Traditionally, fighters have used saunas prior to weigh-ins as a method of making weight. They use them to drop unwanted water weight to be able to hit the scales light and fight in a lower weight division. Although this is how most fighters utilize the sauna in preparation for a fight, there are also other practical and long-term benefits.
The water weight that you lose definitely shows up on the dial of the scales, but you regain almost all of that back when you rehydrate prior to fight time. That's the short term payoff. The long term benefit is that your sweat contains unwanted toxins that lay dormant in your lymphatic system. When you sweat these heavy metals and other toxins out of your system, it enhances your body's ability to burn fat and eliminates roadblocks for your metabolism. This means that you're able to burn fat and calories more efficiently. Using a sauna regularly, after exercise, works like a coal burning stove that fires-up your inner core. The hot coals stay warm after you're done and continue to burn calories even when you're not in the sauna.
If you want to maximize your time in the sauna and have options, research shows the one of the best sauna types is a far infrared sauna. The infrared sauna produces the same type of heat that is emitted from the sun and is required by all living things. This type of heat penetrates deep into the joints, muscles and tissues. It speeds up oxygen flow, thereby increasing circulation. It also helps remove impurities from the cells, specifically the cells inside of fat where the body stores waste (in the form of harmful toxins), like cholesterol and heavy metals.
The sauna's heaters actually work to raise the core body temperature and works similarly to a fever. When you get a fever it is your body's natural response to strengthen and accelerate immune reaction. It is working to protect itself against infection and is improving your immmune response/reaction. An enhanced immune system, combined with more efficiently eliminating toxins and waste (through intense sweating), results in better overall health and resistance to disease.
Another benefit of regular sauna use is that it imitates similar stress patterns to the cardiovascular system, like running or jogging. As the body increases sweat production to cool itself down, the heart works harder to pump blood and boost circulation. This increase in your metabolism, burns calories and makes it an effective supplement to aerobic exercise.
Regardless of the type of sauna you use, infrared or traditional, you can receive a substantial amount of the benefits, like faster muscle recovery, reduction of stress, a more relaxed, overall better sense of well-being and fitness.
So, if you can take the heat, add this one, simple routine to your fitness program and reap the rewards. Sweating the small stuff can have some big gains.
Written by TITLE Boxing contributor, Spencer Ward who is a boxer and nutritionist currently residing in Los Angeles, CA.