Does Sweating More Mean a Better Workout?

Does sweating more mean a better workout? Find out why we sweat and if it's the best way to gauge a workout's effectiveness here!

I am a serious sweat machine. When I work out, it doesn’t matter if it’s air conditioned indoors, or there’s a cool breeze outdoors, I’m going to sweat a lot. After a long run or race, there are telltale white streaks of salt residue on my face. I see people doing a similar workout to me who barely break a sweat…but does sweating more mean a better workout? 

Why Do We Sweat? 

Let’s get something out of the way first…sweat does not release toxins. I swear there’s this modern idea that our bodies are toxic waste-grounds and our goal in life should be the release the toxins by cleansing, fasting, juicing, sweating, or some other method. Don’t worry about “the toxins”. The only things being released when you sweat are water, sodium, chloride, potassium, and tiny amounts of ammonia and urea. These are not toxins. Most of them are electrolytes, which is why it’s important not only to rehydrate with water after a hot, sweaty workout, but also with some form of electrolytes. Coconut water does the trick, or a banana and something salty like pretzels will work as well. (You can check out this Run It round up for lots of great tips on hydration for athletes).

Sweating is the body’s response to a rise in temperature – our very own form of temperature regulation. We sweat, the dampness on our skin helps cool us, and then when the sweat evaporates it removes some heat from the skin as well.

You not only sweat when doing aerobic exercise that raises your body temperature, but also while lifting heavy weights. That’s because your blood pressure rises temporarily when you lift heavy, and sweat is a natural response to higher blood pressure as well. 

Who Sweats Most?

Sweat response has a lot to do with individual genetics. The number of sweat glands you have differs from person to person. Also, some people’s sweat glands produce less sweat than others do. Men tend to produce more sweat per sweat gland than women do. Younger people sweat more than older people do. And…are you ready for this? Fit people sweat more than unfit people. This is because fit people’s bodies have adapted to the stressors of working out by making the body temperature regulation response (sweating) that much more efficient. Not only that, fit people’s sweat response kicks in earlier, because their body knows what’s coming and gets the cooling happening early. The body is crazy adaptable and efficient!

So…Does Sweating More Mean a Better Workout?

No, it doesn’t. Ambient temperature has a big effect on sweating, genetics play a huge role, and your relative fitness affects your sweating as well. I have to say, though, even knowing the science behind sweating, I still think of sweat as a way of gauging a good workout…it’s a concrete physical response to exercise that I can see and feel, and makes me feel like I’m working hard. 

Does Sweating More Mean a Better Workout? The facts on sweating during exercise.

Just remember, though, you are also getting a great workout from yoga, swimming, running or working out in very cold temperatures, and you’re not necessarily sweating very much during those workouts (or you don’t notice it as much). You can appreciate your sweat response and think of it as an effect of a good workout, but don’t think that your non-sweaty endeavors aren’t great workouts, too.

How Can I Deal With Sweating?

If you’re a super sweater, first off you just have to own it! 😉 But there are a few things you can do to combat sweating like crazy.

  • Wear sweat-wicking clothing, so you’re helping your body’s cool-down mechanism by allowing the sweat to evaporate from the skin.
  • Apply your anti-perspirant at night and then re-apply in the morning. For it to work, the active ingredient has to be absorbed into your sweat glands and block them – it has time to do this at night when you’re resting, but if you apply it in the morning, chances are it will be sweated away before it has time to take effect.
  • Try a cool shower after your workout, to get your core body temperature down further.
  • Hydrate throughout your workout and replace your salt and electrolytes after you’re done.
  • Especially if you’re working out outdoors in the summer, wear light-colored clothing, and you can even wet your hat or shirt (or wear a frozen bandana around your neck) for extra cooling.

Want more tips for staying cool when you’re working out in the heat? Check out our Run It round up on beating the heat, as well as my best tips for summer running.

Comments

  1. I swear that no other woman I know sweats as much as I do…. I try to own it, but it is super annoying ….

  2. So interesting! I hadn’t really thought about the genetic component. But it’s been interesting as I’m doing more pool workouts lately how much lower my heart rate stays (and sweating) even when I’m doing really intense intervals! The water really keeps me cool.

  3. Jan Hilder says:

    It comes from your Dad, not from me.!