Why People Wear Sweatshirts While Exercising, and Why It’s Useless

I have seen over and over again people working out while wearing a sweatshirt, sweatpants, or both.  Many people claim that this helps them burn more calories because it heats up their body temperature, and, after all, heat is what really burns the calories.  Other people wear them because they say that it helps them prevent injury.  Are these claims valid?  That is what we are about to find out!

First let’s discuss the time that it would be wise to wear a sweatshirt while working out:  On a very cold day while working out outside.  The people who claim that wearing a sweatshirt helps prevent injuries are right!  Wearing something like a sweatshirt helps trap the heat in and warm up your muscles faster and keeps them warm.  If your muscles are cold when you workout, you have a chance of pulling something if you do an exercise too fast or sprint.  However, if you are just jogging very slowly, you have a pretty low chance of pulling anything, although you might want to wear it just to keep you warm.  If it is really hot outside, wearing a sweatshirt will do nothing; your muscles are already very warm from the heat outside and they do not need to be any warmer.

Now onto the reason that most people wear sweatshirts while working out: To lose more weight by being warmer and burning more calories.  Well first off, where did this idea come from in the first place?  Most likely wrestlers or people who needed to drop a lot of weight really quickly.  You see, there are many times when a wrestler needs to drop 5 or more pounds in just a couple of days, so people tell him to “sweat off the weight”.  He puts his sweatshirt on and starts jogging.  A day later, he amazingly lost 5 pounds.  “Wouldn’t it be great if we all could lose 5 pounds in one day” many people thought.  So they decided that if it worked for the wrestlers, it will work for them too.  However, they are forgetting one thing.  Almost all of the weight that the wrestler lost was water weight.  The next time he drinks a lot of water, it will all come right back on.

You see, wearing a sweatshirt does what it says it does, it makes you sweat!  All that is coming off of your body is water, you cannot have fat leave your body in the form of water.  Moreover, increasing the temperature of the air around you will make you hotter and sweat more, but the extra heat will not burn calories any faster.  The burning of calories happens when you do work, not when there is heat around you.  The more work you do, the more calories you burn, but wearing a sweatshirt and making the air around you hotter does not magically induce work.

Even though some people may argue that having the extra heat will make your body have to do more work (because your body will have to produce more sweat), the amount of calories that that process actually uses is very insignificant.  It would be much more productive to make yourself as comfortable as you can when you workout so that you will not give up early or hate it more than you need to.  Moreover, most of the time, most people don’t even like the way that they look when they lose a ton of water weight.  A lot of water is stored in your muscles, so if you lose a ton of water weight then you will look like you have less muscle mass but not a significant amount less of fat.

If you want to get the most out of your workout, then try to do more instead of sweat more.  While I normally sweat anyway when I workout, that is not my goal, and it should not be yours either.  As a further note, when you hear of someone dropping 10 lbs in a week or something like that, you can almost be absolutely certain that most of that, if not all, is just loss of water.  Another way that people drop a lot of water weight is by drastically decreasing their carbohydrate intake.  This is because in each gram of stored carbohydrates is 4 grams of stored water.  So, decreased carbs combined with a lot of perspiration equals a lot of water loss.

Next time you go workout, try to make yourself as comfortable as possible so that you will be able to push yourself to the limit!  Don’t worry about how much you sweat, worry about how much you lift or how fast you run.