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THE DEBATE: Does wearing a sweater to workout help you burn more calories?
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April 6, 2012

THE DEBATE: Does wearing a sweater to workout help you burn more calories?

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HOW THE DEBATE STARTED:

So yesterday on Facebook, we had a bit of a heated discussion over a picture I posted of my sweaty self in a hoodie. My caption said “Workout w a sweater on. Sweat more. Burn more calories in the same amt of time.”

The statement caused some uproar and I understand why. I know you read it as “If you sweat more it means you are burning more calories.” Okay, misleading. What I should have said is “Wear a sweater to workout to increase your heart rate and burn more calories in the same amt of time.” I was typing this quickly on my iPhone just as I got off of the crosstrainer. Then we got people saying that this was unhealthy because I am just dehydrating myself which will make me just lose water weight not fat.

THE FACTS:

Yes, sweat = water loss not fat loss.

Yes, I am “dehydrating myself” but not to the point of unhealthiness. I have a water bottle with me, so that’s not a problem.

Yes, I am burning more calories than I would if I were not wearing a sweater.

EVIDENCE ON BOTH SIDES:

I spent about 2 hours researching this to make sure I did the topic justice in this post. I found evidence on both sides. Here’s the interesting thing – when I typed in “wear sweatshirt to gym to burn more calories” I got all of these FALSE or MYTH type articles. Then when I typed in “working out in warm vs. cold conditions” I got a 50/50 debate. Some said yes you burn more calories when it’s hotter because your body is under stress and needs to cool itself down. The people on the other side said that you should just workout in a freezer because the involuntary shivering makes you burn even more calories than in hot weather.

Okay people.

Let’s talk about the REALITY of this all.

The truth of the matter is that you will never workout in a freezer. If you live in a snowy place and go running outside, you’re already going to bundle up a little to regulate your body temperature anyway. So don’t go running around in a bikini in the snow to shiver your fat off. Trust me, that workout aint gonna last very long. Shivering is not how you want to burn calories even though it can burn about 400 calories per hour! The reaction depletes glycogen stores and leaves you feeling fatigued! 

Andddd! Even if you were working out in a freezer (hopefully not as cold as Antartica), you’d be able to warm yourself up somewhat so that you would be naturally regulating your body temperature after several minutes of a warm up.

If you’re in a warm environment, whether it’s heat from the sun or heat from wearing a sweatshirt, the body’s natural reaction is increased heart rate and increased blood circulation in an effort to maintain body temperature. The faster your heart beats, the more energy is required, and therefore more calories are burned than if you were not wearing a sweater.

It all boils down to body temperature regulation. If it’s too hot or too cold, your body has to work a little harder to bring it back down/up to a comfortable temp. That’s it. Extra work = extra calories burned. You may or may not sweat. That’s up to an individual’s ability to create sweat in such situations. Some people sweat when they eat chili peppers (my dad) and some people don’t even sweat after they run (me).

Read this from Dr.Mirkin.com,

Do You Burn More Calories in Hot or Cold Weather?

You burn fewer calories when you exercise in cold weather than you do when it’s hot. The hotter it is, the more extra work your heart has to do to prevent you from overheating. More than 70 percent of the energy produced by your muscles during exercise is lost as heat. So the harder you exercise, the hotter your muscles become. In hot weather, not only must your heart pump extra blood to bring oxygen to your muscles, it must also pump hot blood from your heated muscles to your skin where heat can be dissipated.

On the other hand, in cold weather, your heart only has to pump blood to your muscles and very little extra blood to your skin to dissipate heat. Your muscles produce so much heat during exercise that your body does not need to produce more heat to keep you warm. So your heart works harder and you burn more calories in hot weather. This information should not discourage you from exercising when it’s cold, because staying in shape is a year-round proposition. However, it may help to explain why so many people find the pounds creeping on in the wintertime, even when they stay active. 

And now some quick Q&A if you got lost in all of that.

SO IS IT SAFE TO WEAR A SWEATER TO WORKOUT?

