Here’s Why Saunas Stimulate Muscle Growth
Saunas are a popular post-workout activity. They do more than relax the body after the strain of a workout. Saunas can make it easier to stimulate muscle growth. Let’s break down why that is!
First, let’s define ‘sauna’. Sauna bathing is generally thought to be short-term exposure to high temperatures that range from 113F to 212F. This high heat causes an episode of hyperthermia for the user. That stress induces a thermoregulatory response at the cellular level. Wet saunas have more humidity than dry saunas. Humidity increases the relative heat.
Speed Up Muscle Recovery
Due to the hot environment of the sauna, a group of proteins called heat shock proteins will become activated. Essentially, the stress caused by the heat will induce certain genes to activate and encode for the heat shock proteins. These proteins seek out cellular damage and block inflammation responses. These proteins can help repair microtears and inflammation from workouts. These proteins can also increase the body’s ability to ward off oxidative stress.
Muscle Recovery is one of the most important factors when it comes to muscle growth. For muscles to strengthen after a workout they must recover from the strain. As the muscle repairs, it becomes stronger. Most attribute the effects of heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) brought about by the heat.
This protein is a molecular chaperone; that is, it guides the folding of functional skeletal muscle proteins.
HSP70 and transient increases in nitric oxide with sauna might help to assist in better health and faster recovery. Many studies exist now that demonstrate the positive health benefits for metabolic disease from sauna. Obviously, prior to using a sauna, one should discuss with one’s personal physician. This is especially true if you have underlying cardiovascular disease. In Finland, where suana use is ubiquitous, most deaths are due to MI or coronary atherosclerosis.
Increase Human Growth Hormone
Growth hormone levels will decrease over time and this might be a cause of sarcopenia and frailty. Sauna bathing can cause a transient increase in levels of growth hormone.
The same heat shock proteins shock the body to the point where they will send stress signals to your pituitary gland which in turn will increase hormone release including human growth hormone (HGH). The hypothalamus will produce more growth hormone releasing hormone and this in turn causes the release of more growth hormone. Human growth hormone aids the body in muscle growth and helps preserve bone mass.
It is important to understand that HGH production naturally decreases with age, especially in those aged 50 and older. Studies have shown that saunas will not have a significant impact on HGH production in this age group unless stringent protocols are followed.
Lowers Cortisol Levels
Elevated cortisol levels have been linked to muscle weakness. Cortisol affects carbohydrate metabolism in muscle tissues. Some cortisol is beneficial to muscle growth; however, too much causes muscle proteins to break down.
A sauna environment, especially infrared saunas have been observed to help lower cortisol levels. While inside the sauna cortisol levels will initially increase. Research has shown that immediately following sauna use, the level will drop by about 25% below average levels. The cortisol response is variable and depends upon the heat and the humidity. Higher heat will normally produce more cortisol.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Saunas, with regular use, can significantly improve someone’s cardiovascular health. Mitochondrial activity and red blood cell count increase making more oxygen and nutrients available.
Muscle growth becomes easier with an increase in blood flow and a decrease in blood pressure. A healthy cardiovascular system makes muscle growth easier to achieve.
Again, it is quite important to consult with a physician regarding use of sauna if there is known cardiovascular disease present.
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Are you worried about developing any of these conditions? Are you already suffering from one or more? Schedule an appointment with Warner Orthopedics & Wellness today for an evaluation and to discuss treatment options with Dr. Warner and her dedicated team!