Have you ever kept your sweatshirt on when you were doing cardio just because you thought it would help you lose weight quicker? I’m almost willing to bet that the answer to that is yes for most people. I guess the question is therefore does it work? Or are we just building up a sweat for no reason?
Well firstly, no one is going to deny that you sweat more if you go for a run in a sweatshirt, that bit is obvious. But that really is the only simple part to all of this. When we do cardio our heart rate goes up and this requires a greater amount of energy and therefore more calories are burned. If you are wearing extra layers then your body should become warmer and your heart rate again has to increase to maintain a normal temperature. So as far as the theory goes, you may well burn more calories.
But of course there is always a trade off and in this case it is the risk of heat exhaustion. Not only are you subjecting your body to the intense physical activity but now you are adding high temperatures into the mix. Obviously to actually bring on a heat stroke you would have to be unbearably hot for a long period of time and hopefully you would realise something wasn’t right. This is part of the reason why it is essential to stay hydrated when you are doing cardio.
It doesn’t matter what form of cardio you are doing, the amount of calories you burn will always depend upon how intense the exercise is and how long it lasts for. The more intense, the more calories you burn, but it is difficult to sustain this for long periods of time. On the other hand, the longer you are exercising for, the more those burnt calories add up. The point is that wearing those extra layers adds to the intensity so you would expect to burn more calories, while at the same time not being able to carry on for quite as long.
But what about sweat? It is perfectly possible to have a great cardio workout and find that you aren’t sweating quite as much as somebody who is doing a worse one. But to everyone else it probably looks like the person who sweats the most is doing the best workout. And we process that in exactly the same way. If you find yourself sweating profusely at the end of a workout, you will always feel like it has gone well.
So if you are sweating more because you have additional layers, is it correct to say that you are losing weight faster? Well sweating will burn calories in the way I discussed above in relation to your heart rate, that is true for certain. However what you hear a lot is that the weight lost through sweating is just water weight and this is temporary. You will find that boxers who are trying to make their weight will exercise to lose water weight because it allows them to drastically change their weight in a short period of time. But it doesn’t last forever.
The important thing is to not put yourself at risk by doing this. If you want to wear an extra layer to try and exploit the benefits that do exist then that is absolutely fine. But make sure you react to your body and if you feel like it is bordering on a dangerous level of heat then don’t just ignore it. So maybe this isn’t a clever magic trick or a short cut to success but if it works for some people then they shouldn’t be discouraged from carrying on with it.