Water Fasting and Sauna: Risk or Reward?

Is Fasting and Sauna Good For You?


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Have you ever thought, "If I mix daily fasting with thrice-weekly exercise sessions, toss in a few cold baths, and even use a sauna during my fast, wouldn't that propel my fat loss journey?" If so, then we're here to tell you that you're not alone and that it is only logical to think along these lines.

So what is the answer? You are correct, at least in the short term. However, such intense regimens can also have adverse effects over time. Therefore, this blog aims to guide you on how to safely use an infrared sauna while fasting, minimising potential side effects.

Fasting is a term that can mean one thing to one person and another thing to another, so in this piece, we'll start by covering some basics. Then, we'll share five key points to remember when utilising an infrared sauna during a fast. Let's begin at the beginning:

Different Types of Fasting for Sauna Use

Fasting has surged in popularity over the past decade. Just as a myriad of training programmes exist, so do various fasting protocols. Many individuals have successfully used fasting to reduce their body weight and fat mass, leading to overall health improvements.

Success doesn't happen in a vacuum; it leaves traces. As a result, a wealth of scientific literature has been published in recent years on intermittent fasting as a wellness tool.

While intermittent fasting only offers a slight advantage over traditional dieting (i.e., "caloric restriction"), many people find it easier to incorporate into their daily wellness routine.

It is for this reason that the topic of fasting and saunas is being discussed today. But before we talk about incorporating a sauna into your fast, let's go through some common types of fasting.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting, commonly known as IF, is a dietary practice characterised by regular periods of minimal or no caloric intake. The typical forms of IF include a daily 16-hour fast, a full-day fast on alternating days, or a two-day per week fast on non-consecutive days.

This practice of fasting is often referred to by several terms, such as:

  • Intermittent fasting
  • Alternate-day fasting
  • Reduced meal frequency
  • Time-restricted feeding

During these fasting periods, caloric intake often varies between zero to roughly 25% of regular caloric needs. On non-fasting days, food consumption can be unrestricted, limited to a particular nutritional composition, or aimed at reaching a specific caloric intake of up to 125% of the usual caloric needs.

For example, one could adopt a 16/8 intermittent fasting schedule, where you fast for 16 hours a day and eat within an 8-hour window. To adhere to the 16/8 protocol, you essentially just need to skip breakfast.

Another popular method is the One Meal A Day (OMAD) approach, where you consume one substantial meal per day, typically in the evening. All of these methods aim to do one thing, which is to enter the body into ketosis.

What is Water Fasting?

Water fasting presents a type of fasting whereby the individual partakes solely in water consumption for a predetermined time frame, refraining from all other food and drinks.

This approach to intermittent fasting has roots deeply embedded in ancient civilisations, spanning back centuries.

What is Dry Fasting?

Dry fasting is an intense form of fasting where an individual abstains from both food and drink for a specific period. Unlike water fasting, where only water is consumed, dry fasting allows no intake of any liquids. This type of fast can be further categorised into two forms: soft dry fasting and hard dry fasting.

In soft dry fasting, individuals avoid ingesting any food or liquid but can still have contact with water, such as taking a shower or brushing their teeth. In contrast, hard dry fasting involves complete abstinence from any contact with water.

What is the Difference Between a Dry Fast, Water Fast and Intermittent Fasting?

The key difference between these two forms of fasting that we are discussing in relation to incorporating sauna use is:

  • Intermittent fasting is the cycling of abstaining from food for certain periods of time, over a period of a day or a week.
  • Water fasting is the restraint from food for a prolonged period of time in which you only ingest liquids.
  • Dry fasting is the abstinence of both food and drink for a specific period of time, and in extreme programs includes the abstinence from touching water altogether.

Due to the nature of these types of fasting, incorporating a dry fast or a water fast with a sauna routine poses much more risks than incorporating intermittent fasting with regular sauna therapy. Nonetheless, let's explore the benefits of fasting for the human body.

What Happens During Fasting?

Admittedly, it may take some time to adjust to not eating or drinking during your everyday life. During the fasting window, your body must learn to burn the carbohydrates stored in your muscles and liver and once depleted, rely on your body fat, known as ketosis.

If you're accustomed to eating every few hours while awake, adjusting to fasting and abstaining from calorie intake for extended periods can be challenging. It is fair to say that fasting places stress on the human body.

