Everyting you always wanted to know about sweat!

15. 12. 2018

Nowhere in the world does a man exist who does not sweat. In summer, sweating often seems annoying – but other times, we seek it deliberately – e.g. visiting a sauna.

Some might go through liters of deodorant every day to keep the smell away, while others don’t mind displaying their drenched clothes in the public. A stuffy tram ride in the summer is thus often not exactly a walk in the park.

But why do we sweat then? Is our body trying to tell us something? And is it always the exact same reaction, or are there different kinds of sweat? Is there a connection between sweat and weight loss? Can we sweat off a cold?

In this article, you will not only find all of these answers to the questions above, but also a heap of other useful information, which might completely change your views on sweat as such.


What is sweat exactly?

Human sweat is the watery product of apocrine and endocrine sweat-glands. Both types of glands create different types of sweat – and both of these types have different uses.

Sweat is always made out of water though.

a) Endocrine glands can be found virtually all over the human body, and become active at a very young age. Their main function is cooling down the surface of the skin – and thus the whole system.

b) Apocrine glands can mainly be found in the armpit and groin area, as well as around the nipples. They become active during puberty while an individual’s body sexually matures. Aside of water, they also produce protein and fatty acids


Why do we sweat?

This cause does not need any lengthy introductions. It is the most common type of sweat.

Different emotions (Anger, fear, embarrassment, anxiety, or any emotional stress) and other conditions that we face can cause us to sweat. It is no coincidence that one might describe someone being uncomfortable or scared as “breaking out in a cold sweat.”

We can also sweat when consuming food that is either very hot, or very spicy. Sweat-glands are also stimulated by drinks containing caffeine or alcohol.

It is no surprise that most illnesses can raise the production of sweat. Eating some specific types of medicine can also have the same effect (pain killers, fever medication, thyroid tablets, and so on.)

Everyday hormonal swings, as well as those caused by menopause, can lead to excessive sweating. This type of imbalance can also be known as “night sweats” or “hot flashes”

Probably not a surprise at all – when exposing the body to physical exercise, which raises the heartrate, pulse, and blood pressure, the body starts to heat up – and sweat works as a cooldown mechanism.

Do I lose weight when sweating?

A lot of people might think that the more they sweat the more fat they burn.

When exercising makes you sweat, however, it is because our bodies are losing water, which is its main component and makes up about 60% of one’s weight. This is why when we sweat, and do not replenish our fluids, we automatically lose weight. In some cases, this can even be up to a number of kilograms. As you can surely see, this does not mean that we are actually losing fat – as it’s merely just water weight.

(If only we really could lose one kg after each workout…)

Unfortunately, this weight will be back as soon as we replenish our fluids.

So to answer the question whether you can lose weight by sweating: NO. A different question begs itself instead though. Is it then even worth to visit a sauna when we want to lose weight?

In the world of fitness, there are thousands of false speculations floating about – many of which are connected precisely to using a sauna.

The time spent in a sauna is great and provides many health benefits – but many sources are more than generous when claiming that you burn extreme amounts of calories (fat) when visiting one.

One might, for example, read that a 30minute stay inside a sauna can burn as much as 800kcal. Now does that not sound all fine and dandy? To happily sit on ones ass and burn two to three times the amount of calories you normally would when doing strenuous exercise?

Unfortunately, I do have to disappoint you if this was the reason you were visiting a sauna – since most types of saunas only burn about twice the amount of calories than one would normally.

In other words, if by sitting around your home you would burn about 40 kcal, sitting inside a sauna for the same amount of time will only raise it to about 80 kcal.

So yes, a sauna does help burn calories – and provides a number of other healthy secondary benefits that might help you in losing weight, but it does not automatically turn you into an Instagram model with a fully loaded six-pack.


Why do some people sweat more and some less?

The amount of sweat created is equal to not only our body mass, but also gender, physical exhaustion, age, and other hereditary preconditions. For example, an obese individual will get sweaty much faster, because they require much more energy when partaking in an activity.

On the other hand, a physically fit individual who exercises regularly might generate more sweat – and do so much faster – than those who do not exercise at all. This is because of the body’s adjustment mechanism, which is in the case of a keen sportsman always ready for a possible performance.


Viruses – I caught a bug…might as well sweat it out.

Regular exercise, as well as visiting a sauna, raises ones natural immunity and helps the body protect itself against illnesses. But attempting to “sweat out” a cold when you are already feeling under the weather may not the best of ideas. While sweat does help the body get rid of a number of waste material, our organism will use all of the available energy to combat physical exhaustion from the training, rather than fighting the disease itself. During a training, our body temperature also naturally increases, inevitably weakening the immunity system as such.

When the body gets too exhausted while fighting a virus, it may even endanger our lives – by possibly leading to an inflammation of the heart muscle – among other diseases.


Why does sweat smell?

Freshly produced sweat does not have any odor at all – one only starts to smell sweat when it mixes with our skin bacteria, which start to dissolve the complex fatty acids into simple ones.

In puberty, however, even fresh sweat may have an odor due to the hormonal changes in one’s body.


What to do against sweat?

Everyone can buy a deodorant or antiperspirant in their nearest grocery store.

The difference between these is simple. A deodorant, as the name implies, only masks the smell, while an antiperspirant either lessens, or completely prevents sweating in the first place.

There are also specific crèmes, and very strong antiperspirants, which you can only get when prescribed by a doctor.


Can you get rid of sweat completely?

There are some lesser known methods of fighting extreme sweating, like for example an injection of botulinum toxin (only a temporary measure) or the surgical removal of sweat glands. Both methods are becoming increasingly more and more popular, but they are both quite pricey.

Most people don’t really like sweat all that much.

The truth is, however, that our bodies are designed quite impeccably, and that we very simply do need to sweat.

Sweating is our very own portable air conditioning, the byproduct of which is, unfortunately, the hated odor.

But at least now you know that you can’t really blame sweat itself for that, but rather the bacteria.

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