Saunas: Fab or Fluke?

Stepped out of the box a little for b-fast this morning..

bfast quinoa2

breakfast quinoa!

It’s been forever since I’ve had it for breakfast, but it’s an awesome am option- so good heated up with almond milk, topped with berries and almond butter.

bfast quinoa

After yesterday’s adventures, we chilled at the house, and when Liv went to bed, I went upstairs for a little core workout using the stability ball. 15 minutes and I got in a lovely burn.


I was debating going to workout at work, but figured if I ended up there, I’d just sit in the Inhalation room for a while and then leave- it’s been calling my name lately. I’ve been craving a super heated room since it’s been a little colder –I say “colder” but it jumped down from almost 90 to the 60s- and think it has something to do with the fact that I miss Bikram and Power Yoga like crazy. I love the heat SO much –the hotter, the better- but taking a class right now isn’t realistic since it’s really like a 2 1/2 hour ordeal (90 min class + driving time).

Since I was thinking about the awesome Inhalation Room (with eucalyptus to soothe breathing passages)- I might have to hit it up for a few minutes after work this week- I also got to thinking about saunas. At LA Fitness, I used to see people roasting in the saunas all the time and loved how relaxing it looked. Of course, the bacteria factor comes to mind… undressed bodies sweating away… would the heat zap the germs?

image Source

So why are saunas and steam rooms in many gyms in the first place?

Saunas are extremely hot and dry (125-200* F), while steam rooms are at a slightly cooler temperature (max 120* F) but feel just as warm from added humidity. They’ve been used for centuries by various cultures and gained gym popularity from the calorie-burning and weight loss potential. You sit and burn extra calories.. sounds pretty good, right?

Is it true?

Weight loss occurs from profuse sweating, which is all water weight. You rehydrate and will gain in back.

Since your heart has to to work harder and the body uses its energy resources to cool down, you will burn calories, but according to various sources, only up to 300 for a 30 minute session. The thing is, you’re just burning calories- you’re not promoting muscle growth or fitness gains from your efforts. Actual exercise has a totally different affect on the body, since it gives you the ability to burn fat and tone muscle. More muscle leads to higher calorie-burning potential in the long run, and sitting in a sauna doesn’t promote strong, lean muscles.

image Source

Why do it, then?

If you enjoy being roasty toasty like yours truly without sitting in the sun, I say there’s no harm in it if you monitor how long you’re in there and hydrate appropriately. I also believe that sweating helps the body eliminate toxins, so a good sweat sesh every now and again is a good thing. Of course, the best way to achieve fitness and weight loss gains is through old-fashioned healthy eats and moderate exercise.

As far as the germ thing goes, I have no idea if the high heat in the saunas zaps the germs –steam rooms are a little easier to clean since they’re lined with tile, so I’d imagine they’d be less germ-y. Word to the wise: wear shower shoes, sit on a towel and shower after using the sauna or steam room. [Edited: deleted “wear a swimsuit” because instead of protecting against infections it does the opposite! Yikers]

Do you use a sauna or steam room every now and again? Fan of hot yoga, or notsomuch?

The first time I took a Bikram class, I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy it. And just like Jenna warned me, I started to crave it.

Hope you have a great day!

See ya later with a family post <3



Head’s up: New workout will be up tomorrow 😉

Something to do: Check out your Amazing April list and see what goals you have left to tackle- we’re halfway through the month!

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  1. Christina Marie on April 16, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    I sometimes use the steam room after a swim, I never even think about it after a normal workout though. I pretty much need to already be in my swimwear.

    Love Bikram but I can’t afford a normal gym membership and those classes. I did a month intro for $35 and after that month I found that I just couldn’t swing it. I was bummed b/c it was such a good workout and I LOVE to sweat!

  2. Beth on April 16, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    I am terrified of saunas, so I never go in them… but not because of the germs! They are so hot and dry… I think the germies would have a hard time surviving in there! But I have no professional knowledge on that– just a guess.

  3. Stefanie @TheNewHealthy on April 16, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    I use the steam room every now and again simply for the relaxation factor! Although I have to admit the whole sweaty bodies thing kind of skeeves me out! I have yet to take a hot yoga class, but it’s on my list of things to do. 🙂

  4. Eleonora on April 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    I love saunas and steam rooms, but I wouldn’t recommend using a bathing suit: nylon+sweat = increased risk of infections (at least, that’s what my OB/GYN told me). In Europe (northern Europe in particular) you normally go there undressed, and sit on a towel. Southern Europe wraps up in a towel, but not in a swimsuit!