However, don't let the term "stress" alarm you. Humans can benefit from stress, provided it's not excessive. In biology, this principle is known as "hormesis" or "hormetic stress" - the concept that stress in small or moderate doses makes the organism stronger.

Exercise is a classic example of a hormetic stressor. If you exercise in measured doses, you'll improve your overall health. Naturally, there's a limit to how much you can strengthen through exercise - without adequate rest, you'll weaken over time due to excessive stress.

Another example of hormetic stress is heat stress or sauna therapy.

Just as your body adapts to the heat of an infrared sauna, which causes the activation of longevity processes such as the production of heat-shock proteins, so too does it adapt to the absence of food. Now, let's explore what happens when you stack one or more of these hormetic stress responses together and find out if it will improve your results!

Can You Use the Infrared Sauna While Fasting?

Yes, you can absolutely incorporate regular and frequent infrared sauna sessions during your daily or weekly intermittent fasting routine. By utilising infrared saunas during a 16-hour food fasting window you can further stimulate your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories per hour than you would otherwise.

However, it is important to understand that adding additional stressors to your body will intensify the impact they have on you, both good and bad. Therefore, you may find yourself unable to withstand extreme sauna temperatures and may need to alter how long you spend inside the sauna during your fast. For this reason, it is important to monitor how much water you drink during your sauna session as well as to monitor what minerals you will need to replenish afterwards.

Lastly, as we've outlined earlier, there are different forms of fasting and even more fasting programs you can follow within each form. We recommend avoiding using saunas if you are intermittent fasting for more than 16 hours, or doing a water fast or a dry fast. Before we talk about the risks involved in prolonged fasting and saunas, let's look at some of the positives.

Fasting and Sauna Causes You to Burn More Calories

Delving into the combination of fasting and sauna treatments can help you optimise your calorie burn. When you fast, you're not ingesting any calories, which means your body taps into its stored reserves to generate energy, thus increasing the number of calories burned.

Pairing this with a sauna session can amplify the 'hormetic' response – a subject previously discussed. It's a bit more advanced, but the results can be rewarding. In a previous discussion, we delved into the amount of kilocalories (or 'calories' as they're commonly referred to) you can burn during varying sauna sessions. Astonishingly, research suggests you can burn anywhere from 600 to 1,200 calories per hour!

These figures outstrip activities like running, walking, or even playing golf, indicating that your body is highly active during a sauna session. Calculating the additional calories burned during fasting on top of this can be complex, as the context greatly matters.

Let's consider an example: if you indulged in a carbohydrate-rich meal the night before, your liver and muscles would have likely stored those carbohydrates as 'glycogen'. During your sauna session, this glycogen would be the first to be burned off before your body turns to fat stores.

However, if your previous night's dinner was small or moderate, then most of those carbohydrates were likely burned during the day. This means that, during your subsequent sauna session, you'd be burning even more calories from body fat than you would by fasting alone.

Let's shift our focus more towards the topic of body fat:

Using an Infrared Sauna While Fasting Turns Body Fat into Energy

Continuing our exploration of fasting and sauna bathing, let's imagine you've already burned through most of your body's carbohydrates whilst in the sauna. What happens next? Well, your body will then begin to directly burn body fat for energy.

It's worth noting that there's a lively debate in current scientific circles around two key theories: the 'calories in, calories out' approach and the 'avoid carbohydrates to burn body fat' stance. Under both theories, the goal is to either reduce daily caloric intake or limit carbohydrate consumption.

In either scenario, once you've limited your intake of either calories or carbohydrates, the combination of saunas and fasting can significantly expedite your body fat loss. Adding a workout before sauna into this mix can intensify the effects, but it's important to gradually build up your tolerance as this introduces additional stress to your body.

Simply put, by sitting in a sauna while fasting, you're turning your body into a potent fat-burning machine.

Now, let's move on to another sauna and fasting benefit:

Does Sauna Trigger Autophagy?

Autophagy, in simple terms, is like a 'spring cleaning' for your cells. It's when your body tidies up, getting rid of old, damaged bits and pieces inside cells to make way for the new.

Now, here's where saunas and fasting come into play. Both these activities can kickstart this fantastic process. A good sweat session in a sauna or going a few hours without food can put a little stress on your body, and this is actually a good thing!

