Q&A Wednesday: Are Sauna Suits Safe? | A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

Q&A Wednesday: Are Sauna Suits Safe?

Oh, if I could only lose a pound...

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. 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.

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She now lives in New York with her family, and is working on her 4th, 5th and 6th certificates.

12 Comments

  1. Naomi

    January 25, 2012 at 4:26 PM

    First, I am guilty of this but mine is more the actual sauna than just the suit. 30mins-1hr at a time if I can stand it. I do it mostly after a work out. I like it because my ankles sometimes are a tad swollen after jogging and removing the excess water makes them fell better. And Yes. I have the suit. Haven’t used it about a year. It’s too damn hot. Mine is at least black. Hmph. *holds head high in defiance*

    And no wonder I’ve been peeing like a race horse! I’ve been eating celery like it’s going outta style. The desire is slowly fading though…I mean one can only eat so much celery.

    • Ceej

      August 14, 2013 at 4:40 PM

      I sauna and/or steam after a workout as a reward. Kind of like “if I finish this workout I get to go to the ‘spa!’” mind-game I play with myself. Seems to help with the soreness and my sinuses….

  2. Lisette

    May 8, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    My spin instructor has been wearing a sauna suit shirt under his regular t-shirt during our hour-long class. He says he’s trying to get his six-pack. He’s what I would call a stocky guy. He’s spinning like hell, so it seems as if his cardiovascular system is strong, but he’s short and does have a gut.

    Last Saturday, he started getting dizzy and pale and couldn’t finish the class. You would think that he would know better, but this just goes to show you that everybody in the fitness world doesn’t know what it really takes to get fit.

    I want to share this article with him because he’s a great guy and I’m afraid he might hurt himself, but I don’t want to insult him either. This might be one of those “tough love” situations.

  3. Lee

    February 13, 2013 at 11:34 PM

    Sauna and Suit just seems wrong on so many levels. o_0

  4. Rene

    April 8, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    I’m going to pass this on to my mother! She keeps insisting I get one of these suits and hit the treadmill. I keep telling her losing water weight won’t mean anything in the long run. Especially since I drink so much water during the day I’d likely gain it all back before bedtime!

  5. Kiesh

    April 12, 2013 at 11:14 PM

    …and the damn things just look silly. I can’t explain the feeling I get when I encounter people who think that sustainable weight loss can occur from anything other than good diet and exercise.

  6. rc

    June 27, 2013 at 7:42 AM

    Great article! I have a friend that was trying to convince me that I needed one of these suits to help with weight loss because I don’t sweat at all. I guess I’ll just keep pushing on cardio until I can break a sweat. :-) thanks again for the good writeup.

  7. rudy

    October 2, 2013 at 6:27 PM

    Thanks for the article. I wasn’t so sure about it. ive been using the sauna suit for two weeks now and its motivating to see all that sweat coming out of my body. but I wasn’t so sure that I really lost all that weight or if it was safe. losing water is not what I want. fat is what I want to shed. thanks. sauna suit no more.

  8. Yaayaa

    November 23, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    Well, last summer I wore a sauna suit at every workout and it helped me to lose up to 15 ibs. in about 2 1/2 months tops. I figured it was a really “healthy” thing to use that would remove un-wanted “toxins”, but obv I was wrong. Oh, and the downside, I live in las vegas, NV and it gets SCORCHING hot in the summer. I would run on the treadmill like a beast and try to avoid drinking water (as I thought it would slow me down). Aaaand, I often felt very dizzy afterwards as if I was going to faint, but it’s sad looking back because I thought I was dizzy as a result of being healthier with my diet and exercise routine. I just bought another one last week, however, after finally reading up on it, I may cut down my use of it to twice a week, or when I am on my cycle… Great article!

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      November 26, 2013 at 1:52 PM

      Honestly, you’d be better off just working out consistently and perhaps upping the potassium in your diet. Those are natural ways to help your body balance any excess bloating/water weight gain.

      I’m telling you – that kind of dehydration, when your muscles and organs actually store it in healthy doses for a reason, is dangerous. Deadly, even. Be careful.

  9. Clarissa

    February 4, 2014 at 2:12 AM

    What if you keep water to drink with you in the sauna? Suppose I exercise at least 4 days a week, and I lift, then use the sauna like one day a week. Would it be okay?

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      February 4, 2014 at 10:08 AM

      You’re not using the sauna for weight loss, right? Simply for restorative purposes, right?

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