    • Fitnessista on April 16, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      good to know- i’d think a swimsuit would protect things but i guess not!

  5. Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie on April 16, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    I’ve never used a sauna before but not because of the germ factor. It just never really appealed to me. I’m a hot tub kind of person! ;p

  6. Kristen on April 16, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    I love relaxing in a steam room and sometimes I’ll go in there and stretch a bit if I feel particularly tight – nothing better than a serious sweat sometimes. I haven’t done it in ages because I got a lovely (said with extreme sarcasm) infection from one a while back – think giant pimple looking things. It was not pretty, but it was my own fault for not using a wide enough towel.

    • Kristen on April 16, 2012 at 1:08 pm

      Eeww gross! Read my comment below LOL

  7. Steffany on April 16, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    I don’t use the gym’s sauna/steam room anymore now that my parents have installed a steam shower, so I will just go there & steam haha. The BF wants to get one put in the basement now too, lol. (: (The basement is where all of our workout equipment is, and there is already a shower down there anyways)

  8. Kristen on April 16, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    This is a nasty vision, but everytime I think of a sauna or anything like that I picture hairy old men sitting in there naked with their hairy backs, butts, and ballz sweating it out in the same spot that I’m about to sit. No amount of sanitation eases my mind about that! I know that’s not what really goes on in there (well, maybe it is?) but the thought is enough to turn me off from it.

    On a better note, quinoa for breakfast sounds awesome! I’ll have to try it.

  9. Emily T on April 16, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    I definitely love steam rooms…especially the eucalyptus-scented one at my gym. I haven’t been in it since before I got pregnant back in July, but I need to get my booty back in there now that I can enjoy letting my body heat up again without risk to the baby!

  10. mary on April 16, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    300 calories for a 30 minute session of sitting in a sauna sounds terrific to me. That’s about all you can burn doing cardio. I wore a HRM through a Bikram class and it did say I burned like 800 calories but I highly doubt it as I was closely food tracking then and doing Bikram regularly and my weight loss for those months was no where near what it should have been by the math. But I never could find more info on “is elevated HR from heat the same as from exercise, as far as calorie burn?” I suspect not. Phoenix/Tucson would be full of skinny people, I’d think, if it was true.

    Sauna temps aren’t hot enough to kill germs but the only time I get weirded is from being in public pools or other standing water. I know the chlorine kills the germs, it’s more the hair and such that grosses me out!

  11. Brittany on April 16, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    I love saunas and steem rooms but I have asthma and steam bothers it a lot. So I love them but I cant breathe in them! Gina I was wondering if you have any thoughts on zumba aqua? I’m going to try it out for the first time today.

  12. Elizabeth @ reads recipes runs on April 16, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    I seriously HATE being hot in any way. I wanted so badly to like hot yoga, but I hated it 🙁 to me a sauna sounds like torture!

  13. Catalina @ Cake with Love on April 16, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    I come from easter Europe to be specific from Moldova, a country that was part os Sovient Union so we have a lot of russian influence, thats why we LOVE LOVE saunas! Me and my husband during the winter go once a week usually Saturday night to a sauna in NJ and we spend like 4 hours there!! Yes, we go into the steaming rooms every 10 or 15 minutes, use the pool, eat at the cafetaria and repeat! we have different brooms made from leaves to use in the steaming room, it is a great experience, and it is not for weight loss, since we drink enough water and eat there, but I can totally say how my blood circulation improves, I feel more energy the next days and after we use the sauna we jump in a very, very cold pool so the immune system also benefite, it is a great experience, its just hard here in US to find saunas that are the real thing you know, but so far the one in NJ is perfect its just a long one hour drive!

  14. Catalina @ Cake with Love on April 16, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Oh and by the way it is for men and women and children so NO Naked people 🙂

  15. Marie-Sophie on April 16, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Recently I’ve been loving the sauna!! Not only because I always seem to be cold and a sauna is just like a gigantic hot water bottle 🙂 … but also because I get a lot less sore after intense workouts! I just got into Body Pump (and I just joined a gym… with body pump and a sauna, can you tell ?! ;-)) and I find that I feel a lot better the next day (and my quads do, too) if I have one or two 10-15min sauna sessions after.