This kind of 'good stress' nudges your cells into autophagy mode, helping them become more efficient and healthier! So should you fast before the sauna? Let's recap some of the combined benefits!

Should You Fast Before Sauna?

Ultimately, the literature suggests that doing sauna while practising intermittent fasting can support your body's ability to burn fat by:

All of these benefits are some really great reasons why you shouldn't eat before a sauna inside your 16-hour fasting window to further enhance your body's ability to burn calories and regenerate cells!

Saunas While Fasting May Further Increase Heat-shock Proteins

Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are invaluable cellular superheroes. They are crucial for cell repair and maintenance, responding to stressors such as heat, exercise, or toxins in order to balance the body's functions. These molecular chaperones assist with protein folding, damage repair, inflammation regulation, cell survival, and more; enhancing our immune response, muscle recovery, and stress adaptation.

Infrared saunas provide a unique way to stimulate HSPs. Unlike traditional saunas, which heat the air, infrared saunas directly elevate one's core body temperature, triggering a heat shock response without making them uncomfortably hot.

Now, let's talk about fasting. Fasting also stimulates the production of heat shock proteins (HSPs). When you fast, it is perceived as a physiological stressor, leading to increased HSP synthesis. This process helps enhance fat oxidation and overall metabolic function.

While there is no scientific literature on both fasting and saunas for HSP production, we can imagine the potential benefits of combining infrared sauna use with fasting: you are essentially doubling up on the ways to trigger the heat shock response, potentially amplifying the production of HSPs.

Now that we have highlighted some of the potential rewards of combining infrared sauna therapy and intermittent fasting, it is time to look at some of the risks, particularly with a water fast and infrared sauna therapy. Let us go into more detail:


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Risks of Infrared Sauna and Water Fasting

Infrared sauna therapy and water fasting can have significant health benefits when done separately. However, combining the two requires caution, especially for those with pre-existing health conditions like diabetes.

The added stress of fasting during sauna sessions may lead to low blood sugar levels, causing symptoms such as shakiness, an irregular heartbeat, and potential fainting; therefore, it is essential to consult your physician or avoid saunas if you have chronic conditions.

This is because when you sweat, you lose essential vitamins and minerals and can easily become malnourished and this is heightened when on a fast.  

The Importance of Carefully Managing Electrolyte Intake

When one enjoys a session in the sauna, they're inadvertently losing essential substances known as "electrolytes". Key examples of these electrolytes include sodium and chloride - the components of common table salt - as well as magnesium and potassium.

Here's an important point to remember:

If one is fasting, they are not taking in any electrolytes for a certain period. Simultaneously, their body's need for electrolytes increases. This combination can lead to a higher likelihood of experiencing electrolyte depletion during this time.

This isn't meant to cause alarm, but rather to encourage a bit of extra caution, particularly for those in less robust health. Sodium and chloride, which make up salt, are the most crucial electrolytes to replenish during and following sauna sessions. A simple solution is to add a teaspoon of natural salt to every litre of water consumed, helping to prevent any potential depletion.

For those wishing to further optimise their electrolyte levels, consider adding a high-quality potassium and magnesium supplement to the routine during fasting periods.

Coming up next:

Careful Blood Sugar Level Management

Engaging in a fast while also enjoying a sauna can place additional stress on the body. This is particularly true for those whose health isn't at its peak, as combining these two activities can demand more of the body's resources.

For example, someone who is pre-diabetic and already has difficulty managing their blood sugar levels may find that using a sauna while fasting could potentially lead to hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar.

However, there are straightforward ways to prevent such issues:

  • Firstly, if one is in poor health or has a chronic health condition, it would be wise to consult with a physician before embarking on a regimen of fasting combined with sauna use.
  • Secondly, it's advisable to gradually increase the duration of fasted sauna sessions over time. This allows the body to adapt to the added stress in a measured way, ultimately growing stronger in the process.

Next up, the final risk of fasting and saunas:

Should You Sauna First Thing in the Morning While Fasting?

Let's take a brief detour to discuss the effects of fasting. On its own, fasting elevates your stress hormone levels, with cortisol and adrenaline being prime examples of these hormones. If you're in a sauna while fasting, these stress hormone levels will rise even further.

