Sweating: A Key to Burning Calories? Get the Facts

When you work out, you burn calories and sweat. But does sweating itself burn calories?

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by
Mia Barnes
— Signos
Staff Writer
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Reviewed by

Mia Barnes
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
July 24, 2024
April 11, 2023
— Updated:

Table of Contents

For years, many people have connected calorie burn to sweating. After all, when you work out, you burn calories and also sweat. Aren’t they connected? In this article, we’ll debunk the myth behind the effects of sweating and calories burned. 

What Causes Sweating?

Your body sweats to protect you from overheating and is not a direct sign that you are burning calories. Sweating is a biological function that helps you cool your body down during intense exercise or when you experience heat stress. 

Many people try to reach the recommended minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-vigorous weekly exercise with high-intensity activities to stay healthy. This type of exercise will stimulate sweating while pumping your heart, primarily due to your internal temperature rising, which signals your sweat glands to activate in order to cool your body down.

There are two kinds of sweat glands, the apocrine and eccrine glands. Your apocrine glands are located in areas you may associate with sweating, such as the armpits, breasts, and groin. However, the majority of your sweat comes from the eccrine glands in the skin. 

Sweat is made of proteins, salt, ammonia, and urea, giving it a salty taste. When released, it evaporates into the air to cool you down, regulating your body temperature. Although your body sweats to cool itself down, the nervous system can also cause you to sweat. That’s why you might break out into nervous sweats before a test or a first date. 

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What Are the Benefits of Sweating? 

When you think of sweating, you probably associate it with being sticky and uncomfortable. However, in addition to cooling your body down, sweating provides many benefits. After you break a sweat, you might notice some of these positive changes.  

Healthier Skin

If you’re participating in an intense workout, this activity will get the blood circulating in your body. This brings oxygen and nutrients to nourish skin cells as they circulate throughout the body. Sweat also leaves your skin glistening, which can help the skin look moisturized and glowy improving its appearance for the time being. 

Pushing Yourself 

During a workout, breaking a sweat can indicate that you’re pushing your body appropriately to challenge your fitness. However, sweat doesn’t just happen with high-intensity movements — low-intensity workouts, like strength training or walking, can also push you in new ways. 

Your exercises should not make you feel faint or sick, so tune into your body while doing your activity of choice.

Quicker Recovery 

When you work hard enough to break a sweat, blood flow increases and carries the by-products from exercise-induced muscle damage away from the muscles. This will help you feel less sore after your workout. 

Better Mood

Sweating releases endorphins that trigger positive feelings in the body. Sweat can do wonders for your mood and overall well-being. Any exercise that feels good and will trigger sweating can have you indulge in the feel-good effects.

Detoxification 

Heavy metals tend to be lower in people who exercise regularly. Urine and sweat often contain high levels of these elements, so sweating can eliminate them from your body. 

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Are There Any Risks to Sweating? 

While it’s a natural function, sweating has potential risks. Here are a few symptoms to look out for. 

Dehydration  

If you’re sweating, you will get dehydrated faster. Also, you'll sweat more if it’s hot and humid outside or you’re doing a hard workout. Water makes up 55 percent of your body weight, so replenishment is important.

It’s recommended that men drink 15.5 cups a day and 11.5 cups a day for women. The rest of your water intake will come from the food you eat. Drinking water can also contribute to weight loss. A study showed drinking water after fasting all night increased metabolism by 30 percent in men and women.

You shouldn’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink water — thirst means you’re already on the road to dehydration. Severe dehydration can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Extreme exhaustion and confusion
  • Dizziness that doesn’t go away
  • Not urinating for eight hours
  • Weak or rapid pulse

Hyperhidrosis

Sweating excessively in your regular life could point to signs of hyperhidrosis. You should consult with a healthcare professional if sweat disrupts your daily life or if you have sudden night sweats. 

Get immediate medical attention when:

  • You have a fever of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate

Does Sweating Burn Calories?

Sweat levels vary from person to person. Sweating doesn't mean much if you hit a workout with a friend and you’re drenched while they’re barely glistening. If you’re used to hot weather, you will sweat more because your body knows how to cool itself off. Different people start to sweat depending on the temperature, while some just sweat more than others. 