In my opinion, yes, I think so (but ask your doctor, don’t take my word for it!) – the bad stuff only happens at extremes. I mean, really, who wears a sauna suit to workout. First of all, that’s just weird-looking. And THAT could really heat you up to a point of exhaustion because of how quickly the heat will build up and stay. Wearing a cotton blend sweater? It’s breathable and it creates a little extra heat that is BEARABLE. If it gets to a point where you feel like it’s affecting the intensity of your workout then take it off! Wearing a sweater will increase your heart rate and therefore make you burn some more calories, who knows by how much, get a heart rate monitor and see for yourself. But again, if you find that while wearing a sweating you have to run for only 20 minutes instead of 30 then don’t do it. I’d rather you increase your duration and feel comfortable. At the end of the day, an enjoyable workout is a sustainable one, and one you will stick to.

DOES WORKING OUT IN A SWEATER HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT?

Hopefully you can answer this question by now. If you’re sweating a ton, then YES!!! You lost weight! Lots of water weight.

DOES WORKING OUT IN A SWEATER HELP YOU LOSE FAT?

If you normally do the elliptical for 45 min in a tank and then you try doing the elliptical in a sweater the next time, at the same intensity, then your heart rate will be increased, which means you’re expending more energy, meaning you’re burning more calories. Whether you’re burning fat or not is kind of dependent on what you had to eat before. If you ate a carb and sugar filled banana then you might just be burning off the calories from that!

DOES WORKING OUT IN A SWEATER HELP YOU BURN MORE CALORIES?

Compared to the same workout (same intensity and duration) without a sweater, yes!

HOW MANY MORE CALORIES DOES WORKING OUT IN A SWEATER BURN?

I can’t answer this for you. But according the studies, it is not THAT much. Get a heart rate monitor and run your own experiement. But the consensus is that YES more cals are burned.

SHOULD YOU WORKOUT WITH A SWEATER?

Up to you. If you’re in a crunch time situation where every pound matters like getting ready for a bikini contest or a weigh-in as a wrestler, then use this method. If not, then don’t bother if it affects your duration, intensity, and most importantly, happiness, during the workout.

PHEW!

Hope that makes sense. Now I would like to hear what you have to say on this! Please post any journal articles or links to stuff saying otherwise if you don’t agree.

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23 thoughts on “THE DEBATE: Does wearing a sweater to workout help you burn more calories?”

There are 23 comments.

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  1. Bob says:

    Wrong. You’re not burning any measurable amount of extra fat. And you’re not really losing weight either, because your body will retain more water to make up for the dehydration.

  2. Ezusbuy says:

    Thanks for providing this informative post. Cellulite burn by wearing only sweat waist trainer because it continuously burn cellulite’s. Got interesting information here, would love to visit here again.

  3. Ryan says:

    I am a medical student. If you have ever taken a physiology course you would know your body burns more calories in the cold weather because it takes more energy to keep warm and keep your body going. This is why we tend to eat more in the winter

    1. victor says:

      Ah if you are sitting on a chair in cold weather you will burn more re calories to regulate your temperature, compared to hot weather. But running in cold weather is a different storie. You heart will work less under cold weather to dissipate heat on skin, so because during hot weather your skin needs moRE heat dissipation, working out in heat burns more calories vs. Cold. And working out in a sweater ….I say is not worth it.

  4. Mike says:

    Thanks for your thorough research! It now finally makes sense! I’m one of the lucky ones who is soaked after a workout (I can fling sweat from my arms after about 15 minutes). I know sone people who barely sweat at all. I’ve been told that my heart rate to too high for my age range and weight while exercising, but it’s perfect when I’m at rest. If I wore a sweater, I’d probably die or be pretty close to death. Now I won’t give funny looks to guys in the gym that wear hoodies.

  5. Beatriz says:

    I always wear a sweater when I work out. It makes me burn more calories. The cutest sweaters I’ve found are on http://www.pumpsncurls.com. Use promo code: wpm1 to get 10% off the entire store!

  6. nabilah says:

    I sweat after went up and down the stairs 5 times. Since im used to sweating n wearing layers… I might it a try. somehow when i sweat more… I feel all energized inside, coz i weight like 102kg from 109kg… So every sweat somhow counts to me. Thnx for the post. *i envy u for not getting sweaty. Dammit, i even sweat when i dont want to. Like after my make up is done. *sigh

  7. lynda says:

    I do not sweat when I work out, I never have, regardless of weight or anything else. I wear a long-sleeved sweater and another sweater over that. I then sweat. Sweating helps to get rid of toxins in our bodies. I am losing weight, faster than normal. Whatever the results, I want to get rid of toxins in my body as much as losing weight.

