If you're an athlete or fitness enthusiast, you know that recovery is just as important as training. After a workout, your muscles need time to recover and repair themselves, especially if you're training multiple times per week. While rest and nutrition are crucial for this process, there's another tool gaining wide popularity among athletes: sauna. Sauna has been used for centuries for its health benefits, and recent scientific studies have shown that it can be particularly effective for recovery. In this article, we'll explore the benefits of sauna after workout sessions, and provide some simple tips for incorporating sauna into your post-workout routine.
The Role of Sauna in Muscle Recovery and Growth:
Muscle recovery and growth occur when the muscles are given time to repair themselves after a workout. Without ample recovery, growth can't happen. Sauna helps move this process along by increasing blood flow to the muscles. During a sauna session, your body's temperature increases, which causes blood vessels to dilate and increase blood flow. This increased blood flow delivers oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, which are know to improve recovery and growth.
Sauna use also assists muscle recovery by triggering the release of growth hormone. Growth hormone is a hormone that's widely know to promote muscle growth and repair. Studies have shown that regular sauna use can increase growth hormone levels in the body.
One study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that post-workout sauna use increased muscle hypertrophy in male weightlifters. Another study published in the Journal of Athletic Training found that regular sauna use improved muscle strength and power in male athletes. These findings suggest that sauna use can be an effective tool for enhancing muscle recovery and growth that likely extends to both men and women,
Boosting Circulation and Reducing Inflammation with Sauna Use:
Another benefit of sauna after workout sessions is reducing inflammation and boosting circulation. Inflammation is a natural response to muscle damage and is not something to be perceived as a negative, but chronic inflammation can impede the recovery process and is unhealthy. Sauna use has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which can aid in post-workout recovery, and is good for general health.
A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that post-workout sauna use reduced muscle soreness and inflammation in male endurance athletes. Another study published in the Journal of Athletic Training found that regular sauna use reduced oxidative stress in male athletes. So it's safe to bet that sauna use is effective for reducing inflammation and aiding in post-workout recovery.
In addition to reducing inflammation, sauna use can also boost circulation in the body. Improved circulation assists the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, which aids recovery and growth. Improved circulation also assists in the removal of waste products from the muscles, which helps with soreness. And who doesn't need a little help with that? ;)
The Endurance-Enhancing Benefits of Regular Sauna Sessions:
Regular sauna use has been show to improve cardiovascular function, which can enhance endurance. It also aids in the development of heat acclimation, which can enhance endurance in hot environments.
A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that regular sauna use improved endurance performance in male distance runners. Another study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that regular sauna use improved cardiovascular function in men. These findings suggest that sauna use can be an effective tool for enhancing endurance.
Incorporating Sauna into Your Post-Workout Routine: Best Practices and Tips:
When incorporating sauna into your post-workout routine, it's important to follow a couple of ground rules.
First, hydrate before, during, and after sauna use. Sauna use obviously causes sweating, which can lead to dehydration. No worries though—just drink plenty of water before, during, and after sauna use to ensure proper hydration, and you'll be fine.
It's also important to gradually increase your sauna time and temperature. If you're new to sauna use, start with shorter sessions at a lower temperature and gradually increase your time and temperature. This allows your body to acclimate to the sauna and reduce the risk of overheating.
Also, it's best to use the sauna after a workout, rather than before. While sauna use before a workout can increase blood flow and aid in warm-up, it can also lead to dehydration and reduce performance.
If you feel lightheaded or dizzy during sauna use, get out immediately and cool off. Avoid alcohol and other substances that can impair your judgment and increase the risk of overheating.
Sauna use can be an effective tool for post-workout recovery, muscle growth, and endurance enhancement. By increasing blood flow, reducing inflammation, and improving circulation, sauna use can aid in post-workout recovery and reduce muscle soreness. Regular sauna use can also enhance endurance by improving cardiovascular function and aiding in heat acclimation. To incorporate sauna into your post-workout routine, it's important to follow best practices and tips, such as proper hydration, gradual increases in time and temperature, and listening to your body. With proper use, sauna can be a valuable tool for any athlete or fitness enthusiast looking to enhance their recovery and performance.