Building Your Recovery Toolbox: Using The Sauna

Next up on this blog series about useful recovery modalities is the sauna: a tool that can produce aerobic adaptations as well as increases in muscle mass. Here’s how.

Alexander Nurse Bey
July 4, 2022

Next up on this blog series about useful recovery modalities is the sauna. The sauna is a tool that can be used to produce adaptations derived from both strength training and aerobic conditioning. Here’s how:

Aerobic Adaptations

Regular use of the sauna can decrease the average resting heart rate, increase the number of red blood cells, and increase the volume of your blood plasma. The plasma is the liquid part of the blood stream that transports nutrients and hormones to the areas of the body in need of them, along with a host of other critical functions from waste removal to wound healing.

The sauna can also build a more powerful heart that requires fewer contractions to accomplish the same job and increase the number of red blood cells- ensuring a more potent exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, reducing breathlessness.

Muscular Adaptations

Using the sauna at the right temperatures will trigger the production of Heat Shock Proteins (HSP) which repair malformed protein structures, increase protein synthesis and muscle mass, and reduce the breakdown of muscle tissue. It can also cause a five-fold increase in the production of Growth Hormone and improve insulin sensitivity- ensuring that more nutrients are driven into the muscle cells.

How and When to Use the Sauna:

Use the sauna for two-fifteen minute periods at a temperature of 100°C (212˚F). The periods should be separated by a 30minute intermission to cool down. This is a great recovery method for days between training sessions. Although, I might be careful about using the sauna immediately following a training session, as the prolonged increase in body temperature may have a detrimental affect on anabolism.

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