Sauna AFTER workout for best benefits, recent research suggests.
Sauna use after a workout provides superior benefits compared to sauna use beforehand or sauna use alone. Hitting the sauna after workouts may be the hardest time to do it - but it’s also part of the reason it’s the best time, scientifically speaking.
That’s because sauna after cardio and sauna after lifting increase your levels of dynorphin, BDNF-1, and most importantly, IGF-1.
Don’t worry - I promise to cover exactly why ramping up these levels is so awesome. I also promise not to make terrible generalizations like “saunas are relaxing” or use the phrase “work up a sweat.”
Sauna After Workout Benefits
First let’s cover Insulin Growth Factor-1 aka IGF-1
When you increase your IGF-1 you’re getting a huge release of growth hormone with anabolic effects that are proven to aid in fat loss and muscle growth.
How much can sauna after workouts increase IGF-1?
According to an article in the American Journal of Medicine, back-to-back 20 minute sauna use with a 30 minute break in between doubles your IGF-1 and that increase will last for nearly 3 hours after use.
Pair this kind of heat acclimation with the post-workout physiological changes and you get the most bang for your buck - going well over double IGF-1 levels in the same period of time.
Why ramp up your BDNF?
Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is a powerhouse for your memory and learning, something we’ve known since this study in 1999.
BDNF surges the rate of growth in new brain cells and protects your current brain cells from degradation.
It helps you stay sharper as you age and boosts your brain day-to-day.
Sauna use during or just after a workout was shown in this study to actually increase BDNF much more than exercise without sauna use - so again, the timing is key.
Dynorphin is Hard to Explain
Imagine you were born into a perfect utopia.
You have never known struggle, stress, resistance, or hardship of any kind.
Your life ‘s been easier than a billionaire trust-fund babies and you’re spoiled to the core.
Do you think you would really appreciate the everyday things that make you feel good in this life?
Of course not.
Now, imagine if you were born into a dystopian world of pure chaos and strain.
But there would be years of complete peace and and a taste of utopia now and then.
Would you appreciate those feel good moments?
Definitely, and science indicates you would feel those moments much more intensely.
Well, your endorphin system works a lot like the utopia/dystopia metaphor.
Hard exercise and heat stress are very uncomfortable and cause you to release the dysphoric opioid ‘dynorphin’ (part of your Kappa Opioid Receptor system or KOR).
Dynorphin then causes your Mu Opioid Receptors (MOR) to become sensitized and respond to endorphins, allowing you to feel life’s good moments even stronger.
Moreover, sauna use increases these levels more so than exercise alone and makes an awesome after workout routine to boost your day-to-day life enjoyment.
This is something people miss out on a lot. You MUST stay in the sauna long enough to feel some discomfort or you’re likely not doing anything except working up a sweat...