Oh, if I could only lose a pound…

Q: Are sauna suits safe? I was talking to a man in the gym who said that he’d lost 29lbs using a sauna suit, but was there because he gained it all back. I looked them up, but you know everything 🙂 so I thought I’d ask. What do you think of sauna suits?

A: Let’s keep this short, simple and sweet: don’t do it.

In order to understand a sauna suit, you simply have to understand a sauna and furthermore, the benefits of a sauna, as well as the risks. The point of a sauna is to expose your body to so much heat that your body releases any excess water it contains within, referred to as “water weight.” Water weight gain is what a lot of us are experiencing when we speak of “bloating” or menstrual weight gain. It’s also related to a diet high in salt – the acidity of the salt is detrimental to the body’s internal organs, and the water weight is maintained by the body as a means of protection. Without it, the internal organs experience damage.

So… you’d think a sauna suit would be safe, right? You’d think it’d make sense to try to use one when you’re on your cycle to try to stave off water weight, right?

Naw, player.

What is a sauna suit?

Tell me I’m lying!

Aside from being a major fashion faux pas – hey, if looking like the Tin Man is your swag, then by all means make it happen – a sauna suit is a shirt and pants combo made of some type of plastic or rubber that is designed to compel your body to sweat two to three times as much as you would without it. Regular exercise without a suit results in your body’s temperature rising, your heart pumping faster, the sweat comes and cools you down, and the cycle continues itself. Sauna suits interfere with that cycle, by keeping your body from ever being able to cool down, causing you to perpetually sweat. This results in water loss… which then results in weight loss.

The problem with this is the fact that your body is obviously holding on to that water for a reason. Be it because of your diet, because of your cycle or because of a medical condition (which is usually tied into your diet), your body is keeping that water for a reason. Not only that, but because sauna suits encourage rapid water loss during a workout, they encourage dehydration. Like, quickly. There’s nothing worse than experiencing dizziness and an inability to think clearly (your brain needs that water) after a meeting with the stairmaster.

The weight you lose with a sauna suit isn’t the weight most of us want to lose, which is fat. You don’t want to lose muscle, but since our bodies are 70% water and a huge chunk of that 70% is muscle… sauna suits affect that, as well. You also don’t want to lose that water if the reason it is there is because of your diet. That’s putting your internal organs at risk. Consistently eating processed foods with high salt content (because even though the officials won’t say it, that is where most of our “salt problem” is coming from) is why a person can have so much water weight. Your friend with the 29lbs lost – while I’m certain a good portion of that was due to his actual hard work on the treadmill, I’m also certain he has an atrocious diet. Know how I know? Because not only does he admit to gaining it all back, but he’s now in the gym without the sauna suit.

That’s the funny thing about the suit. I can understand people who have to weigh in for some specific event – professional boxing comes to mind – but if you’re not in that situation, why are you so obsessed with the weight? Your body composition matters far more than that. Living in BMI culture might have done this to us, but we don’t have to perpetuate it. Focus on building the muscle (that’ll help you burn calories faster) and develop your cardiovascular strength (that means go walk and run) and eat healthily (meaning: eat the damn veggies) and your body will take care of you. Not to mention, if you have the same awful diet… once you take your next guzzle of water? You’re going to retain that water all over again.

See why a sauna suit is pointless?

Listen – while I’ve yet to see anything that explains why menstrual water weight gain happens, I do know what helps it and any other water weight gain: natural diuretics (like celery seed and celery) and potassium. Potassium neutralizes salt, for lack of a better phrase, in a way that allows for the body to feel more comfortable releasing the excess water. Starchy things like bananas, plantains and potatoes; leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, y’know – that stuff I’m always propping up there as the holy grail? Eat that stuff. Leave the tin man costumes alone.