifically, the lactic acid produced by the muscles quickly decomposes into lactate and a hydrogen ion (loose proton). The body processes lactate slower than it’s being produced, while the hydrogen ions create an acidic environment that reacts with other metabolic byproducts where it’s not supposed to. The increased lactate levels and the acidic environment also cause the burning feeling after a particularly strenuous workout.

Types of Saunas: Traditional vs. Infrared

Using a sauna can be an effective way to help your body rest and recuperate after a heavy workout. But, before stepping in and taking a seat in a sauna, it’s worth learning about the different types you might like to use. When thinking of saunas, most people tend to picture the classic, traditional sauna, with its intense temperatures, hot rocks, and steam filling the air.

However, modern athletes can also opt to spend time in an infrared sauna. As the name suggests, an infrared sauna leverages infrared (IR) light to heat the body. Why is infrared sauna better than normal sauna for some athletes? Well, the average infrared sauna temperature is much lower than a traditional sauna, making IR saunas more comfortable. Plus, experts believe that IR light penetrates deeper into the body, warming the muscles from within and helping them recover.

Infrared Saunas: A Closer Look

Many athletes opt for an infrared sauna for recovery over traditional saunas due to their extra levels of comfort and the unique health benefits they can provide. As noted in Healthline, studies have shown that spending time in an IR sauna can help decrease muscle soreness and boost recovery speed after strength-training sessions. What’s more, IR saunas are believed to have even fewer adverse side effects than regular saunas, which are already minimal.

How Saunas Can Aid in Muscle Recovery

Spending time in an IR sauna can help your muscle recovery in various ways. Firstly, the heat can help to improve circulation, opening the blood vessels and helping more oxygen pass through to the muscles that need it. In addition, saunas are very relaxing, providing the ideal setting for you to sit back, relax, and let your body start to recuperate.

What’s more, as noted by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Gbolahan Okubadejo in Byrdie, spending some time in sauna for recovery can also help alleviate certain aches and pains you might have after a workout. Lower back pain and joint pain can all be eased with saunas, and the heat also boosts the lymphatic system.

The Role of Heat in Muscle Recovery

Saunas, obviously, produce high temperatures to warm up the body. This can be a powerful factor in muscle recovery. As explained above, warmth can help to open up the body’s blood vessels. This improves circulation, with more blood flowing through the body. That blood takes oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, letting the damaged fibers and cells build themselves back.

It’s also worth noting that spending time in a sauna can also extend the benefits of your exercise regime. The heat of a sauna is believed to boost a user’s metabolism, helping them burn off more calories, even while sitting down. It’s almost like an extra mini workout for your body, and the infrared sauna temperature for weight loss is just right for burning off bonus calories without feeling too hot or sweaty.

So, if you’re working out to lose weight, adding a sauna session to your plan could help you get even more value out of your program. Contact Komowa Wellness to learn more about IR saunas and weight loss.

The Science Behind Sauna Use for Recovery

Plenty of athletes have put their faith in sauna use for recovery. Many of them say that it helps them enormously in those post-workout or post-game phases to get their bodies and muscles healed up and ready for the next event. But you might also like to see genuine scientific evidence to back up those claims, rather than simple anecdotal evidence. Let’s take a look at some real studies and scientific opinions on the subject.

What Does the Research Say?

There have been quite a lot of studies into the subject of sauna good for muscle recovery, and many of them have produced very promising results. A Finnish study, for instance, looked the levels of human growth hormone (HGH) in 55 healthy people both before and after spending time in a sauna. It found that HGH levels (needed for muscle recovery and repair) were significantly higher after being in the sauna.

Studies have also shown that being in a sauna can help with both muscle power and endurance. What’s more, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that people who spend time in saunas experience fewer aches and pains throughout their bodies. They also tend to feel more relaxed, less stressed out, and less at risk for insomnia or sleep issues. All of that combined means that using a sauna is a great way to feel better after pushing your body to its limits.

Risks and Precautions

Research so far has shown that there should be no notable risks from using a sauna, especially an IR sauna, for the vast majority of people. However, there are still some recommended precautions to take before stepping into the sauna. In addition, some people, like those with heart conditions or low blood pressure, are advised to check with their doctors before using a sauna.

It’s also vital to ensure that you’re properly hydrated both before and after spending time in a sauna. The heat is likely to cause you to sweat, which will inevitably dry out your system. If you’re not properly hydrated, dehydration can occur, which can have a range of symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, and dizziness.

When to Avoid the Sauna

Avoid using a sauna if:

  • You’ve been drinking alcohol lately

  • You’ve just finished your workout and feel dehydrated

  • You have a heart or cardiovascular issue

  • You’re pregnant

  • You have low blood pressure (check with a doctor first)

  • You have a fever or other illness

Conclusion: Should You Hit the Sauna Post-Workout?  

Clearly, hitting up the sauna after a workout isn’t a bad idea. It’s not the ultimate option for muscle recovery, but it can offer various benefits, helping you relax, speeding up cellular regeneration, and even potentially burning off a few extra calories, too. Contact Komowa Wellness today to learn more about IR saunas and their unique benefits.

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