Stress hormones aren't inherently harmful. In fact, they're necessary for energy production in the body. However, chronically high levels or improperly timed spikes in these hormones can be detrimental to health.

Here's an easy way to understand this:

Consider the scenario of exercising just before bedtime. The surge of adrenaline makes it difficult to fall asleep. But if you exercise earlier in the evening or afternoon, your body has ample time to wind down, and you'll likely sleep soundly.

Similarly, fasted sauna sessions are best not scheduled late in the evening. One issue is that fasting often means breaking your fast later in the day. For example, if you have a fasted sauna session at 6 PM and finish at 7 PM, you'll still need to eat afterwards.

If you've been fasting all day, you'll likely need a substantial meal, leading to consuming a large meal just before bedtime, which could disrupt your sleep quality.

Typically, late afternoon or evening sauna sessions are recommended as they can improve sleep once the body cools down post-session. However, if you're fasting throughout the day, it's advisable to plan your fasting sauna session earlier in the day.

This approach allows your stress hormones to decrease over time. Additionally, it gives your body more time to digest the meal, preventing you from going to bed with a full stomach.

In summary, improper timing of fasted sauna sessions can lead to two potential issues:

  • Elevated stress hormone levels before bedtime
  • Disrupted meal timing if the sauna is used late in the evening

As we delve into the intriguing benefits of combining infrared saunas and fasting, there's an underlying concept that ties these two together - hormetic stress.

This biological phenomenon plays a crucial role in the way our bodies respond to stimuli like heat from saunas or the absence of food during fasting.

But what exactly is hormetic stress, and how does it enhance the benefits of infrared saunas and fasting? To answer these questions, we've crafted a comprehensive blog post titled "What is Hormetic Stress?"

Here, we unravel the science behind this fascinating concept and its profound impact on health and wellness.

Embark on this journey to deepen your understanding of hormesis and discover how it can elevate your wellness experience.

Now that we have explored both the risks and rewards associated with combining infrared saunas and intermittent fasting, let's take a look at a simple sauna and fasting program you can try in your own home with your Clearlight Sauna!

How-to Combine Intermittent Fasting and Infrared Saunas

This comprehensive guide is designed to help beginners embark on a wellness journey that combines the benefits of intermittent fasting with regular infrared sauna sessions. This combination aims to enhance weight loss, detoxification, and overall health.

Infrared Sauna and Fasting Program:

  1. Start Your Mornings Right: Schedule your workouts and infrared sauna in the morning for optimal energy and hormonal balance. Here's a guide to planning your sauna sessions.
  2. Skip with Breakfast: Kickstart your intermittent fasting by skipping breakfast. This allows an easier 16-hour window of fasting from 9:00 pm - 12:00 pm or 6:00 pm - 10:00 am.
  3. Preheat Your Sauna Before You Start: Warm up your sauna for approximately 15 to 20 minutes before your session. Ideally, you should turn your sauna on and work out until it is ready!
  4. Morning Pre-Sauna Workout: Begin your exercise session, if you are looking for an easy at-home workout routine you can do without any equipment, check out our pre-sauna workout - The Nitric Oxide Dump.
  5. Hydrate, Hydrate, and Hydrate: Drink plenty of water before entering the sauna. Replenish any electrolytes with some salt water or hydration sachets.
  6. Quick Warm Shower: Take a hot shower to open up your pores and prepare your body for the heat.
  7. Enter the Sauna: Step into the preheated sauna and find a comfortable position. If you like, you can try some sauna stretches, sauna breathing exercises, or sauna meditation during this time.
  8. Set the Timer: Start with 15-20 minutes for your first few sessions and gradually increase over time.
  9. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how you feel during the session. If you start feeling uncomfortable, it's okay to step out.
  10. Post-Sauna Care: After your session, cool down, hydrate, and take a cool shower to remove any excess toxins from your sweat on the skin.
  11. Rest: Find a comfortable space to rest and rehydrate before going about your day.
  12. Coffee Break: Enjoy your coffee during fasting, but keep creamer to a minimum and avoid sweeteners.
  13. Plan an Eating Window: Aim for a compressed eating window of six to eight hours, starting with a nutritious lunch and ending with dinner.
  14. Mindful Dinners: Make dinner a mindful eating experience, savouring each bite and enjoying the social aspect of the meal.
  15. Tailored Nutrition: Adjust your food choices based on your health goals. Limit carbs and sugars if weight loss is the objective.
  16. Repeat Daily: Build up your confidence with this routine, gradually increasing infrared sauna lengths, exercise routines and optimising nutritional eating.
  17. An Advanced Full-day Fast: Consider a 24-hour fast once a week for added health benefits. Avoid sauna or workouts on this day when combined with intermittent fasting.
  18. Say No to Cheat Days: Stay committed to your fasting routine to maintain progress and achieve your goals.

