Mythbuster: Sweat Doesn’t Mean Your Workout Was Intense


Finding time in your busy schedule to workout can be tough. So when you reach the end of a workout, dripping with sweat is your body’s way of giving you a high five for your hard work! 

Or perhaps that’s not what sweat signifies at all... 

What Is In Our Sweat? 

If sweat isn’t the proof of thousands of calories burned, just what is sweat? Well, sweat consists of water, ammonia, salt, urea, and sugar. 

The presence of ammonia and nontoxic urea in your sweat may seem worrisome, but it’s perfectly healthy. These compounds are created when your body breaks down protein. 

Why Do We Sweat? 

Human bodies create sweat to cool down. The majority of our sweat is water. As we heat up (commonly while exercising), our body activates the sweat glands, releasing water. As the water on the surface of our skin evaporates, it lowers our body temperature. 

The amount of sweat your body produces while exercising is not determined by your level of fitness. A very fit man or woman can easily produce more sweat than a man who is out of very out of shape - and vice versa. Your body is programmed to know how much sweat it needs to properly cool itself. Other factors that influence sweat production include the following: 

There is no best amount of sweat to have or not to have. Some very fit people can start sweating sooner than unfit people, as their bodies are attuned to their needs. Other factors that can influence sweat production are: 

● Weight 
● Clothing 
● Temperature 
● Age 
● Genetics 
● Gender 

So yes, you can get a good workout without sweating!

Sweat Affects The Numbers On Your Scale 

If you weigh yourself before and after your workout, you may notice your weight fluctuate. This commonly has to do with water levels changing in your body as you’re exercising. A decrease in weight at your final weigh in is most likely caused by sweating and urinating large amounts of water from your body while exercising. An increase in weight at your final weigh in could be from ingesting fluids during a workout to quench your thirst

Consider the following scenario: A woman weighing 140 pounds runs 5 miles. Each mile took 10 minutes to run for a total of 50 minutes running time. Her body worked up quite a sweat! After 50 minutes of running, she burned a total of 635 calories. After her run, her scale read 138.7 pounds. Unfortunately, her body needs to burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound of body weight. Since she only burned 635 calories, we can safely assume her drop in body weight was a result of lost water-weight. 

Seeing as your body sheds so much water during a workout, be sure to consume plenty of fluids before your next sweat session! This way your body will stay adequately hydrated. Adult men should be drinking 13 cups (3 liters) of water a day, while women should drink 9 cups (2.2 liters) of water daily. 

How You Can Measure Workout Intensity 

Now that we’ve determined that sweat isn’t a reliable measure of workout success, then what should you be measuring? Two great indicators are your heart rate and your breathing. 

You can track your heart rate yourself or use a tracker - like a watch or a chest strap. Some trackers are more reliable than others, so be sure to read plenty of reviews before you invest in a fitness tracker. 

Breathing is a simpler measure of workout intensity. If you are breathing hard (unable to carry a conversation while exercising), you are working at the high end of your current fitness level. 

So the next time you bust out a tough core workout or any other kind of exercise, don’t trust your sweat. Gage your workout more accurately by tracking your heart rate and breathing. 


Kevin Jones is a full time professional fitness expert. When he isn’t in the gym, he is offering practical research, fitness plans and nutritional tips to the world. Kevin regularly contributes to many fitness and health authority websites. With a passion for family, fun, and fitness, Kevin has found a way to manage and combine these three aspects in an effective and successful way. Connect with him online; LinkedIn & Twitter


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