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  9. Rick says:

    Couldn’t agree more with you blogilates! i workout in a few layers to increase sweating. I am happy you did the research, it makes total sense. I feel as if the people who responded dont quite understand the concept of wearing a hoodie or wearing a sweater. It doesnt have to be constricting or bulky. Find a comfortable sweater, im sure you have many of them, and try running in it. It’ll just rise your body heat. Total believer in layering while working out….its comfortable to me. So i guess its a matter of personal preference. But ur research makes sense!

  10. Samantha Schaeffer says:

    I really appreciate the research that went into this blog post. I knew very little about the safety and pros/cons to working out in a sweatshirt or in extremely warm temperatures, which is a big reason that until now I stayed away from hot yoga. I assumed that it would be unhealthy because sweating so much would make me sick with dehydration. This blog post, however, tells me that as long as I am rehydrating while sweating so much in the excess heat, I will in fact get a BETTER work out from hot yoga. I don’t know that I’ll become a devotee, but it’s definitely something I’m going to try after reading this article. Thanks!

    1. blogilates says:

      you’re welcome!

  11. Katie says:

    I agree with Penny. If you’re very hot, you can’t work out as hard. I know when I go on runs on hot days, I can’t run as long of distance because I get overheated and fatigued quicker. So yes, if you were to run the same distance in the same time you might burn more fat, but in reality you probably won’t run the same distance because you’ll be overheated and tired if you wear too many layers.

  12. Penny says:

    I’d prefer to work outside on a cool day. I see what you’re saying, but I don’t think I actually burn more calories when I’m hot because then I just get worn out faster and can’t push as hard. For the most part I am more worried about building muscle anyway, which in turn will burn calories.
    I like those days when it just feels so nice and cool/breezy outside that the weather makes me able to push harder.

  13. Becky Kozak says:

    I can’t handle wearing a sweater while working out, I just feel so terribly uncomfortable!

    I knew a girl that used to train for wrestling and in order to slim down, she would sleep in tons of layers or order to sweat during the night and get rid of all of her water weight. Thoughts?

    xo Becky

    1. Sarah says:

      That sounds super uncomfortable! I wouldn’t be able to sleep haha.

  14. Joan says:

    I sweat like a pig regardless. (Do pigs even sweat?) Given the climate of my country, the less clothing I have on as I exercise, the better. LOL Thank God for booty shorts!

  15. Alexis Parbery says:

    This all makes total sense. And it makes sense why YOU would want to wear a sweater at the gym if you don’t even sweat after a run. It also makes sense why I wouldn’t want to because I usually start sweating right away lol.

  16. Sarah says:

    Thank you Cassey for this information! It is something that I always wondered. I like how you used scientific sources, it makes your blog more credible than other fitness blogs.

  17. Chelsea says:

    All the guys at my gym work out in hoodies haha. I think they look kind of silly. I sweat enough without a sweater on as is lol.

  18. Christina says:

    This kind of but doesn’t go along with this topic. Swimmers where I come from, will not shave and wear double or triple the bathing suits so that they have to work harder for the time they want. When competition comes around, they shave EVERYTHING (arms included-I don’t think this makes much sense..) and they wear only one so that they feel lighter and swim obviously faster. Supposedly the extra bathing suits helps them work harder and therefore tone faster since their body is stressed…Wearing extra clothes while running and working out seems like adding weights. I can totally understand your points. They make a lot of sense. 🙂

  19. Kayla says:

    I agree that wearing a sweter’s ability to burn more fat is dependent on a few things. As an exercise science studen t I hsve learned that You burn carbs before anything else. Carbs are the bodys main source of enrgy and if I recall correctly you don’t start burning fat till after about 20 minutes of cardio or until your carb stores have been depleted. This is why some suggest working out when u first wake up so that you are burning fat and not what u just ate.

  20. Francine says:

    LOL I pictured you like a teacher with a stick while I was reading this blog! Anyway, I can’t stand working out with a sweater on. I feel bulky and heavy. Well, maybe if it’s toooooo cold, i wear em in the beginning and take it off when i get warm. 🙂

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