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Is it better to take a sauna on an empty stomach or a full stomach?

The answer to this one is easy: neither.

We go to sauna like we go to the gym, or go cross country ski, or pick up hockey, or a bike ride: not hungry nor not full.

If we sauna soon after eating:

We don’t feel good heating up.  Our bodies get super confused.  As our body temperature rises in the hot room, our heart rate goes up.  A higher heart rate is due to the need to pump more blood through our system faster.  Same process as with rigorous exercise.  Soon after eating, our body needs to devote energy to digestion, not the stress of heat.

We don’t feel good cooling down.  Because our bodies are stressed and confused, our cool downs suck.  We may burp or reach for water in an attempt to stabilize ourselves.  At this point, we may get mad at ourselves for our bad timing: “ugh, why did I eat so much so close to sauna time?”

Our sauna rounds are too short and we feel yucky.

If we sauna when we are hungry:

We don’t feel good heating up.  Our bodies are starving for calories.  We can drink a lot of water, which helps, but as our body temperature rises in the hot room, and our heart rate goes up, we need calories (energy) to deal with this stress. Same process as with rigorous exercise.  When we sauna when we are hungry, we are vulnerable to the same “crash” that can happen running, biking, or working out hard when we are undernourished.

We don’t feel good cooling down.  We get dizzy.  At this point, we may get mad at ourselves for our bad timing: “ugh, why didn’t I eat earlier today, well before sauna time?”

Our sauna rounds are too short and we feel yucky.

Sauna feels great when our bodies are in the “sweet spot” of not hungry and not full.

For many sauna enthusiasts, a couple magic time frames for good sauna sessions are:

  • late afternoon:  Our work day is done.  Our lunch is well digested.  We aren’t yet hungry for dinner, but we are hungry for a kick ass authentic sauna session with three rounds and awesome cool downs.  Are sauna rounds are nice and extended and we feel awesome.
  • evening:  We may have eaten a light dinner couple hours previous.  Our dinner is well digested.  We aren’t hungry any more for the day, but we are ready for an evening sauna sessions, yep, with three rounds and awesome cool downs.  Again, we benefit from extended hot room times and cool down times because our body is in the “sweet spot:”  Lots of energy in our bodies, and no energy going to digesting from a full stomach.
  • morning:  I am not so much a morning sauna enthusiast, yet I can understand why some enjoy this time for a good sauna session.  We want to be sure that we’re not all caffeine’d up (another issue for another day) and we want to make sure that we’re not hungry.

Whenever we choose to go to sauna, like with rigorous exercise, we want to pick a time when we are not hungry and not full.

BONUS: What is it about sauna that makes food taste so great afterwards?  Here and here are some awesome post sauna food ideas.

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1 Comments on This Post

  1. i can’t handle the sauna after eating a full meal, need to wait at least 1.5+ hours before jumping in. if i just have a light snack, it is a bit better but definitely a struggle between the body working on digestion and the hot room environment. hunger really isn’t an issue for me when it comes to sauna and i frequently jump in there before work (and i skip breakfast most days anyway). a lot of it is driven by the family though. jumping in after work and before dinner is tough with three young kids, similar in the evening. just too much going on between soccer games, dinner prep/cleanup, getting the littlest to bed, etc. morning is great since everyone is asleep anyway.

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