Let's start with the basics, many people follow a keto diet because it can induce a higher fat burning rate, and provide an increase in metabolism. The link between saunas and keto comes from similar health benefits being provided, and naturally, the question of combining the two for a profound outcome arises: "Are saunas good for you while on the Keto diet?"
Infrared saunas have the same effect when it comes to an increase in metabolism and a higher 'resting' fat burning rate, and this article is going to explore what happens if you combine keto and sauna together.
What is Keto?
The goal of a ketogenic diet is to induce what is called ketosis. Peter Attia, M.D. and ketosis expert, defines ketosis as "a metabolic state in which the liver produces small organic molecules called ketone bodies at “sufficient” levels".
Ketones are an alternative fuel source to glucose for the human body. Glucose, in turn, is primarily sourced from carbohydrates you eat in your diet. Other sources of glucose are broken-down muscle tissue and protein sources from your diet.
The body only uses ketones when it's deprived of sufficient glucose. As a result of glucose deprivation, ketones become an alternative fuel source for the body.
The higher level of body fat of humans compared to other primates acts as a store of energy for ketone production. Your body fat - in absence of glucose - is thus used to create ketones, as well as dietary fats.
To enter ketosis, you need to consume fewer than 50 grams of carbohydrates a day - or exercise a lot to compensate for carbohydrate ingestion.
The favorable argument for the ketogenic diet is that it aids body fat loss, gives you more energy and aids cognitive function.
While all of these benefits seem great, some claim the ketogenic diet causes stress, and argue that carbohydrates are the preferred and optimal fuel source for humans, as there's no studies to prove a difference in fat loss between ketogenic and non-ketogenic diets, when not correcting for calorie intake, according to a 2020 study.
Saunas and Keto burning fat together
Multiple studies exist that have compared fat loss with and without a sauna.
In a 2003 study, participants had 3 sauna sessions at 20 minutes each, in a sauna, and rested 5 minutes in between each of these sessions.
What they found was that the men lost almost 4 pounds and the women 3 pounds of body weight, after 3 sessions on the same day. Even after re-hydration, the body weight remained lower in these participants.
A 1986 study explored the effects of sauna on fat loss from a slightly different angle.
After two sessions of saunas per day, for 7 days, participants' pulse rate increased by 31-36 beats per minute. Walking, for comparison, only increases heart rate by 13-26 beats per minute.
In the same sauna study, the metabolic rate also increased by 25-33%.
This massive increase certainly contributes to fat burning, especially on a ketogenic diet. If you have an empty stomach, or you haven't eaten much, your body has no other choice but to break down body fat as a source of energy production.
Hence, through that mechanism, the increase of the metabolic rate by up to 33% will increase fat burning.
You can learn more about how saunas burn calories and make you lose weight in an article we've written here.
Another aspect of how saunas support a keto diet to burn fat is that the improved circulation from an infrared sauna helps you to burn fat faster yet again.
How sauna increases blood circulation
Body fat that has been broken down will be moved towards your cells easily with enhanced circulation, where the fat can be burned off for energy generation purposes.
Some blood is diverted away from the organs and moves towards your muscles and skin. This allows for your body to lose more heat, through a combination of lowering your blood pressure and increasing your heart rate.
A single 15-minute sauna session is enough to get this benefit.
What's even better is that even the smallest vessels in your body, the capillaries, increase in presence with sauna use over time. These small blood vessels also play a role in the fat-burning process. The fewer capillaries you have, and the lower their quality, the harder fat burning becomes.
At the end of the day, evidence exists to show that infrared sauna sessions enhance
1. Weight loss
2. Metabolic rate
3. Blood circulation
4. The density of the smallest of your blood vessels, called capillaries.
How to combine sauna and Keto
So, let's say you're following a keto diet, how could you optimise your sessions in a sauna for the best results?
To answer that question, let's return to the concept of keto.
On a keto diet, you're ingesting a different nutrient and micronutrient profile than on a Standard American Diet or a carnivore diet.
Even though that seems very counterintuitive, each diet that you follow necessitates a slightly different approach.
With a keto diet, you must be much more aware that you increase mineral consumption when using a sauna.
This is because, on a ketogenic diet, you'll have a higher risk of getting a sodium and potassium deficiency.
Sodium is found in trace amounts in food but mainly comes from salt.
Potassium is in greater quantities per calorie in plant foods, and because the keto diet removes many plant foods, potassium intake is generally lower on this diet.
With heavy sweating, potassium and sodium losses are further induced.
For a keto diet, it is much more important that you check your mineral intake to ensure that your sauna sessions are 100% safe.
While salt is a great source of sodium, for potassium, consider increasing the quantities of low-carb plants you consume.
Magnesium and calcium intake are also generally lower on a ketogenic diet, and while you're sweating, you do lose some magnesium as well as calcium.
For increasing magnesium intake, dark leafy vegetables, avocados, and pumpkin seeds can help. Bone meal supplements are a great and affordable calcium source for a keto diet also.
Supplementing magnesium is best done with affordable sources like magnesium glycinate or magnesium malate powder.
Other food deficiencies can exist on a keto diet as well including vitamin C, vitamin E, and some B-vitamins like vitamin B1.
If you're combining sauna and keto, understand that you may already be beginning a deficiency in these minerals. For that reason, there's a higher risk of combining saunas and a ketogenic diet.
Nonetheless, both keto and sauna increase your metabolism and ability to burn fat, in a positive way. While there are no studies that examine how many calories you burn combining these two, a state of ketosis with an increase in heart rate, blood circulation, and metabolism will benefit an outcome of weight loss.
As mentioned above, being aware of your mineral intake is crucial, like any diet, and introducing yourself to sauna safely is well advised. You can also incorporate fasting into your infrared sauna routine for even greater sauna benefits!
If you're interested in an infrared sauna cabin for home, click here to view our range of full-spectrum saunas, far-infrared saunas, and outdoor saunas.