Sauna for better CrossFit performance

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.

This post contains affiliate links for which we receive a small commission and which in no case implies an increase in the price for you.

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.

Justin Medeiros sauna
Photo by Redwood Outdors. Athlete: Justin Medeiros.

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

  • Elimination of pathogens

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.

  • Increases defenses

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.

benefits sauna crossfit athletes

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:

  • Increases blood flowred blood cells and plasma volume: this helps to reduce the heart rate (link study) and lactate accumulation.
  • Increases mitochondrial biogenesistranslates to more mitochondria and therefore more energy.(link study)
  • Improves glycogen conservation favoring the main use of fat and postponing fatigue (link study
  • With better acclimatization to heat lower concentration of sodium and chloride in sweat. By reducing mineral loss, a better fluid level is maintained.

Promotes hypertrophy

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:

  • Increases growth hormone. Studies show that in addition to helping to increase growth hormone multiplication in different proportions depending on the use of the same (duration, temperature, number of sessions ...) there is a synergistic effect with training, further enhancing their growth. (study)
  • Generates heat shock proteins which slow down muscle wasting thanks to their dual action: slowing down oxidative stress and reducing protein degradation (study 1, study 2)

Disadvantages of sauna use

They are really few, but they must be taken into account:

  • Like all the tools we have at our disposal to optimize our health, the sauna should be used in the most appropriate conditions. recommended doses, more is not better. With adequate doses our body reacts positively generating improvements in performance while if the exposure is excessive it can be dangerous. 

It should be done gradually for 15-20 minutes and always respecting the sensations, if you feel discomfort, rest. 

  • The sauna is counterproductive if you have been drinking alcohol. Although it does not seem that the profile of the person who seeks to maximize his health with sauna sessions is the same as the one who drowns his sorrows in alcohol, it is worth warning that this combination does not give good results. (study)

Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that they are even safe for low-risk pregnant women and people with heart problems as we have seen above. (study)

Types of sauna

These are the types of sauna depending on the heat source.

Demo Image
Demo Image
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Availability in plants
Very high: 85-100ºC
Low: 5-10%
Discharge: 70-100%
More bearable
Low, allows longer sessions

Dry or Finnish sauna

  • This is the traditional wood-clad sauna. 
  • It is usually found in gyms.
  • Uses hot air from heaters (electric or gas).
  • It usually has hot stones on which water is poured to increase the humidity and the sensation of warmth.
crossfit dry sauna

Steam or Turkish sauna

  • Air-conditioned room that heats the environment by means of humid steam.
  • They are usually ceramic or natural stone spaces.
  • Common in water areas such as spas or some gyms.
steam sauna for crossfit

Infrared sauna

  • It uses infrared waves to generate heat. In this article you can find out in more detail all the benefits of red light.
  • Unlike the two previous models, infrared increases body heat without increasing space heat.
  • It is the most "pleasant" type of sauna, i.e. the one with which one suffers the least, thus allowing longer sessions.
  • Chlorine free: most gym saunas are steam saunas with chlorine, the infrared sauna is not.
  • 2×1 session, at the same time you get the benefits of sauna and infrared light therapy. 
  • It is not easy to find this type of saunas.

Although if this is really what you are looking for, there is an affordable option to have one at home for just over 500 €.

Infrared blanket

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.

infrared blanket

By default the program displayed is 40 ºC and 60 minutes. Adjust the temperature and time to your needs.

infrared sauna at home

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.

bon charge infrared sheet

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.

infrared light blanket
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

  • Price: For a relatively affordable price you can have a sauna at home to use whenever you want. No need to depend on a gym or a specific center to make the sessions. Plus with the coupon ANABELPUMP you get a discount.
  • Space: compared to a 1-person construction sauna, the sheet is much smaller. When folded it fits in a closet, on the canapé under the bed...
  • Portability: even if most of the time you do the sessions in the same place (for many people the bed is the easiest place), you can always move it easily if you need to: to another place in the house, take it with you in case of moving, enjoy it during your vacations...
  • Consumption: simply for obvious reasons, the energy consumption is lower than that of a much larger sauna.


  • Assembly: not to say that they are all advantages, every time you want to do a session you will have to take the sauna from where you have it stored, deploy it and plug it in for use. That is in case you do not always leave it installed in your home, which is unlikely because most people do not have enough space.
  • If you buy this model that comes from Australia you will have to expect to pay customs. It can be around 25€.

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.

Bagno italia Infrared sauna...
  • infrared sauna
  • Dimensions 120x100x190H cm

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:

  • Time:  15-30 minutes
  • Temperature: infrared 60°C, in traditional sauna 80-90°C 
  • Frequency: 2-4 times a week. Ideally a daily session even if there is no training.
  • Maximum beats per minute: 140 
  • When: post training

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:

Eliminates toxins

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.

Lower mortality

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.

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