This Sauna and Fasting Program offers a comprehensive guide to blending the beneficial practices of intermittent fasting and regular infrared sauna sessions. This unique combination seeks to harness the power of these two wellness strategies to optimise health outcomes, including weight loss, detoxification, and overall well-being.

By carefully structuring your eating windows, being mindful of your nutritional intake, and incorporating regular infrared sauna sessions into your routine, you can embark on a transformative journey towards improved health.

Always remember, everyone's body responds differently to these practices, so it's important to listen to your body, make adjustments as needed, and consult with your healthcare provider to ensure these routines are suitable for your specific health needs and goals.

Combining Fasting and Sauna: FAQs

Should you fast before sauna?

Fasting before a sauna session is a personal choice, there isn't a strict rule that mandates fasting before sauna use. As explained in this blog, fasting and sauna combined may increase weight loss results and even provide more energy in daily life. However, risks are still present and ensuring you drink water with your intermittent fast and sauna is important.

Can you go in a steam room while fasting?

Similar to sauna use, going into a steam sauna while fasting is generally safe and won't break your fast depending on the fasting program mentioned earlier. The decision to enter a steam sauna during fasting depends on your comfort level and any specific guidelines or practices you follow.

Can you use the infrared sauna while fasting?

Yes, as explained infrared saunas generally involve less intense heat compared to traditional saunas, making them more tolerable during fasting periods and providing further benefits such as reduced inflammation, muscle repair, anti-aging benefits,  and further weight loss.

Can you do sauna while fasting during Ramadan?

Observing fasting during Ramadan is a significant religious practice for Muslims worldwide. While sauna use during fasting hours may not align with the spirit of the fasting period, some individuals may choose to sauna outside of fasting hours. It's important to respect individual choices and cultural practices during this holy month.

Does sauna help with fasting?

As explained, sauna use itself does not directly affect fasting. However, saunas can be a valuable addition to your wellness routine, providing similar results to healthy fasting practices. Combining sauna use with intermittent fasting or an extended fast should be a personal choice based on your goals and comfort.

Does sauna break your fast?

Sauna sessions, which typically involve exposure to heat and sweating, do not break a fast. As long as you avoid consuming any calories during the sauna session, such as food, your fast remains intact. Unless you follow stricter fasting programs like a dry fast.

Should I eat before infrared sauna?

While it's not necessary to eat before an infrared sauna session, it's advisable to listen to your body. However, we recommend avoiding food both 1 hour before and after you sauna.

Should you sauna on an empty stomach?

Sauna usage on an empty stomach is a matter of personal preference. While it may help avoid any potential digestive discomfort during the session, it's not mandatory. Listen to your body and make choices that align with your comfort and well-being.

The Final Verdict: Is Fasting and Sauna Good For You?

As mentioned at the outset, it's entirely possible to blend various stressors for impressive results. This is particularly true for those in their youthful prime, say between the ages of 18 and 30. During these years, one might successfully combine fasting, sauna sessions, cold therapy, and supplements for enhanced fat loss, and even a post-sauna workout.

However, it's important to remember that more isn't always better.

As we age or face health challenges, we must be more cautious with practices like using saunas while water fasting. Dry fasting is not recommended under any circumstances, especially when paired with sauna use. As previously emphasised, maintaining adequate hydration and electrolyte intake is crucial.

Hopefully, these lessons have provided valuable insights into how to strategically plan sauna use while fasting.

Finally, for those eager to delve deeper into this topic, there's a wealth of information on the myriad health benefits of infrared saunas, including detoxification, heart health, general well-being, immune support, and more. We hope to see you there, happy sauna bathing!

Infrared Sauna Health Benefits

Learn more about the health benefits of infrared saunas here!

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