No matter how pleasurable it is to use a steamy sauna, you should also know that you can’t simply waltz into one without considering a few things first. Some experts even recommend that you consult a physician for a go-ahead before you use a sauna. Still, we can fill you in on some details — like the best time to eat when using a sauna.
It’s best to eat at least two hours before going into a sauna. Doing so will ensure that you aren’t too full but still have enough energy for your body to use in the sauna. Stick to light and nutritious snacks. Eating in or right before using a sauna can result in unpleasant side effects like dizziness.
To make things a bit more complicated, going into a sauna with an overfilled stomach is as bad as going there on an empty stomach. That means you still have to eat something, but you should do it at the right time. To put things in perspective, let’s look at why it’s risky to eat inside a sauna or before going into one, and what you should eat before you go in and after leaving a sauna.
Can You Eat in a Sauna?
While a sauna is a perfect place to relax and stretch out your muscles, your body is also working hard to increase blood flow and cool the areas of the body that are beginning to heat up. That in itself is already a lot of work.
Digestion also takes a lot out of your body. After eating, your digestive system begins to work overtime to break down the food into the necessary nutrients that the body needs. This isn’t always an easy process, and that’s why we often feel dizzy or tired after a heavy meal.
Eating in a sauna means your body would have to regulate your body temperature and, at the same time, help digest whatever you’re eating. This might be too much for your body to handle; it might cause a low blood supply to the brain, and this usually results in dizziness or light-headedness and other unpleasant complications.
Bottom line: Eating in a sauna is a no-no. However, since your body is expelling water from your body, you might need to drink some liquid in-between sauna sessions to replenish the liquid that has been lost.
You can drink juices, tea, or mineral water while in the sauna, but don’t have too much. There’s no exact time when you should have some liquid — just listen to your body and drink something when you start feeling dehydrated. Sports drinks like Gatorade or BODYARMOR Orange Mango (both on Amazon) that can help maintain your electrolyte concentrations are also a good call if you’re planning to sweat a lot, or go for a longer sauna session.
Should You Use the Sauna Before or After Eating?
Even though you shouldn’t eat in the sauna, you also shouldn’t visit the steamy room on an empty stomach. An empty stomach in a sauna is as bad as a full stomach, and staying in such a hot room when you’re hungry can also lead to dizziness.
Your body needs the energy to regulate your body temperature, so you should eat before going into a sauna.
However, note that this shouldn’t happen just before the sauna. As we’ve mentioned, eating in a sauna is risky, and so is going into a sauna immediately after eating.
It takes two to five hours for our body to move food out of our stomach, so you should wait at least two hours after eating before going to a sauna.
In the same vein, keep in mind that the goal isn’t to be overfilled but rather to have enough energy for your body to work with. In fact, if you don’t feel hungry but don’t feel full either, that’s the perfect time for you to go to a sauna.
If you feel hungry, then you should only eat a light snack. Try some yogurt, salad, or low-sugar fruit.
Avoid drinking alcohol before a sauna session, as it causes dehydration. Drinking it might lower your blood pressure and cause you to feel dizzy or even faint in a sauna. Once you decide to visit a sauna, stop taking alcohol at least one day before and one day after the sauna.
What to Eat After a Sauna?
After you’ve left a sauna and taken enough time to rest, you can eat just about anything you want — you deserve it!
Think of a sauna session as a workout session. Your body has used up a considerable amount of energy, so you need to make up for that by eating foods rich in electrolytes and nutrients. Stick to low-fat snacks since they digest faster than fatty foods.
Vegetables, fruit salads, cheese, canapés, and nuts are good options for a post-sauna meal. Other options are yogurt, coconut water, and bananas.
Since your body has expelled liquid from your body, you should also drink juice, tea, or water to help you stay hydrated. Watermelons are also great because they’re rich in potassium and will help keep you hydrated.
If you have to eat immediately after leaving a sauna, try not to overeat. Limit your portions, as too much at the same time can stress your body out and make you uncomfortable or dizzy.
How Do Saunas Work?
The sauna is an enclosed, heated, wood-lined room with different seating options, designs, and capacities. The high heat inside provides certain health benefits such as soothing aches and pains, relaxation, and increased blood circulation.
While there are several different kinds of saunas, there are two major types — traditional and infrared. Each has its own features and capabilities.
Traditional saunas can provide higher temperatures and a more social atmosphere. Other features of a traditional sauna include:
- Temperatures range from 185° F to 190° F.
- Heat is generated by heating the air, which heats the body.
- The sauna is generally dry until hot rocks are drenched with water. Temperature and humidity can be adjusted (by pouring water on rocks), and essential oils can be infused into the water for aromatherapy.
- Preheating the rocks takes 30-40 minutes.
- A traditional sauna can be outdoor or indoor.
- There will be a need for ventilation.
- The best duration to use the sauna is 10-15 minutes.
On the other hand, infrared saunas are great if you wish to maintain lower temperatures but still enjoy body-penetrating heat. Also, unlike traditional saunas, infrared saunas are strictly for indoor use. Other important details you need to know about infrared saunas are:
- The ideal temperature range is 125° F to 130° F.
- Your body is directly heated in an infrared sauna. By infusing the heat into the body, the infrared energy raises the body’s temperature, causing it to sweat more.
- Humidity is relatively low. Temperature can be controlled, but humidity cannot.
- It does not require preheating.
- An infrared sauna doesn’t use water, so ventilation isn’t an issue. There’s a dry heat that reaches a maximum of 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
- 10-15 minutes is the optimal time for use, but bathers often stay 25-30 minutes (due to lower temperatures).
Whatever kind of sauna you choose to use, know that it comes with several health benefits, from relaxing the muscle to cleansing and aiding weight loss. However, you should also consult a doctor to confirm that you can use a sauna.