    • Marie-Sophie on April 16, 2012 at 1:32 pm

      But yeah, I might sound weird but I had to get over the “naked thing”! Seeing all the ladies from the gym naked, no big deal (they see me naked in the changing room anyway) .. but the guys? do I want to show everyone my boobs? 😀 Well, the gigantic hot water bottle thing + the less soreness factor kind of won, I suppose. 🙂

      • Brittany on April 16, 2012 at 5:03 pm

        “Gigantic hot water bottle”! I love it! The whole naked thing freaks me out. I always wear a towel in the sauna. I love sweating in the sauna so much. Now I want to go in the sauna!

        • Brittany on April 17, 2012 at 6:00 am

          just found out last night that my gym has a sauna. I went in it after my workout. it was magical.

  16. Paige @ Running Around Normal on April 16, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Ehh, I’m not a huge fan of saunas, but every now and then if I’m particularly cold, they sound pretty good.
    However, although I’ve never taken bikram or hot yoga, I just don’t think I’d be a big fan there either. I’m not a fan of working out in a heated room I guess:)

  17. Anna @ The Guiltless Life on April 16, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    I do enjoy the sauna and my naturopath heavily recommended it to me as a great natural detox, but rehydration is SO important, and I don’t stay in there longer than 15-20 minutes. My naturopath recommends no one go in for more than 30 mins and you have to build up to it for sure. But I don’t see the harm in it otherwise!

  18. Jacquelyn on April 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    I have been wanting to have quinoa for breakfast but I wasn’t sure if there is a special breakfast quinoa? Or do you just use regular quinoa and treat it like cereal? help!

    • Fitnessista on April 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm

      regular quinoa and just treat it like oats 🙂

      • Jacquelyn on April 16, 2012 at 2:05 pm

        Thanks! I guess I shouldn’t cook it with vegetable broth when I’m planning on eating it for breakfast though!

        • Fitnessista on April 16, 2012 at 2:28 pm

          aha prob should cook in water

  19. Ashley @ Sweat for Sweets on April 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Thanks for sharing this info, Gina! I actually had no idea that sitting in a sauna would burn many calories – you learn something new every day ;)! I use the gym in my condo building, which unfortunately doesn’t not have a sauna. I can never handle them for very long anyway though, as my heart starts to go a little crazy after about 10 minutes hahah. I do LOVE hot yoga though!

  20. updog on April 16, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Hi Gina!
    Sweating doesn’t actually help eliminate toxins … we sweat as a means to cool down the body and that’s about it. Although we DO lose electrolytes and small amounts of other ions that are tiny enough to be dissolved in water, things that are commonly thought of as “toxins” (usually heavy metals and other chemicals) are too big to pass through our cellular membranes and are not excreted when we sweat. That’s the liver’s job. Exercise can indirectly assist with the elimination of toxins by increasing our metabolism and increasing our intake of water, both of which can help the liver filter toxins more quickly.
    *I’m a student of nutrition science and spent some time this semester researching this subject matter after a spin instructor claimed that sweating would help us “detox.”

    • mary on April 16, 2012 at 3:29 pm

      I think Bikram instructors teach that we sweat out toxins, too. I know one of mine says that’s why sweaty clothes smell but mine don’t smell unless you let them sit in bag and get bacteria or something going in them, I think.

      I think it might be good for our bodies in some way to sweat, but not due to toxins. Maybe just due to you’re working a system that is designed to be worked sometimes, not to sit unused for months. I’m not a big sweat-er so I don’t really put much weight in it. I think we just feel a detox-like effect from the exercise-induced endorphins, really.

  21. Hillary on April 16, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    I’ve done Bikram a few times and have a love/hate relationship with it. I do love the feeling of a good sweat though, whether it’s from yoga or running or whatever!

  22. Laura @ She Eats Well on April 16, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    My Nutritionist tells me that saunas are a great way to add to detoxification, as long as you’re staying hydrated before and after. I wish I had one near me. I quit my gym in SF because it was so expensive and it didn’t provide any extras, like sauna or pool. If my gym had one I def. would have stayed a member! I think saunas and steam rooms feel so great!

  23. j3nn on April 16, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Good timing on this post! I just bought a tiny portable, fold-able sauna last night, LOL. I want to have one in our home one day but first we need to buy a house. Anyway, I have water retention problems and thought an extra dose of sweating it out would help. I know it’s not real weight loss, but when you have excess water that can be just as bad as excess fat, so it does help in that sense. I’ll just have to re-hydrate with less than I lost to keep the balance in my favor. And I have to keep my electrolytes balanced, which is very important when you lose a lot of water.

