Performance Through Sauna
As the world professional sporting stage starts to open up, well actually a lot of it has already but you get the point, it is a joy once again to watch our favourite athletes play each of our beloved sports, it’s been too long! This restart of the sporting world has shed some light onto the dark period we have been going through, I’m sure it has lifted everyone’s spirits a bit as it has for us 😊.
Now some great news to brighten up your life a little more if you’re into your physical activity, sports, and general wellbeing (Don’t think you would be here reading this otherwise 😉). Exciting news over the last few days that Monday 29th June, just a little bit away now, is the start of Phase 3 of the Government’s phase plan, what is new is that ALL sporting activity can resume on that date! This even includes your gym, yoga, pilates and dance studios, which all can reopen alongside effective cleaning and social distancing protocols.
Now with all that beautiful physical health news why don’t we talk a little about the power of Sauna, now from previous blogs we talked about Sauna as its use in longevity and positive mental health benefits, now what about Sauna to aid performance, Heat is no joke. It’s starting to become a common trend here, Sauna is King 😉.
This blog is not just for your sporty folk, the potential performance aiding benefits from the sauna can be translated into your everyday life so it’s clear Sauna is for everyone. So, without further ado, Sauna and its potential benefits to aid performance.
Increasing your core body temperature for short periods is not only generally healthy but also can dramatically improve performance. This raise in core body temperature can be facilitated through Sauna, similar effects can be seen through moderate physical exercise if you read our blog on longevity, or even non-aerobic (anaerobic) exercise. Heat acclimation can promote physical physiological adaptations which result in increased endurance, easier acquisition and increased muscle mass, and a general increased capacity to tolerate stress.
Interestingly when it comes to endurance, which is very prevalent across many sports or activities we partake in, under endurance conditions your body heats up and ultimately this increased body temperature will induce strain, negatively affecting your performance, and at that point exhaustion will accelerate to fatigue of the muscles in use. So what can help stop this increase in body temperature during endurance activities is actually ironically exposing yourself to heat, however this time around it’s not under physically straining conditions, it’s simply sitting in a hot box which is our Sauna. Acclimating yourself to heat independent of the activity will induce adaptations such as improved cardiovascular and thermoregulatory mechanics, which will in turn help improve performance during the endurance activity. In terms of cardiovascular mechanics, the heat of the Sauna can improve heart function, increase blood flow to the muscles and other tissues, increase red blood cell count which are our oxygen carriers (essential to endurance activities) which means more oxygen transported to the muscles. In terms of thermoregulatory mechanisms, heat exposure basically improves your ability to reduce core body temperature when it gets too high through endurance activities.
One study represented this well, one 30-minute sauna session two times a week for three weeks after a workout increased run time to exhaustion by 32% in comparison to those who didn’t use the sauna.
We all know the importance of physical exercise in increasing muscle size, this is known as muscular hypertrophy. Heat also induces muscle hypertrophy, so after you do your workout which will increase muscle size, hop into the sauna to prolong and maximise muscular hypertrophy. Sauna use can also reduce the amount of protein wasting occurring, known as muscular atrophy, which results in a higher net protein synthesis which is more muscle gained than lost, muscle hypertrophy. We have talked about the heat shock proteins before (another sneaky hint to check out our other blogs 😉) and we know how important they can be, they are activated by heat stress and induce a protective stress response which ultimately protects the body from damage, as well as repairing damaged proteins. Another reason why Sauna can increase muscle hypertrophy is that heat stress can trigger increased release of growth hormone which can increase protein synthesis, which is the formation of new proteins, and decreases protein atrophy which as we know is muscle wasting. Aaand another reason why Sauna can be beneficial for skeletal muscle is that heat stress can increase insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a hormone that can increase protein synthesis by stimulating the uptake of amino acids, in essence the building blocks of bigger proteins. Insulin has also shown to decrease protein atrophy through the inhibition of proteasome which degrade damaged proteins.
Of course with sports and our physical activity we can sometimes find ourselves with an unfortunate injury keeping us from doing what we love, however fortunately for us we have yet another fantastic benefit to come from the heat stress of Sauna 😊. A few sessions of Sauna can boost your heat shock proteins, growth hormone, and insulin levels to all work together to reduce muscle atrophy which is very common in cases where the injured muscle is immobilised or even just reduced activity intensity and duration.
So all in all, there’s a lot of comprehensive studies out there which show how Sauna can be an incredible performance aiding effects for all you sporty folk out there, as well as those looking to hop on the health benefits train that Sauna provides. We will hopefully be back operating in no time, and with that help our community become the fittest and healthiest, both mind and body, it’s ever been!
Fad Saoil x 😊