Using a Sauna Before or After a Workout? Which is Best?

Medically reviewed by Dr. Justin Ternes
As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases made on our website.

The intense heat of a sauna will trigger your body’s thermoregulation response. Your heart rate will rise, your circulation will increase, more blood will be brought to your skin, and you will start to sweat. This response is all an effort to regulate your body’s core temperature and it’s quite similar to the reaction your body has from intense exercise. Even though a sauna may feel like a workout, it is still good practice to exercise too. But in what order?

It’s best to use a sauna after a workout. Saunas effects on the body promote muscle relaxation and relieve tension, which is best post-workout. Sauna use also reduces your energy level and dehydrates you, which is not ideal before a workout. 

You might think that sauna use is an excellent way to “warm-up” for your exercise, and while it will, in fact, warm you, it has the opposite effect than you might think: relaxation. You certainly don’t want to be relaxed and tired going into a workout. Otherwise, you will miss out on all your strength gains and won’t perform at optimal levels. Additionally, hot saunas cause you to sweat – a lot. With hydration playing a vital role in any workout, it is best to save the sauna until after your workout. 

The Effects of Infrared or Steam Saunas on Your Workouts

Sauna with long benches and a bucket

Like traditional saunas, infrared saunas and steam rooms both have a relaxing effect on your body when used at the appropriate temperature. Essentially, they calm your muscles, reduce tension, and enter them into a state that is ready for rest. Infrared saunas and steam rooms reduce your body’s general energy level, as staying in a hot area long enough to get your heart rate up is similar to undergoing an intense workout.

Additionally, saunas, steam rooms, and the like all decrease your hydration levels which is not ideal before a workout. As you can see, steam rooms, traditional saunas, and infrared saunas all push your body into a direction you shouldn’t want it to go before an intense workout. That is why you should limit sauna use to after your workouts, or a simple, quick warm-up before. Not the full sauna session. 

Why you Shouldn’t Use the Sauna Before a Workout

As stated earlier in this article, you might think a sauna session could be a good “warm-up” to your workout. However, a pre-workout sauna visit before your workout can lead to a number of issues that you should avoid. One of the sauna’s side-effects is relaxing your muscles. Muscles that are in a deep state of relaxation can not perform as intensely during your workout and could lead to injuries and damage.  

Saunas Reduce Energy Levels and Your Hydration

The intense heat of saunas tends to lower your overall energy levels and mentally relax you. If you want to be at peak performance, it is best to save the sauna until after your workout. Keeping your mind alert and energy levels topped-offed are great ways to ensure you avoid injuries and have a fulfilling workout. A big part of the reason why saunas drain you of your energy is that it takes work for your body to keep itself into a state of equilibrium, also known as homeostasis.

Lastly, what saunas do best is heat your body leading to increased blood flow via your circulatory system. Visiting the sauna before your workout will not only start excessive sweating dehydrating you before your workout, but coupled with your exercise, it could lead to you overheating since sweat is the primary way the body removes heat and you might be dehydrated. Avoid overheating and dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids and saving the sauna visit until your workout is finished. 

Why Using a Sauna After a Workout is Beneficial

Elderly woman relaxing in sauna

Using a sauna is most beneficial if done after a workout. It’s an excellent way to cap off an intense or even moderate exercise. When you are exercising, you actually form microscopic tears on your muscles, leading to muscle soreness. It could also lead to inflammation, cramps, and stiffness. Saunas are a great recovery tool when used after a workout. Sauna use after exercising has the following benefits: 

  • Quicker muscle recovery — Saunas not only relieve tension with their heat but also boost blood circulation too. Increased circulation, in turn, provides more oxygenated blood directly to your muscles. 
  • Promotes weight loss — Many studies have shown that saunas promote weight loss. The heat from saunas raises your heart rate, improves your immune response, lowers cortisol production, and increases human growth hormone production. All of these factors help trim inches off your waist. 
  • Increased sweating — Sweating helps cool your body down and could help with balancing your electrolytes, but make sure to stay hydrated. 

Remember: a Sauna is a Workout Too

Saunas and steam rooms both warm your body and activate thermoregulatory responses. In simple terms, your body kicks inner processes into gear, attempting to keep your core temperature as close to 98.6°F as possible. This response from your body includes increased heart rate, more blood circulation, and more energy loss. Sounds like a workout in itself, right? Well, essentially it is! And you should view it that way. Looking at saunas from this viewpoint makes it much clearer that you should visit the sauna after a strenuous workout, not leading up to it. 

Additional Tips for Post-Workout Sauna Visits 

During your post-workout sauna visit, remember to hydrate well. Exercise and saunas both stimulate sweat production, which – as we argued repeatedly in our guide on using a sauna more than once per day – could rob your body of electrolytes and water. Dehydration isn’t healthy and doesn’t feel too nice either, so bring your water with you to your workout and the sauna. 

Leave a Comment