Sweating and Sports | What is Sweat? Is More Better During Exercise?

What most people already know is that sweating is our body’s way of cooling itself down during a workout or intense physical activity or even a super stressful situation. But, did you know that there are two types of sweat glands? Thank goodness, because otherwise we’d have to spray or roll on deodorant (without aluminum!) all over our entire body!

What is sweat?

First, let’s start with the basics. So, what is sweat?

Sweat…

…is made up mainly of water (H₂0) and salt (Na+). This is why adequate hydration is extremely important, so your body has the means to cool itself down.

If you are dehydrated going into a workout — which means you did not drink enough beforehand — besides likely not feeling very well, your body will not be able to cool itself down and regulate its core temperature properly. And, the same goes for replenishing lost fluid after an intense workout as well. If you do not compensate for your sweat loss with proper fluid intake, especially for those who are engaging in intense physical activity, a hypohydrated state can occur as well as an overall increase in core body temperature.(1) Remember sweat is water and salt, so you’ll want to properly hydrate with water (of course!) as well as homemade electrolyte drinks or mindfully incorporating a bit of salt (preferably Himalayan salt) into your meals.

Sweating in the summer…

You may have noticed that you break a sweat faster and sweat more when you exercise in the summer. This is completely normal — you body has to adjust to the heat and cool itself down more. So, in this case, more sweat is a positive reaction from your body.

Two different types of sweat glands

  • The eccrine glands are the ones responsible for cooling down the body when our body temperature rises. They are found all over the body and open directly on the surface of the skin, which then allows the sweat to evaporate causing this cooling effect.
  • Apocrine sweat glands, on the other hand, are found under the arms and in the groin area — areas where there are generally more concentrated hair follicles. These sweat glands are also triggered by increased body temperature, but mostly activated during times of stress, anxiety, or hormonal fluctuations. This sweat is a bit milkier and mixes with the bacteria on the skin which creates the, not-so-pleasant, body odor.

Sports: Is it true that if you sweat more, you’re working harder? 

Yes and no. Because the amount that you sweat also depends on your weight, gender, fitness level, age, where you live (climate), and even your genetics. An overweight person is going to sweat more easily because the amount of energy needed to execute a particular activity is going to be higher. Additionally, a fitter person who works out regularly will begin to sweat faster than a not-so-fit person because the body is smart and is already prepared to sweat to cool itself down while training.

How to sweat right:

1. Drink Enough

Most people walk around chronically dehydrated! Be sure that you’re drinking enough water every day. This calculator will help you find out how much you should be drinking:

And by the way, you should be drinking water even when you are not thirsty! The feeling of thirst is actually your body crying for help, not an initial signal. If you’re not sure whether you’re drinking enough, see if any of these 9 signs of dehydration apply to you.

2. Remove cosmetics beforehand

If you want to really sweat, then wash off any makeup or lotions you may have put on throughout the day. Why? These can block the pores and prevent your body from cooling itself down. 

Blocked pores (especially on the face) during exercise can also increase blemishes. Wash it off quickly beforehand if you have time.

3. Wear the right workout clothes

The most important thing to think about when choosing workout clothes is breathability. You’ll be happier training in moisture-wicking and breathable materials.

The question everyone asks: do I sweat too much?

If you feel that you are excessively sweating, especially outside of workouts and stressful situations, see your doctor about a condition called hyperhidrosis. People with this condition find their sweat interfering with everyday activities: sweaty palms making turning a doorknob difficult or clothing becoming noticeably soaked without having engaged in any sort of strenuous physical activity.(2) But do not be ashamed or embarrassed if this is you. You are not alone! Nearly 5% of the global population suffers from this.(3)

So now you know, the amount you sweat doesn’t only depend on the intensity of your workout, but also on other factors. If you provide the right conditions for your body to sweat in a healthy way, it can cool down efficiently and there’s nothing stopping you from your summer workouts. 

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Lunden Souza Lunden is a Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Coach. She inspires sports enthusiasts around the world with her fitness & nutrition tips and workouts on YouTube. View all posts by Lunden Souza »

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