Sauna use for sports performance has been a growing tool that amateur and professional athletes have been incorporating into there training plans recently. The reason being that studies are started to show conclusively that saunas can be an incredibly powerful tool to boost all aspects of sports performance.
How does sauna use help sports performance?
When using the sauna, the heat will cause the body to adapt to being more comfortable with a higher core temperature, which is where a lot of the strain of doing cardio comes from. Along with temperature adaptations you will get more benefits that help efficiency. One of these includes the reduction in glycogen use in the body. Glycogen is what the body turns carbohydrates into to use a a quick energy source. Since glycogen in the main source of energy for most people this is a huge benefit to athletes trying to go longer without hitting a wall.
-Lower heart rate
-Higher sweat rate and sweat sensitivity
-Lower core body temperature during cardio
-Increase blood flow to your skeletal muscles
-Reduction in glycogen use
-Increased red blood cell count
-Increased efficiency of oxygen transport to muscles
How to use the sauna for cardio benefits
To increase your cardio using sauna a study suggests using the sauna twice a week for 30 minutes at 90°C (194°F) POST workout. If you follow these steps you can expect to have a 31% increase in cardio by three weeks. If you have an infrared sauna the temperature will be different, but a good rule of thumb is it should be hot enough to be uncomfortable within ten minutes.
If the increased cardio isn't enough to convince you to use sauna regularly. There have been study's showing a wide array of benefits.
-Increased muscle growth
-Improved focus and learning ability
Muscle growth with sauna use is the result of a few things.
-Spike in growth hormone.
-Induction of heat shock proteins.
-Improved insulin sensitivity
Studies have shown that using the sauna twice a week for two 15 minute sessions at 100°C (212°F) separated by a 30 minutes break can result in increased growth hormones by 5-fold, leading to easer muscle gain. At the extreme end they have also shown that two one-hour sauna sessions a day at 80°C (176°F) dry heat for 7 days was shown to increase growth hormone by 16-fold on the third day. Heat shock proteins help with muscle growth by lowering the amount of muscles degradation which also helps with muscle injuries. Lastly the increased insulin sensitivity will lead to more protein and nutrients going to the muscles to help recovery.
Improved focus and learning ability
Sauna use has been shown to increases the growth of new brain cells as well as the survival of existing neurons. An increase in neuron production is thought to be responsible for enhancing learning and long-term memory
A study showed using a sauna 2-3 times a week can decrease all-cause mortality (dying by any disease) by 24% and using the sauna 4-7 times a week decreased all-cause mortality by 40%.
To recap, doing sauna for 30 minutes at 90°C (194°F), twice a week for three weeks post workout will lead to a 31% increase in cardio ability. If you follow this plan you will also get an increase in growth hormones, quicker recovery and the ability to learn new skills faster. If there’s a tool that will get you the most performance benefits from the smallest amount of effort, sauna is near the top of the list.
The material on this blog is for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before undertaking the protocols, diet, exercises, techniques, training methods, or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein.