I don’t sweat much during a workout. Am I still burning calories?

A common question we are asked is; if I don't sweat during a workout, am I still burning calories?

The answer is YES!

Take a group of runners and you will see that some are sweating more than others. Does this mean that they are working harder or burning more calories than the rest of the group? Absolutely not!

The amount a person sweats does NOT determine the amount of calories he/she burns.

So let's understand, what exactly is sweat?

Sweating is our body’s way of preventing overheating. When you exercise, your body literally heats up, which stimulates a sweat response to cool you down and allow you to keep going. Each person has his own sweating pattern. How much you sweat is determined by a number of factors:

  • Gender - studies have found that men's sweat glands are more active than women's making them sweat more.
  • Age - people tend to sweat less as they grow older.
  • Body size - a person who is overweight may sweat more because their body needs to exert more energy in order to accomplish daily functions. In addition, more body mass means more to cool. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that sweat rates depended on heat production, which was based on factors like body size and environment. Participants with overall higher fat content and body mass were likely to produce more heat, resulting in increased sweat production.
  • Fitness level - more trained individuals tend to sweat at a faster rate. It is a common assumption that if you're less fit you sweat more. However, fitter people become more efficient at cooling their bodies down and begin to sweat in lower temperatures.
  • Environment - indoors/outdoors, hot/cold, sun, rain, humidity, air conditioning, in water etc.

With all these factors contributing to a person’s sweat production, you cannot confidently use perspiration as an indicator of fitness or calorie burn. Purposely dressing in heavier clothes and exercising in warmer conditions doesn’t lead to a larger calorie burn and more weight loss. It just means you will drink more water to make up for the water you are losing. And it can be dangerous. These conditions increase the chance of dehydration through excess water loss. Wearing heavy workout clothes, running in a jumper, or too many layers can actually trap body heat, preventing perspiration from its cooling function.

If sweat doesn't determine caloric burn, what does?

To be put simply, when a person expends calories, the body uses oxygen and produces carbon dioxide. Research has shown that there is a relationship between heart rate intensity of an exercise and the oxygen consumption. Therefore, as you increase the intensity of the exercise, your heartbeat rises, you breathe faster, and burn more calories.

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