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Getting the Most Out of Your Post-Workout Sauna Session



Posted on April 06 2023

If you do choose to use a sauna for post-workout recovery, our experts have a few safety guidelines to keep in mind.

For one, if you're new to sauna bathing, definitely don't jump in with a 30-minute session — it will not be a pleasant experience. "Initially stay in for five to 10 minutes," Dr. Sims says. General time guidelines vary, with some sources noting that five- to 20-minute sauna sessions are perfectly fine for reaping the health benefits; Dr. Sims says you can ultimately aim for 25- to 30-minute sauna sessions where the temperature doesn't exceed 165˚F. It's best to build up to that slowly and experiment with what time frame works best for you — but it's not advised to exceed that 30-minute threshold. "As you build up, it is OK to step out of the sauna for a minute or two and then head back in," Dr. Sims adds. Try to start your sauna session within a few hours after the end of your workout, and aim for three to five sessions a week once you've built up to this more consistent use over time.

Another must: hydrating before and after sauna use. "It is advised to slowly rehydrate over the course of two to three hours, postsauna, with cool beverages," Dr. Sims says. She doesn't recommend drinking water during your sauna session, as this could be ultimately counterproductive — your body has to be stressed to some degree to produce those heat-tolerance and performance adaptations — but it's important to listen to your body and take a break or get a drink of water when you need to. (More on that below.) Most sauna brands, infrared and traditional, also recommend drinking water (some recommend up to 32 ounces) before starting your post-workout sauna session, to avoid extreme dehydration.

When your sauna session is over, drape a cool, damp towel over your back to slowly bring your body temperature back down, Dr. Sims says. She advises against "packing yourself in ice," though, because "ice on the skin is too cold and actually constricts your blood vessels," which you just opened up by sitting in heat.

Sauna Safety and Who Shouldn't Use a Sauna
It's also worth noting that whenever you hit the sauna (after a workout or otherwise), there are some general safety risks to be aware of. For one thing, sauna use can cause overheating and dehydration, so make sure to step out of the sauna, sit down, and drink some water if you start experiencing symptoms (such as mouth dryness, extreme thirst, headaches, and dizziness or lightheadedness).

Consult your doctor before using a sauna if you have a heart condition or are on medication, as sauna use can interfere with some medications (and certain medications actually increase your risk of heat exhaustion). Also, don't use a sauna (especially a public sauna) if you have a cold, the flu, or COVID-19. Do not drink alcohol before, during, or after using a sauna, as the sauna-induced dehydration will increase the effects of alcohol and can increase your risk of low blood pressure, research says. (For those reasons, you shouldn't use a sauna when you're hungover, either.) Finally, avoid using a sauna when you're pregnant, too.

Post-workout sauna bathing can be a relaxing experience, but make sure you take the right precautions going in: hydrate, don't push past your limits, and talk to your doctor first to make sure sauna use is safe for you. After that? Fire up the sauna, grab your plushest towel and comfiest slides, and get ready to sweat out the soreness.



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