When was the last time you were really sweaty? Just dripping wet. We want to set the record straight on sweat - the good, the bad, and the hairy - 11 things you may not have known about getting hot, sticky sweet from your head to your feet! Sweat is actually quite good for you, and isn’t anything to fear or avoid.
What is sweat?
Sweat is a combination of water, salt, sugar, protein, and even ammonia.
Why do we sweat?
Sweating is a very natural response to an internal increase in body temperature. Whether from exercise, fever, anxiety, or even spicy foods, when our body warms up it starts to cool itself off. Once on the skin, that moisture evaporates and cools. (Dogs wish they were as lucky as we are!)
Sweat doesn’t stink.
We know you think you reek during a good sweat, but the sweat itself is odorless. The funk happens when the sweat mixes with bacteria on the skin or even hormone secretions found in stinky places like your armpits.
- Sweat doesn’t burn calories.
If you’re watching your calorie burn during a workout, do not use sweat as a gauge. It has nothing to do with calories, but your own body’s response to rising temperature. You can look like you stepped out of a monsoon...but you’re still only burning about 300 calories during a bikram class.
- Sweaty workouts aren’t better workouts.
Again, if you’re rowing for an hour or running 10 miles or hiking up a mountain and come down relatively dry...it doesn’t mean you didn’t do the work. Your body just responded differently than the drenched friend next to you. Sweat is not an indication of exercise quality.
- Everyone sweats differently.
Gender, age, and genetics all play a role in how sweaty a person is. Some people sweat sitting still. Some people can crush an OTF class and pat their damp forehead dry. We all sweat differently. There are conditions that cause excessive sweating and not enough sweating, and those extremes can be treated by a doctor.
- Sweating releases toxins.
Sweating is a natural detox that kicks out a bunch of junk your body doesn’t need. Sweat helps release chemicals like BPA and PCBs, bacteria, and heavy metals we are exposed to through food, water, and industrial chemicals.
- Deep sauna sweat is good for you.
Practicing a safe sauna regimen (no alcohol, plenty of water, only 15-20 minutes) can help you have a really good sweat with a little zen time. The dry heat can push a pint of sweat during a sit, which certainly helps release toxins but has been connected with heart health, too.
- Sweat makes healthy skin.
That dewy, glowing skin you keep chasing? You’re going to have to sweat for it. Moisturized skin looks younger and healthier.
- Sweat can damage hair.
Ever skip a workout because you didn’t want to deal with your hair? *everyone raises their hand* True, sweat can wreck a ‘do or force you to go through the process when you don’t want to. The salt in sweat can dry the scalp, interrupt new growth, and even damage color. There are a few things you can do to protect your sweaty head (and keep working out!).
- Use a leave-in conditioner before you workout to create a moisture barrier.
- Wear a loose pony; too tight can break the hair.
- Wear a clean cotton headband to absorb the sweat.
- Rinse hair with cold water immediately after a workout.
- Or, use a dry shampoo after a workout.
- Black hair and sweat can get along.
A 2014 study found that 45% of Black women avoided exercise because of their hair, a staggering statistic for a population already at risk for overweight, obesity, and related diseases. Dr. Regina Benjamin, Surgeon General from ‘09-13, made it a key focus of her tenure to get Black women moving. She was so committed she hosted a contest for the best hairstyles for working out! Natalie Morris wrote about some of the “struggles” Black hair poses in the gym, and how to overcome them:
- Exercise in cool conditions.
- Keep a head scarf loose; too tight will break the hair.
- Don’t shampoo after each workout, and use sulphate-free shampoo.
- Stay hydrated with lots of water.