Drinking water before, during, and after sauna use keeps you healthy and helps your body reap the benefits of the sauna experience. Saunas help you relax and can improve overall health, and they work by making you sweat. Sweating, though, means fluid loss and dehydration risk. Drinking plenty of water as part of your sauna experience will help keep you healthy and feeling well.
You should drink water while in the sauna if you’re doing a longer sauna session (40+ minutes) because the sweating can dehydrate you faster than you think. Drinking around 6 cups of water a couple of hours before your sauna session, and drinking immediately after can ensure you stay well hydrated.
Because the whole point of kicking back and relaxing in a sauna is to raise your body temperature and sweat, it’s easy to become dehydrated. Keep reading for the intel on dehydration, hydration, and when to drink water when you’re using a sauna.
How Fast Can Saunas Dehydrate You?
Dehydration is the primary cause of problems related to sauna use. We have a full article covering the details of dehydration and sauna use, but one specific question you may have is how fast this dehydration can happen in a sauna. And note that depleting your fluid reserves can happen even when you are using a sauna for the recommended length of time and in the proper temperature ranges!
How quickly you can become dehydrated depends on personal factors such as your age, body weight, and underlying health conditions you may have. Generally, children and elderly individuals become dehydrated more quickly than healthy adults through middle age. People with less body fat and/or with medical conditions, especially involving the heart or kidneys, also dehydrate faster.
Dehydration can also happen more quickly if you’re already low on fluids before entering the sauna. Your risk is greater if you’ve been drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages or have been working out right before sauna use. Alcohol and caffeine are diuretics, which means that they remove fluids from the body. Exercise, like sauna use, increases sweat production and is dehydrating. In fact, because of the increased dehydration risk, using the sauna isn’t recommended immediately post-workout or if you’ve been drinking alcohol or caffeine.
As you are relaxing in the sauna and sipping water, check in with yourself regularly to see how you’re feeling. Drinking plenty of water is essential to keep your body healthy when using the sauna. How much water is enough, though, and when is the best time to hydrate? We’ll talk about that in a minute, but I digress, watch for these signs of dehydration:
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Heart palpitations (you can feel your heart beating irregularly; it might be rapid or feel like it’s skipping beats, for example)
- Fatigue (beyond the sauna-induced relaxation)
- Feeling thirsty/dry mouth
- Hunger or food cravings (often, we think we’re hungry but we’re actually thirsty)
- Muscle cramps
- Decreased sweating despite sitting in the hot sauna
- Decreased need to urinate and reduced urine output
- Dark urine
We have a full write-up of how long you should spend in a sauna, based on the type and what you’re going for. But a good rule of thumb is that a healthy person should start off spending around 15 to 20 minutes per session in a sauna that ranges from 150-190 degrees Fahrenheit (about 65-88 degrees Celsius) or if it’s infrared, 110-120 degrees (about 43-40 degrees Celsius). You can work up to longer times, and when you do, drinking while in the sauna will become more relevant.
Even when you follow the recommended guidelines, your body temperature will rise and you will sweat, losing body fluids crucial to health. You risk dehydration if you don’t drink enough water before, during, and after your sauna session.
Does It Matter if You Drink Water Before or During Sauna Use?
Healthy adults using a sauna properly need to take in approximately six cups of water before entering the sauna and continuing during and after the experience. Every system of your body needs to maintain fluids to function properly.
We have to constantly keep drinking to be properly hydrated and healthy. When doing something that causes extra sweating, like sitting in a hot sauna, it’s important to stay on top of hydration. It’s important to begin drinking water before entering the sauna because you’re preparing every system for fluid loss and creating reserves for sweat production. Drink at least one full glass before you begin your session.
While not recommended, if you have consumed alcohol or caffeine or have been exercising and are going to use a sauna anyway, you need at least 3 more cups of water beforehand to make up for existing dehydration. So you’ll need 9 cups rather than 6 cups of water. This will give your body plenty of fluids to work with for the upcoming sweat session.
It’s important to sip water while you are in the sauna. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to begin drinking water. Thirst is a sign that your body is mildly dehydrated. Pay attention to how you feel overall. If you’re feeling well, keep sipping water consistently.
If you are showing any signs of dehydration, be intentional about increasing your water intake while in the sauna. Use a stainless steel water bottle to keep your water cold if it will help make drinking more pleasant.
While water is ideal, if you don’t like drinking that much water at once, you can also drink skim milk, fruit juice, herbal tea (black and green teas contain caffeine), or rehydration solutions. Rehydration solutions also replenish necessary electrolytes like potassium and sodium. However, the main concern when it comes to sauna use is water loss, so feel free to stick to water as your go-to beverage.
Hydrating After Sauna Use
Your body doesn’t automatically restore its healthy fluid balance once you step out of the sauna, even if you’ve been drinking water before and during your experience. Continue to drink water after you’ve finished your session. The goal is to drink six cups across the whole experience—before, during, and after.
Use your own body as a guide to know how long to keep drinking water after sauna use. If, after drinking your six total cups, you still feel thirsty or have urine that isn’t clear or light yellow, continue to drink until your body tells you its fluid has reached a healthy level again. If you continue to experience symptoms, dehydration may be severe and medical attention may be in order.
Dehydration makes sauna use both dangerous and unpleasant. Sometimes, people abandon the experience thinking that saunas just aren’t right for them because they don’t feel well during and immediately after the experience.
If you’ve been frustrated with your own experience, perhaps you need more water. Try drinking lots of water before, during, and after spending time in the sauna (aim for six cups if you’re a healthy adult of average weight). You’ll be doing your body a favor, and you just might enjoy the sauna life after all.