As we saw in the article on the cold exposure our nature expects different environments to stress us in order to keep us healthy and strong.
Today we have so many "advances" that it doesn't matter whether it's winter or summer, we move in a moderate temperature range all year round.
In this post we are going to analyze the benefits of sauna use according to science and the recommended protocols to achieve maximum sports performance.
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What is a sauna?
The sauna is a device that reaches high temperatures by different technological means in order to increase body temperature and obtain certain health benefits.
The natural source of heat is the sun, but otherwise we can use the sauna to expose ourselves to heat.
The sauna is just another biohacking tool (technology used for our health) although it will never replace all the benefits of the sun.
Spending a large part of the day indoors and with air conditioning means that we are hardly exposed to extreme temperatures and this is detrimental to us as we lose our ability to thermoregulate.
Thermal stress improves our overall health and sports performance in particular, and the sauna helps us to achieve this.
CrossFit athletes who include sauna in their routine.
On Joe Rogan's podcast, Mat Fraser admits that he was very interested when, among the long list of benefits, he read that doing the session before going to sleep helped rest and naturally increased growth hormone, he thought: I'll buy it!
Justin Medeiros was the face of an outdoor sauna manufacturer. In the promotional video he explains that he programmed the sauna to be ready when he returned home. The temperature was 104ºC, and when he came out he would get into the ice bath. He would repeat the process one more time to ensure he was ready to train the next day.
Josh Bridges is another athlete who has been featured on his YouTube channel, using this element. The veteran CrossFit athlete used the sauna right after training. Sessions of 15-20 minutes at 200º Farenheit / 90º Celsius. He also explains that sometimes he complements it with a cold bath.
Why do these athletes add sauna sessions to their recovery routine?
Benefits of sauna for crossfitters
Humans have the ability to adapt and improve in stressful situations.
Being exposed to hot environments on a constant basis helps to better tolerate heat and therefore perform better in conditions where body temperature rises.
The list of benefits is very long and technical, but these are some of the clearest advantages.
Fewer lost sessions
Not only those in the environment but even those that have already invaded us.
This is a very strong point of the sauna as it can help keep us disease free for a longer period of time. This means less disruption to the training program and better results.
Our body uses as a natural defense the elevation of temperature to heal us, this is what happens when we have a fever.
The sauna can help our defenses and protect us from colds due to mild infections (link study)
Related to the previous point, the less we get sick, the less we will skip the schedule.
Improves aerobic performance
Acclimatization to heat leads to adaptations that improve thermoregulation, the sensation of fatigue (link study), the risk of heat stroke and aerobic performance.
The magnitude of these benefits depends on the intensity, duration and frequency of heat exposure. More specifically:
Muscle gain is the positive difference between the process of protein synthesis and degradation in which our system is constantly working.
The sauna limits degradation by several mechanisms:
Disadvantages of sauna use
They are really few, but they must be taken into account:
It should be done gradually for 15-20 minutes and always respecting the sensations, if you feel discomfort, rest.
Types of sauna
These are the types of sauna depending on the heat source.
Availability in plants
Very high: 85-100ºC
Low, allows longer sessions
Dry or Finnish sauna
Steam or Turkish sauna
Although if this is really what you are looking for, there is an affordable option to have one at home for just over 500 €.
Use the code ANABELPUMP to get a discount.
The infrared blanket/sauna allows you to enjoy the benefits of the sauna comfortably from home and without taking up much space.
How does the Infrared Sauna Blanket work?
It is very easy. Imagine a sleeping bag. Just unroll the blanket on a flat space like a bed, sofa with a cheslong, or the floor if you are comfortable, and plug it into the mains. You have a remote control from which you can regulate time and intensity.
By default the program displayed is 40 ºC and 60 minutes. Adjust the temperature and time to your needs.
Don't expect to see red light inside, they are infrared, not red light. this post I will tell you more about this therapy.
You can use it with clothes or naked, and with or without a protective sheet. At the end of the session, open the blanket and wipe it with a cloth to remove the remains of sweat while you let it air and cool completely before folding it again.
During the session you can take the opportunity to relax as you like: music, book, podcast... or something we are not used to: nothing. And so we can listen to our thoughts and meditate.
You can also complete the session with the infrared mask (very geeky, I know) and you will have done a super complete session.
After the session, take a shower to remove the sweat and any toxins you may have eliminated.
Are there different sizes?
The open sauna is as big as my 2×2 bed. I have plenty to spare everywhere, so even if you're a big crossfitter you can fit in here.
Do you need someone to use it?
If you want you can ask for help, but you can do it by yourself. The closures are with velcro, you can leave it practically closed and enter from above or opening only a little piece.
Advantages of the infrared sheet
If this is a clear inconvenience for you, you have the space and you are willing to make the investment, there are also infrared saunas to leave installed at home.
Sauna protocol for crossfitters
Exposure to heat can be done in several ways such as being in high ambient temperatures, intense physical exercise, sauna, or wearing clothing that prevents heat dissipation.
To achieve the adaptability sought, the exposure must be sufficiently long and/or intense to produce a rise in body temperature and sweat.
Safe proposal according to studies:
Benefits are obtained after 2-3 weeks of use.
Time and temperature can vary and there are multiple combinations depending on the level of adaptation. The higher the temperature, the less time is needed.
The recommendation is always to start with the lowest dose and gradually increase tolerance.
It is important to rehydrate the body after the session to prevent the benefits of heat exposure from being diminished by a dehydration scenario. It is also recommended to add ¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt in the water (250ml-500ml).
Considering that the athlete has lost even more electrolytes during the training session, such a simple strategy of adding salt has a very positive impact on recovery.
Considerations for competitors
Although the sauna as a passive method of heat acclimatization offers many benefits, when it comes to improving athletic performance the most effective method is to replicate the competition scenario, i.e., performing the exercise in question in the expected heat conditions.
If you plan to compete in a climate different from your own, consider getting ahead of the competition and travel at least 4-7 days in advance to promote good adaptation. Studies indicate that almost total acclimatization does not take place before 15 days.
It is not recommended no sauna sessions 24/48 hours before the competition.
For a crossfitter who is really serious about training and has serious goals of competing, exposure to heat, heat, heat stress, and heat stress can be a challenge. cold and rehydration are basic techniques to improve their potential.
Other benefits for the general population
The sauna is a great biohacking tool to boost our health even if we are not professionally dedicated to CrossFit.
These are some of the benefits:
The sauna eliminates toxins through the skin, but not as much as the liver or kidneys. The main purpose of sweating is to control body temperature, not to eliminate toxins.
It is widely believed that the sauna is a method to eliminate toxins. Actually this may be the most known point among the benefits of the sauna although it is not the most relevant after having seen all of the above.
In fact, the sauna helps you eliminate toxins through sweating and minimize mercury levels but it is in relatively small quantities.
The main purpose of sweating is to control body temperature, not to eliminate toxins.
The organs that perform these detoxification functions are primarily the liver and kidneys, rather than the skin.
Yes we can understand it as in the case of using a sauna to promote detoxification, we will be removing some workload to the intestines, liver and kidneys.
Several studies point to a direct correlation between higher sauna use and lower mortality.
In particular, they point to an important reduction due to coronary artery disease (study)
Does sauna slimming?
Yes, but not as much as we might think.
Another reason why saunas have gained popularity is because the message has spread that saunas are slimming.
In the sauna session You lose water when you sweat but you don't lose fat.
Yes it is true that it raises metabolism and improves insulin sensitivity as we have seen at the beginning in the list of benefits. This means that it contributes its grain of sand in fat loss, but it does not play a fundamental role as does exercise and a proper diet.