Many people think you can lose weight from sweating. Although you do not burn calories from sweating, your body uses an internal cooling process that takes energy. Some energy is needed when sweating, but not enough to indicate you are burning fat. 

If you ever weighed yourself after an intense workout or a cardio session and noticed your weight is lower, it is because you lost water weight, not fat. Physical activity will burn calories, and the more intensely you train muscle groups, the more calories your body will use, generating sweat too. 

Calorie burn is significant during aerobic exercise (cardio) compared to weight training. That’s because you are resting in between sets. You still get a good workout while burning calories and building strength, but your body temperature may not rise so much that you’re sweating. Your fitness level is also not determined by how much you sweat. From beginners to bodybuilders, the amount of sweat your produce is determined by a host of factors that do not include fitness levels.

Your sweat is not an accurate way to measure how many calories you burn. Sweating doesn’t reflect a good workout, either — it just means your body becomes hot during your training and is doing its job of cooling you down.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Check out this article for</strong> <a href="/blog/healthy-dinner-ideas-for-weight-loss">9 Healthy & Delicious Dinner Ideas for Weight Loss</a>.</p>

FAQs About Sweating 

Do You Need to Sweat to Have a Good Workout?

You don’t have to sweat to have a good workout, but you probably will. You’re bound to sweat if you are doing a challenging workout for a long time. It’s a great reminder to push yourself to crush your goals.

Are You Still Burning Calories if You Don’t Sweat?

You can still burn calories doing activities even if you don’t sweat much, such as swimming, lifting weights, or exercising in a cold climate. 

Do You Lose Weight From Sweating?

If you weigh yourself after an intense workout, you will be lighter. This is because you’ve mostly lost water weight from sweating and losing electrolytes and minerals. After you replenish yourself, you will likely put the weight back on.  

How Will You Know You’re Burning Fat?

Sweating is not the gauge you should use to determine if you’re burning fat. However, if you are working out so much that you are sweating, you’re likely burning fat.  

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Learn More About Fitness and Healthy Habits with Signos’ Expert Advice

Signos uses CGMs (Continuous Glucose Monitors) to improve health and promote healthy habits. The science of CGMs assists in weight loss since it helps you learn how the food you eat, exercise, sleep, and stress patterns affect your blood sugar (glucose). Glucose stabilization is the key to successful and sustainable weight loss since your brain senses changes in your glucose and alters your appetite. 

You can get a personalized weight loss plan from Signos to guide you in making the best food choices for your body. You log what food you eat, and it will show a graph of your glucose spike, then provide a suggestion to exercise to bring your glucose down. Next, log your exercise and watch your glucose stabilize. You’ll learn what foods increase your glucose and find meals that avoid spiking. Then reap the benefits as you fuel your body with nutrient-dense food that keeps your glucose steady. 

Take a quick quiz here to determine if Signos is a good fit.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Read more:</strong> <a href="/blog/green-tea-weight-loss">Drinking Green Tea for Weight Loss & Fat Burning</a>.</p>

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References

  1. Dennis, E. A., Dengo, A. L., Comber, D. L., Flack, K. D., Savla, J., Davy, K. P., & Davy, B. M. (2010). Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 18(2), 300–307. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2009.235 
  2. Move More; Sit Less. (2022, June 2). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm#:%7E:text=Each%20week%20adults%20need%20150,Physical%20Activity%20Guidelines%20for%20Americans.&text=We%20know%20150%20minutes%20of,do%20it%20all%20at%20once 
  3. Simon Fraser University. (2022, January 11). What your sweat says about your health. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 9, 2023 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/01/220111192736.htm
  4. University of Oklahoma. (2022, March 21). Taste, temperature and pain sensations are neurologically linked. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 12, 2023 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/03/220321115901.htm 
  5. Webfxlongs. (2022, October 31). Top 10 ways water benefits the body: Long's EcoWater. Longs Ecowater. Retrieved March 10, 2023, from https://longsecowater.com/blog/how-water-benefits-the-body  

About the author

Mia Barnes is a health writer and researcher who specializes in nutrition, fitness, and mental health.

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