We all have heard the myth that swimming and food just don’t mix. But what about using a sauna? While there isn’t an old wives tale for this one, should you be concerned? This isn’t that much of a crazy question to ask. After all, most people use saunas for their health benefits, so ensuring you use them correctly is essential.
You shouldn’t enter a sauna just after eating, in fact, using a sauna after eating may cause unwanted effects like stomach aches or dizziness. You should wait at least two hours for your food to digest before using a sauna.
You wouldn’t want to run a 5K after a boatload of pasta, so why would you want to go to a sauna after a meal? In the same way, you would feel uncomfortable and uneasy. When your stomach is full, it means your body is using energy to digest the food. This is why you feel tired after a big meal. Let’s learn more about the relationship between eating and sauna use.
How Saunas Affect Your Metabolism
When it comes down to chow down, your body puts a lot of effort into digesting your food. It is fueling the process of metabolism. This is the process in which food is broken down into its basic elements to power your body. When this happens, your body moves blood into the area to keep things working smoothly. Now think about what your body is doing when you get into a sauna.
Here, your body is trying to regulate body temperature by sweating. This process takes energy too. Much like exercises, blood is being rushed to certain areas of your body to make sure everything is operating at the right temperature. Your heart rate starts to pump, and then the sweat starts to pour. But what happens when you are digesting your food when you’re in the sauna?
Digestion and Sauna Use
If you want to know what it’s like to be in a sauna after a big meal, think about the last time you had to exercise on one. It’s a very similar feeling. What happens is that your body gets confused. At first, you are telling it, “put all your effort into digesting food,” and then you say, “no, start putting energy into temperature regulation.”
This can be very confusing for your body. It can make your stomach start to turn sour and make you feel lightheaded. In rare cases, you can even lose consciousness, however, the chance of you passing out is small unless exposed to high temperatures for an extended period of time.
Not Eating Before a Sauna
While you might think that the answer is not eating, you’d be wrong. This can also cause some issues. Much like when you exercise, your body is burning calories when you are using the sauna. Like we touched on earlier, your body is sending energy to help you sweat.
But when there are no calories to burn, there is a deficit in the body. Your muscles may start to tighten up, and you could start feeling some cramps. Just like when you are exercising, you can feel uneasy and sometimes sick if you don’t have anything on your stomach.
How Long to Wait After a Meal
If you are looking for a window to go by, just use the normal digestion time. While bodies do differ, generally speaking, it takes around two hours for your food to move from your stomach to the next stage of digestion.
If you ate a particularly large meal, it is advised to wait this long. The larger the meal, the more energy your body is going to have to use on digestion. But you don’t want to wait too long. If you do, you might face the issue of having nothing on your stomach. Is there a perfect balance?
Finding the Balance: Using a Sauna when Neither Starving or Full
To find the sweet spot when it comes to food and saunas, just treat sauna time like exercise – there is a healthy way to approach it (more on proper etiquette in our guide). Before you play tennis, jog, or play sports, you want to make sure you’ve got some food on your stomach. But you don’t want to be either of the extremes: too full or too empty. Your body is craving the calories to use as fuel to power your muscles.
When you are in the sauna, your body is doing the same thing, but instead of powering your muscles, you are helping regulate temperature. This is another reason why it’s important to own a sauna hygrometer which you can find on Amazon. Here are some examples of times you could work into your schedule to get in that sweet spot:
- Morning — If you are an early riser, maybe taking your sauna a few hours after breakfast is a good time. You can even start with breakfast, head into a workout, and then the sauna.
- Late afternoon — Are you looking to squeeze in a sweat after work? If you eat lunch around one, then you can safely go for a sauna around five with not too many issues.
- Evening — After a light dinner, a sauna is a perfect place to spend a short amount of time a few hours post-meal.
Great Foods for Pre and Post Sauna Use
Did you know that some foods are better than others when it comes to sauna use? If you are looking for something to eat before a sauna, try and keep it light. Things like fruit or yogurt are perfect, but just make sure to have an hour or two to let things settle. Some are used before, and some after. Here are few suggestions for after sauna use:
- Melon — Most types of melons have loads of vitamin C (a great supplement on Amazon). Since using a sauna can help you boost your immune system, adding melon to your after-sauna ritual will double the benefit.
- Celery juice — Since celery juice is so low in calories, it makes for a great light pick-me-up after a sauna session.
- Quinoa — This snack, also on Amazon, is high in protein and can be great after a sauna or a workout.
Can Using a Sauna Help You Lose Weight?
This is a pretty common question when it comes to sauna use. Truth be told, there is no strong evidence to suggest that using a sauna has any long-term effect on weight. Some people might argue the contrary, but they might be confused about what kind of weight they are losing.
Our bodies contain a lot of water, 60% in fact. When you get into a sauna, you start to sweat. This sweat is your body’s water pouring out in an attempt to cool things down. So if you were to weigh yourself after a sauna, you might see a slight drop in the Lbs. But it’s just water weight. Any loss you see post-sauna will come right back as soon as you rehydrate.
Now there is a case to be made for saunas affecting your metabolism. Much like exercise, a sauna can help your body burn calories faster. In this way, you could see some weight loss, but this is more of an indirect effect of saunas.
Much like swimming or exercise on a full stomach, you probably shouldn’t use a sauna after a meal. Your body is already using a lot of its energy to digest your food. You don’t want to put extra stress on yourself by adding temperature regulation to the equation, moreover, you don’t want to overdo it by using the sauna too many times in one day as we argued in our other article.
If you are curious about when you should eat, try and time it so you have a few hours before your sauna session. Keep in mind that not eating anything can also cause some problems. Taking these extra steps can make sure you are using your sauna in the best way possible. This will not only help you feel more comfortable but will also help with certain health benefits of saunas.