Sweating and Burning Calories: Is There a Link?

Not quite—but that doesn't mean your body doesn't benefit from sweating in other ways.

Black woman in green tank top with determined, concentrated face, training on stationary bike and sweating..

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You're dripping with sweat after a hard workout session—so does all that sweat mean you're burning more calories than usual? The short answer is no.

Perspiring a lot can mean putting a lot into your workout, which requires extra energy. Still, more sweat doesn't equate to more calorie burn, and factors like sweat gland activity play a more significant role in how much sweating happens. Read on to learn more.

What Does Sweating Do?

Sweating does a few beneficial things for the body. One reason why sweating happens is to help the body eliminate impurities, such as metabolic waste and toxicants, or build-up in the skin.

Another primary reason for sweating is to protect you from overheating. Sweat helps the body automatically regulate its temperature. Your internal temperature increases during an intense workout, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This temperature increase tells your body it's time to sweat to cool down.

Risks of Sweating

Whenever you sweat, it lowers the amount of body fluid you have. If you lose too much fluid, the result can be dehydration.

Dehydration is when you're not taking in enough fluids to offset the fluids you've lost. It can affect many functions of the body, and a person may experience symptoms such as dry mouth, dark urine, dizziness, or less urine or sweat than usual.

The condition can be life-threatening, so seek medical attention if symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Lack of urination
  • Rapid breathing or heartbeat
  • Shock

To prevent dehydration, ensure you drink enough water daily. How much every person needs will vary based on different factors like age or sex. Also, remember to stay hydrated with even more fluids if you are in hot weather, exercising in the heat, or are sick.

When To See a Healthcare Provider

See a healthcare provider if you sweat and experience weight loss but not due to exercise or healthy eating. Sweating combined with weight loss or any of the symptoms below can be a sign of health conditions like thyroid problems or infections:

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Fever
  • Long-lasting sweating
  • Rapid and pounding heartbeat
  • Sleep-based sweating
  • Sweating that has no explanation

Does Sweating Burn Calories?

Sweating can affect how many calories you burn but at an insignificant level. This is because the body uses calories to start sweating since sweat glands use glucose as energy to function.

This function falls under metabolism, which includes every energy-using or energy-converting process in the body. Metabolism is also directly associated with the intensity of exercise you do, making it more critical in the calorie-burn process.

Why Does Everyone Sweat at Different Rates?

You might still notice you or someone else may be sweating more during physical activity or even during rest. There are different reasons some people sweat more or less than others, related to sweat gland functioning and temperature acclimation.

Sweat Gland Amounts and Activity

How much you sweat is based on the number of sweat glands you have. You can be born with anywhere between two to four million sweat glands. Additionally, sweat glands are fully active during puberty—and people assigned male at birth tend to have more active sweat glands.

Problems With Eccrine Glands

Eccrine glands are responsible for producing sweat. Sometimes problems with the body's eccrine glands can cause a person to have issues with how they sweat. Those issues may be one of the following conditions:

  • Anhidrosis, the absence of sweating
  • Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating
  • Hypohidrosis, or inadequate sweating
  • Miliaria, a condition that results in skin lesions because sweat ducts are blocked and sweat becomes trapped in the skin

Temperature Acclimation

If you're acclimated to hot weather, you'll likely sweat more initially because your body knows how to cool itself efficiently. Different people start sweating at different temperatures, too.

How You Can Burn Calories

Calorie burn from physical activity is most significant during aerobics versus weight training. However, physical activity burns calories no matter the type. The more intensely you exercise, the more calories your body will use. Here are some ideas to help you burn calories:

  • Consider doing yoga or water workouts.
  • Do chores manually, like using a push mower instead of a riding lawn mower.
  • Visit accessible trails.
  • Find a way to fidget while sitting.
  • Include physical activities, like darts, volleyball, or bowling, at gatherings.
  • Incorporate strength training exercises to do while standing or seated.
  • Listen to music while active to help you exercise longer and potentially burn more calories.
  • Stand up more (if accessible)—and see how long you can stand on one foot if possible.
  • Take the stairs if and when you can.
  • Try seated and chair-based or chair-assisted exercises, with or without weights.

Measuring Calorie Burn

Although higher calorie burn comes from higher energy use, it's difficult to determine the exact number of calories you burn during a particular exercise. Still, there are ways to estimate how many calories you've burned, like using fitness trackers, apps, or an online calorie burn calculator.

You can also calculate potential calories burned if you know the general metabolic equivalent of a task (MET) of an activity. METs are estimations of how much energy a person uses during different types of exercise.

Once you have the MET for a particular exercise, you can use the following equation to get an idea of how many calories you've burned:

  • Multiply METs by 3.5
  • Multiply that total by your body weight in kilograms
  • Divide the multiplied total by 200

The final answer should give you the number of kilocalories you've burned per minute of exercise.

Estimating Exercise Intensity

If you want to know how hard or intense you're working out, monitor your heart rate. That can take special equipment, like heart rate monitors, health trackers, or apps.

You can monitor your heart rate by checking the pulse rate either at the carotid artery in the neck or the radial artery at the wrist. Count the number of beats for 30 seconds and multiply by two to get the heart rate in beats per minute.

If those aren't available to you, then score yourself on the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. All you do is rate how challenging the workout is on a 1-10 scale. You won't know exact numbers, but you can compare different workouts and get a sense of when you're taking it easier than usual and when you're killing it.

A Quick Review

Whatever your sweat level, just remember that sweat level does not equate to more calories burned. In general, the more intensely you exercise, the more calories your body will burn—and the more heat (and sweat) your body will release.

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19 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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