  24. Faith @ For the Health of It on April 16, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I’m terrified of saunas. I freak out that the room is going to close itself/lock shut and I’ll be trapped to a sweaty death. As far as hot yoga though, I love it. The sweating combined with the workout really does have great results in my body. I first started noticing my abs when I started doing hot yoga regularly! Yes, it’s somewhat water weight (and you have to be super careful about re-hydrating before and after) but it really is a great workout.

  25. Sonia on April 16, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    I wouldn’t recommend going into a sauna or a steam room in a swimsuit – not because of germs, but because normally people swim in swimsuits before going into the sauna and the water in the pools tends to contain chlorine and in high heat that turns into toxins… and who would want to breathe those?
    Hopefully being naked or wrapped up in a towel doesn’t sound so bad after all!

    Where I live (in North Europe), we actually have signs in swimming halls or spas telling us not to wear a swimsuit in the saunas or steam rooms because of that. (Unfortunately, not everyone obeys.) But being naked in a sauna is not seen as weird around here. That’s how it’s supposed to be!

    Also, saunas aren’t always simply hot and dry. Sure, compared to a steam room, it is dry, but it can be quite humid, too! That tends to be muuuch nicer than very dry and hot air. Electric saunas tend to be worse (and of course those are the ones spas etc. have).

    Ahhh, sauna. Our national treasure. 😀

  26. Emily @ Glitz Glam Granola on April 16, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Ohh I have been wanting to do quinoa for breakfast for a long time myself but I never know exactly how to have it so that it’s not super bland! Love the idea of adding some almond milk! And I can’t do steam rooms or saunas actually. I’ve tried them both multiple times and even after a few minutes, I get light headed (have fainted on occasion) and always get a massive migraine from the toxins release. AKA all sorts of bad! But I know lots of people love them!

  27. Silvia @ skinny jeans food on April 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    I love saunas — they are great to sweat out toxins, especially also if you are stressed, it helps to eliminate by-products, and feel refreshed again. In my sauna, a lot of weightlifting guys and athletes go because they can work harder and don’t get sore/avoid sore muscles because the lactic acid by products are eliminated by a sweat session in the sauna. — It is really a deep cleaning process.

    As of germ, I think they are zapped by the dry heat. I hate more the sweat puddles left behind but I would always sit on my own towel and wear some flip-flops. My sessions are never longer than 10min a peace (with cooling down, rinsing off in-between), and no more than 2-3 of these, so I don’t think there is a rapid germ infestation if you put your bathing suit (or shorts and tank top) in the laundry later.

  28. Red on April 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    I seem to recall someone telling me that there were more germs in a steam room due to the moist air as opposed to the dry air in a sauna. But I don’t even remember who said that to me so they may be wrong.

    • Fitnessista on April 16, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      that would make sense because bacteria thrives under moist conditions

  29. Tara on April 16, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    I went to a nordic spa in January for my birthday and tried both the sauna and the steam room. It was define and I felt ** so relaxed ** after the treatments! Definately helped with my sleep too!

  30. Lauren on April 16, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    I just really got into hot yoga this year. It is an amazing form of working out while stretching and relaxing. Since I am training for a half marathon, my weekly hot yoga class is key to my training!

    I totally recommend it!!!!!

  31. Averie @ Averie Cooks on April 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    I don’t really like Bikram yoga all that much and prefer yoga like ashtanga or other power-based styles that build the heat organically rather than being in a room that’s already pretty darn hot. That said, I do love being in hot rooms or hot places…I’d way rather sweat than freeze 🙂

  32. Jessica on April 16, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    One of my April goals was to try out a new type of workout. I tried Zumba once and wasn’t a fan (I had a reallllly boring instructor who was not into it at all!) Over the weekend we had a Zumba Marathon as a fundraiser for my college dance team and it was sweaty and amazingg. Now I see what you’re always raving about (: One check off my Amazing April list!

  33. Linz @ ItzLinz on April 16, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Very occassionally, I love sitting in a steam room! I just like sweating, but these sessions occur only after a workout routine and I consume an entire bottle of water while in there to replenish the lost fluids! I also occassionally like bikram yoga… key word in my response: occassionally! 🙂 🙂

  34. Erin on April 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    i just clicked on your bikram yoga link-where did you go in orlando? i live there and have always wanted to go 🙂

    • Erin on April 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      The only one i know of is Orlando Power Yoga-they practice the Baron Baptiste style of power vinyasa yoga. But that’s not what you did is it? Ahh it seems like there are so many types of yoga, confusing!

