Does the sauna burn belly fat? A nutritionist weighs in

fat man going in a sauna

You see it in movies. 

People walk into a sauna and come out 30 pounds lighter.

Boxers do it.

Professional fighters do it.

Does the sauna burn belly fat?

Does the sauna burn belly fat?

2 females in a sauna

The simple answer is no.

The sauna does not burn belly fat.

What it does burn is water weight.

This method is very useful for some people who may need to fit their skinny jeans the next day, but in a foul mood from dehydration — killing everyone in their way.

The sauna is also a favorite for some athletes who try to make the weigh-ins.

Some boxers, MMA fighters, and wrestlers need to cut weight drastically in a short amount of time to be able to compete in their chosen weight class.

This practice is very unhealthy because it puts their body through dehydration and stress.

Their last-ditch of effort to lose weight is in the sauna. The sauna is effective at losing water weight temporarily.

However, as soon as the fighter starts eating and drinking normally, the weight quickly comes back.

How much weight can you lose in a sauna in 1 hour

woman relaxing in a sauna

You can lose water weight quickly in a sauna. However, this is a dangerous practice, and some establishments like ONE FC banned it.

Fighters still cut weight today, and some institution hasn’t put a stop to this practice. It’s very taxing on the body and could lead to death.

Below is a video of a ONE Championship fighter Yang Jian Bing, who died of heart failure after cutting weight using the sauna. Which prompted ONE FC to ban the practice.

So, I hope you are not trying to harm yourself by drastically cutting weight as professional fighters do, just to fit your skinny jeans.

Moreover, professional fighters have a team of experts that helps them with their weight cuts. Or have been weight cutting for years safely — they know what works for their body.

To give you an idea of how much professional fighters can cut water weight in a short amount of time, below is a video of Josh Burkman from the UFC.

In 15 minutes, Josh cut 1 pound of weight using the sauna. Using other techniques to cut weight, Josh lost 11 pounds in 3 hours.

So, going by this very rough estimate, you can lose 4 pounds in 1 hour using the sauna.

One thing to learn from the video is that Josh Burkman put the weight back on after making the weigh-in. After rehydrating himself and eating a nice fatty steak, Josh put on 21 lbs overnight.

How many calories do you burn in a sauna

sauna water

In a study about the weight-loss efficacy of regular dry sauna bathing, it was deemed possible to lose 73 calories per 10 minutes of a sauna session. And that is the average; some 10 minutes sessions recorded an expenditure of 134 calories.

[source: Correlations between Repeated Use of Dry Sauna for 4 x 10 Minutes, Physiological Parameters, Anthropometric Features, and Body Composition in Young Sedentary and Overweight Men: Health Implications]

To find out how much weight can you lose in a sauna in 1 hour, let’s do a few calculations.

Let’s stick to the minimal number and use 73 calories for our estimations.

In the study, a 10 minutes sauna session drew out 73 calories. Now, there are 60 minutes in an hour. Divide 60 minutes by 10, and you get 6.

73 x 6 = 438

When you convert 438 calories to kilograms, you will get 0.05 or 0.1 lbs.

You are losing 0.1 lbs every hour you stay in a sauna. Provided you can last that long. 

Now, the result is not as significant, but it all adds up. Every little bit helps when it comes to proper weight loss. 

How long in a sauna to lose 2 pounds

woman in a sauna increasing heat

Now that we have a number to go by, it should be easy to estimate how many pounds we can lose in a sauna. 

If you only want to lose water weight and by using Josh Burkman’s weight cut video for reference, then it will take you 30 minutes.

So, 30 minutes is how long you have to spend in a sauna to lose 2 pounds.

However, if you want to lose real weight and not just water weight, it will take more than that. 

If we go by this study to calculate the calories we get rid of while sitting in the hotbox, you will need to spend 20 hours to lose 2 lbs of permanent weight.

Benefits of bathing in the sauna

3 women enjoying sauna

Visiting the sauna is not a bad thing. Some research even approves of its health benefits.

However, some saunas often claim health benefits, including antiaging, male fertility, and many others, which is unproven.

Although there is some evidence showing positive results for the following:

  • Cardiovascular health
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Lung diseases
  • Athlete’s performance 

[source: Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review]

Cardiovascular health

A study of 12 infants who underwent sauna therapy has prevented defects resulting in a non-surgical intervention. 

There are many studies of men, women, and children who underwent sauna treatment and have had excellent results in their cardiovascular health. 

Rheumatological arthritis

Patients who underwent 4 weeks of sauna therapy for rheumatoid arthritis reported decreased pain and stiffness.

Chronic pain

In a New Zealand study, patients reported a decrease in migraine intensity after a 6 weeks sauna intervention.


Patients diagnosed with mild depression reported better state after 4 weeks of treatment.

Lung and airways

In a clinical study, there was an improvement of better nose airflow after a sauna treatment. One study for patients with pulmonary disease reported improved symptoms after therapy.

Athlete’s performance

Athletes reported peaked performance after a 30 minutes session in the sauna. 

Now, these are all small studies. More data is needed to determine the side effects and benefits of bathing in a sauna.


does the sauna burn belly fat

Does the sauna burn belly fat? The answer is a big fat NO.

The only weight you will lose using the sauna is water weight, which you can put on immediately right after eating food and drinking water.

Don’t use the sauna, like professional fighters cut weight to make weigh-ins. It can be harmful and deadly if you don’t know what you are doing.

Professional fighters have been weight cutting for years, and they know what works for them.

Also, pro fighters have a team with them to give proper advice and help.

However, you can use the sauna to reduce calories. Using the sauna to lose calories is the proper method to get rid of belly fat.

Studies have proven that you can burn more calories sitting down inside a sauna than just sitting down. 

So use the sauna to lose calories and slowly burn belly fat. 

The sauna is not a permanent fix to your belly fat problem.

Instead, go to this article to learn how you can melt 84 lbs of belly fat in a short amount of time.