After using a sauna, you should take four important recovery steps. Your post-sauna routine is an integral part of your entire sauna experience. In fact, if you think of your sauna time only as the 10-20 minutes you’re sitting inside the hot room, you may be selling yourself short and robbing yourself of the sauna’s maximum benefits. Add these steps to your post-sauna routine to create a perfect experience.
The most beneficial routine includes these four elements: cooling off, hydration, nourishment, and relaxation. Creating a perfect post-sauna routine and integrating it seamlessly into your total sauna experience can boost health benefits and help speed your body’s recovery.
You’ve just done something healthy and relaxing for your body by spending time in the sauna. Rushing out and jumping into the next part of your day or evening can counteract the relaxation and other health benefits of using the sauna in the first place. After you step out of the shower, your body needs at least 15 minutes to return to normal functioning. Here’s how to unwind after a sauna session.
Cool off with a Cold Shower or Cold Plunge
Your post-sauna routine is all about transitioning from the intense heat of the sauna to a cooler environment. Saunas change the activity in your body, so when you step out you need to cool off and recover to return your body to its normal functioning.
Cooling off with a cold shower or cold plunge is important for a number of reasons and processes, including lowering your skin temperature, closing your pores, cooling airways and lungs, stabilizing your blood pressure and circulation, redirecting blood flow to your core organs, as well as the stimulation of muscles.
As your body heats inside the sauna, your heart beats faster and your blood pressure rises in order to divert blood flow away from internal organs and to your skin. Your pores then dilate so you perspire efficiently, flushing your body of toxins.
While this process brings many health benefits, it’s unhealthy to keep your body in this heat-activated state for a long period of time. It’s crucial that you cool off before resuming normal activity after a sauna session.
When you step out of the sauna, your body doesn’t immediately return to normal temperature but must work to cool down. Help it return to healthy, normal functioning by first stepping into the cooler, fresh air outside the sauna for at least two minutes and then taking a cold shower or dunk.
Jumping immediately into cold water, whether it’s in the shower or in a cold lake or river, can shock your system because the transition from intense heat to biting cold is too drastic and quick. It can be unhealthy for your heart in a number of ways, including via through circulation and blood pressure problems.
Some people enjoy more extreme cooling techniques after leaving the sauna. Unless you have underlying medical conditions, such as heart or respiratory problems, anemia, Raynaud’s syndrome, kidney disease, or infections, cryotherapy can quickly help your body cool off after sauna use (see our article about cryotherapy for more information about this cooling method).
Hydrate to Replenish Lost Sweat
The purpose of a sauna’s high heat is to make you sweat. While the process is healthy and beneficial, it is also extremely dehydrating. You can actually lose a couple of pounds of water when you’re in the sauna (we explore this in detail in our article about calorie loss in the sauna).
To replenish lost sweat, it’s important to drink at least six cups of water throughout your entire sauna experience, beginning before you enter and continuing after you exit. Keeping a water bottle with you while you’re relaxing inside the sauna helps with hydration and makes post-sauna hydration much easier.
Make sure to avoid using a metal water bottle when you’re in the sauna because it will become uncomfortably hot due to the high room temperature. Using a BPA-free plastic water bottle like this one (on Amazon) makes staying hydrated convenient, easy, and safe.
When you step out of the sauna and begin cooling off, continue to drink. When you sweat, you don’t just lose water but also lose important electrolytes, essential minerals like potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium.
Electrolytes help regulate nervous system functioning and muscle contractions, balance your pH levels, and play a key role in hydration. Therefore, after the sauna, you may want to drink beverages that contain and help replace electrolytes.
While sports drinks do contain electrolytes, they often don’t have enough to replace what is lost during the extreme perspiration caused by the sauna. Also, they tend to have a lot of added sugars and food coloring, which are unhealthy. Other electrolyte-replacement drinks that are healthier include:
- Coconut water (add a bit of salt for even more of an electrolyte boost)
- Water with electrolyte tablets
- Herbal tea (hibiscus, teas with citrus peels, rose hips, and nettle are some of the great options)
It’s vital to avoid alcohol and caffeine. Both are diuretic, which means they cause you to lose more fluids through urination. This can further dehydrate you and rob you of essential electrolytes, both of which can be extremely dangerous.
Eat Nutritious Food to Replenish Minerals and Vitamins Like Sodium
The best way to replace lost electrolytes and other nutrients are not just by drinking plenty of nourishing fluids but also by eating nutritious foods. It’s important to eat a healthy snack as part of your post-sauna routine. You might notice that you crave salt when you leave the sauna.
That’s because of the lost electrolytes, especially sodium. While it’s tempting to grab a bag of chips or other high-sodium junk food, doing so is unhealthy and doesn’t add the right amount of sodium back into your system. Remember why you are embracing the sauna life in the first place.
Quite likely, you are doing it for positive health benefits. Enhance the benefits with the right foods to replace lost minerals the good way. Among foods that can replace water and nutrients lost to sauna sweating are green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, watercress, and collard greens; beets, nuts, bananas as well as foods that are high in water like melon and pineapple.
Because your body’s circulation hasn’t fully returned to normal and your digestive system isn’t experiencing adequate blood supply, avoid eating large and/or heavy meals. Stick to a small snack instead. This is where drinking beverages with electrolytes can be very helpful because it supplies your body with the minerals it lost without requiring intense digestion and can speed your recovery time.
Adding electrolytes to your water can be as easy as adding Hi-Lyte Sugar-Free Electrolyte Powder (on Amazon). A convenient way to snack and hydrate after the sauna is to make a smoothie (you can even add electrolytes to it) ahead of time. Step out of the sauna, keep sipping water, cool off in the shower, and then grab your smoothie out of the fridge and relax.
Relax and Don’t Strain your Body
While some people like to use a sauna before a workout, this practice should be limited to a very brief session to warm up muscles. Avoid strenuous activity after a full sauna session for reasons we’ve explained before in our guide on working out after a sauna session.
While you typically can feel very relaxed while you’re inside the sauna, your body is actually working very hard. A sauna session is much like a workout itself, which is part of the reason you often feel very tired after using the sauna. Exercising or other intense activity post-sauna session can even lead to injuries because the heat relaxes muscles and leaves them prone to activity-induced injury.
In addition to cooling off with a shower, hydrating, and eating a healthy light snack, the best thing you can do for yourself after using the sauna is to relax and avoid straining your body. Doing this will allow your body to reset and return to its normal functioning. Relaxing to recover will also help your body continue to reap the benefits of sauna use.
Other Things to Do After the Sauna
After you’ve showered, put on loose-fitting, comfortable clothes so you don’t get too warm and thus restart the sweating process within your body. Sit or lie down for at least 10 minutes to allow your heart rate and circulation to return to baseline.
It can be both helpful and refreshing to get some fresh air and do some deep breathing. Slow, deep breathing cools the airways, slows your heart rate, and, like the sauna itself, contributes to stress relief and relaxation.
Once you’ve begun to rest and recover, you might help your muscles recuperate by doing some light stretching, using a foam roller like this one (on Amazon), or massaging out knots and soreness with a handheld massage gun (on Amazon).
If you use a sauna at night before bed, avoid using the TV, your phone, or other screen devices to relax. Sleep experts warn that these interfere in sleep, thus defeating one of the benefits of saunas. Saunas are an excellent addition to a healthy lifestyle and can be great for your whole body. Adopting this simple four-step post-sauna routine can help you recover quickly and continue to reap the benefits.