      • Fitnessista on April 17, 2012 at 5:49 pm

        I LOVE OPY!
        i took bikram at bikram yoga west (by sea world)

  35. Shaina Anderson on April 16, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    I looooooooove walking into the Bikram room, especially when I’m chilled. I miss it so much! Heat + nausea made me take a hiatus in my first trimester and then I was nervous about not being used to it and starting again 4 months pregnant. 7ish more weeks until baby! Like you though, I’m sure it will be a while before I can get away long enough for a class….but I can’t wait!

  36. Talia @ Bite Size Wellness on April 16, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    I love heated yoga…although the first time I did it I thought I was going to pass out! I haven’t been doing yoga as much as I want to since I moved to NYC, but I am making a trip back home soon so I will definitely be making a stop at Core Power!

  37. Victoria on April 16, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    I love saunas and steam rooms but ever since I started taking Hot Pilates a few months ago I haven’t gone. I tried Bikram once but wasn’t a fan. Hot Pilates is basically a bootcamp in a hot room.

  38. Melissa (Better Fit) on April 16, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    I love a good yoga class, but I think I’m about the last person on the planet not to have tried Bikram. You always make it sounds so wonderful- I’ll have to give it a go sometime. I do love the heat, so I think I’d enjoy it.

  39. Lisa G on April 16, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    I used to work at a gym that had a steam room and sauna in it. I have to say that I loved the (dry) sauna but I will never go into a steam room ever again after what I saw go on at my gym. I worked at the front desk and more than once, a few gym members would come up to me and tell me that certain “married” members were having gay sex in the male steam room. They were both married to women who were members at our gym but would meet at the gym early and get it on. How did they fool their wives for so long? Anywho, on more than one occasion we had to fish condoms out of the whirlpool and sauna as well. Eww! I gag thinking about all the nasty stuff that went on in those locker rooms. They do clean these rooms really well, but I still refuse to sit and breathe that steam in, knowing full well the funk that might be in it. Gross story but sadly true. Keep the sex at HOME/HOTEL, not the gym peeps!

  40. Michaela on April 16, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    I think nothing helps more to relax muscles after a good workout like a sauna session! It really works like magic! (not a big fan of the heat, but I go anyway, since it is really good for my body)

  41. Courtstar on April 16, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    I have yet to try bikram yoga but after this post I may have to give it a try! I love saunas so glad you talked about the germ factor I had always been slightly curious how that worked out lol

  42. Mel on April 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    fYI, most microbes thrive in temps between 40-140ish. So, they are most certainly a concern in steam rooms. I steer clear b/c I’m totally paranoid about getting legionnaires’ disease. Yet I do love the sauna…I love that smell of the wood!

  43. Shannon on April 16, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Back in high school my friends and I would use one of their parent’s saunas to drink in…obviously NOT what they’re designed for!! I haven’t been in one in years…although I do love hot tubs which I think work similarly, right?

  44. Valerie on April 16, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    I love bikram yoga, and I did start to crave it. But I wanted to tell you how awesome and helpful your review ofbikram was! I would have been way to scared to go on my own, so when a friend asked me to try it with her, I inmediately came to your blog to get the lowdown. Thanks for doing your focus on post-they are helpful!

    • Fitnessista on April 16, 2012 at 6:51 pm

      thank you so much for reading- i’m glad it was helpful!

  45. Cassie on April 16, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    im curious if you ever got your body fat tested a few days ago, and how that went?

    • Fitnessista on April 16, 2012 at 8:09 pm

      i didn’t- we ended up having bellydance practice during the time i wanted to do it. hopefully this week! i’ll post about it for sure

  46. Danica @ It's Progression Not Perfection on April 16, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    I honestly hate to be sweaty so anything like hot yoga or sitting in a sauna just makes me cringe! haha

    • Fitnessista on April 16, 2012 at 8:09 pm

      that’s so funny- i’m the opposite!

  47. Dusty @ Running to Healthy on April 16, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    I am not a fan of saunas. I always feel disgusting after being in them for about 30seconds.

  48. Brittany @ Delights and Delectables on April 16, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    I have been wanting to try hot yoga for a long time! Now, you have me wanting to go even more!! 🙂 I love to get sweaty, but I have never been a fan of saunas.

  49. Natalie on April 16, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    Nom!! Love breakfast quinoa – I usually add a chopped date or two for a bump of sweetness, as well as a sexy swirl of almond butter like you do too 🙂

  50. Kirsten on April 16, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    Thanks for doing a post on this! I’ve been wondering about the benefit of saunas for a while.

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