Finishing a workout drenched in sweat feels like a badge of honor, but it can make you wonder if one that doesn't make you sweat can still help you lose weight, get in shape, and reach your fitness goals. No workout is a waste of time — even a quick walk or HIIT session is great for your body and mind. But when you have specific objectives in mind (losing weight, gaining muscle, improving endurance), you might wonder if a workout that doesn't leave you drenched will still help you achieve them.
We have good news: according to Sander Rubin, MD, sports medicine specialist at Northwestern Medicine, sweating doesn't actually have much to do with the amount of calories you might use up. "Sweating is a much better indicator of a body temperature's regulation as opposed to calories burned," he told POPSUGAR. You shouldn't use the amount you sweat, he explained, as an indicator of how hard you've worked. It's more to do with your environment (whether it's hot or humid where you're working out) and how much your body needs to sweat to regulate your temperature, which is different for everyone.
What Is Water Weight?
In other words: "It's absolutely possible to lose weight in the absence of any sweating in your workout," Dr. Rubin said. What about weight loss that's a direct result of sweating? This is known as water weight, although Dr. Rubin pointed out that there's more to sweat than just water (salt, protein, urea, and ammonia, to name a few). When you sweat a lot, Dr. Rubin said, it is true that you'll end up losing weight just from that. However, you'll naturally put that "water weight" back on when you rehydrate after your workout. "What you'll lose from sweating is not a permanent result of working out," Dr. Rubin said. "It will be replaced by water, as opposed to the actual calories that you're burning working out."
We'll take that as a reminder to rehydrate well after a particularly sweaty workout. "Water weight" is not the kind of weight you really want to lose. Sweating a lot and failing to rehydrate properly can lead to some awful side effects, even if you're only "mildly" dehydrated: you might feel fatigued, dizzy, constipated, and achy from your joints and muscles up to your head. Make sure to drink plenty of water before, after, and during difficult workouts, especially when you're doing them in hot, humid environments, Dr. Rubin added. (And yes, it's worth pausing a run or workout to get a sip of water when you need it.)
Sweating is good (and natural), but don't take it as a sign that a sweaty workout is better than another one that doesn't leave you dripping. As long as you're making the most of your time working out, getting in a balance of strength training and cardio work (here's an effective workout schedule to follow), and eating healthy (try this two-week healthy eating plan), you'll be heading toward weight loss results.