You probably have heard of a normal sauna but what about an infrared sauna? While the end result seems very similar (a lot of sweating) the composition of the sweat is different and contains a lot more heavy metals which are removed from your body this way (~15% of your sweat is heavy metals/other toxins), instead of 1%. You basically sweat from the inside –> outside due to the infrared light heating the surface of your skin which makes it more effective at removing toxins stored in your body and at levels of heat more manageable consciously. For a more detailed explanation on the working part, Wikipedia is always there.
Here are some of the benefits, optimal usage guidelines and dangers of infrared saunas:
What are the benefits of far infrared sauna that made me want to try it?
1) Heavy metal detox and a way to remove BPA from the body, while my diet is very clean when I stay in a country over a few weeks and can find local sources of organic vegetables and meats, I still accumulate toxins from restaurant food, the air I breathe and just from days I did not eat a perfect meal. One of the greatest benefits of infrared sauna is that, as I mentioned above, it detoxifies your body of a lot of heavy metals and other toxic stuff. Also if you read my post on finding a plastic free electric kettle, I am very concerned with the dangers of BPA and how to remove BPA from the body (while traveling I drink a lot of water from plastic bottles). Infrared saunas, it turns out, probably is a great way to remove BPA since a pubmed study shows how BPA is found in human sweat. Finally, being in a cabin 30 minutes a day is pleasant to get some reading done. Just make sure to bring a good old paper book, as my phone and kindle seemed like they could overheat and I did not want to risk it.
2) Enhanced endurance/muscular performance. While not entirely a far infrared sauna benefit, I did read on Tim Ferris’ blog a guest post from Rhonda Perciavalle Patrick, Ph.D about how Saunas probably have been underestimated for a long time in how they can benefit performance. One of the coolest benefits is how as she mentions in another study “One study demonstrated that a 30-minute sauna session two times a week for three weeks POST-workout increased the time that it took for study participants to run until exhaustion by 32% compared to baseline.”
Post workout is key here, as I tried it PRE WORKOUT a few times and I had a terrible gym performance, the same as the week before or worse, which is unusual since I’ve been using Tim Ferris’ Occam protocol to add on weight each week to all my exercises.
3) Far infrared sauna does help with weight loss not only due to calories burned (perhaps up to 800 calories per 30 minutes) but also due to the toxins removed from your body and fat cells. However this comes with a possible short term danger that I mention below for overweight people.
4) Possibly fights off cancer as you can see a better explanation of in the video below. Personally, I think just the fact that it detoxifies your body of heavy metal probably makes it prevent many cancers in the first place.
How to optimize your “FIS” experience for the most benefits
1) do your infrared sauna session AFTER a workout, for more benefits AND a great detox tool.
2) As for time length and heat, I personally pushed the unit I could test in Bangkok at the maximum of 66 Celsius/150 Fahrenheit starting at my third session, Dr Clement from the Hippocrates institute recommends a “FIS” session of 70-80 Celsius/160-180 degrees Fahrenheit, for 15-30 minutes. I would love to go higher but I definitely feel its still quite an experience so far in the last 5 minutes to hang in there. I can definitely see how this is not only a great detox but a great stress on the system (that will make you stronger, like conventional exercise).
I’ve done it both while eating a meal before and fasting, I did not see a difference in my well being (I was thinking maybe I would be completely drained and exhausted when doing it on an intermittent fasting day which means I did not eat in the last 12 hours at that point). Just in case anyone was wondering.
Far Infrared saunas are portable and can be built in your home
Nowadays infrared saunas are affordable to anyone (under $100 if you google a way to make it yourself at home), as long as you have the room in your home. Sadly a (rare I guess…) disadvantage of being in my 20s and traveling the world is I do not have a “permanent” home so I usually go to clinics and get it done there. When I’m in a city like Bangkok where I can walk there, its no problem and I get a few sessions a week done with a solid 30 minute reading experience. I bring books in paperback, as I feel like my kindle or phone might burst into flames, but more seriously I worry on the lifespan of the conductors inside.
Some people have “near”/portable infrared saunas by using blankets they wear on their body and such, but I wont comment as I never used it.
Finally, there are a few obvious and less obvious infrared sauna dangers that I will mention:
- Overheating (heat exhaustion and heat stroke)
- Don’t drink or use alcohol before/during
- Depleting your electrolytes or minerals through sweating (read under this part about properly re-hydrating after “FIS”)
A big infrared sauna danger for people with a lot of toxins in their body (and/or overweight)
Having so many toxins released in such a small time frame is one hand a reason far infrared sauna weight loss sessions actually works beyond simply burning some extra calories but also is that a reason many people become fat in the first place is your body will create fat cells to store and “remove” toxic substances in your body. If you “melt” the fat and sweat it out, the toxins will be released back into your blood. And while your body can process it in the liver (or hopefully sweat most of it out right now) you might overwhelm it. So if you smell something bad after 5-10+ minutes, it might be your body. After all, feet or armpits smelling bad is often (like very often) due to toxins in your body being released through those 2 area (they are detox pathways for your body…). So you might want to slowly up the time in the infrared sauna, I went inside as a pretty healthy young male that did some other forms of detox in the past so I did low heat 45 Celsius/113fahrenheit for 30 minutes and moved my way to 60 Celsius/140fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
After infrared sauna use, replenish lost beneficial minerals/electrolytes!
Don’t forget that an infrared sauna will obviously make you sweat a lot of water (and toxins) so you want to get back electrolytes, such as Potassium and minerals like Magnesium. I usually take a teaspoon of Himalayan sea salt (which contains a lot of trace minerals) and a slightly higher daily dose of magnesium/potassium at night before bed to prevent magnesium deficiency symptoms, which are very obvious in my body (muscle cramps/spasms).