In her most recent video, Dr. Rhonda Patrick (PhD) discusses the benefits of conditioning the body to heat (i.e. saunas and sauna suits), something she calls ‘hyperthermic conditioning’. The benefits she discusses are far and wide, including increasing muscle mass and endurance, increasing blood flow to the heart, and improving cognitive function! This video is a must watch put together by a very highly trained medical professional.
The video is however, a little hard to keep up with at times due to the technical and scientific language used! So, provided below is an overview of her most important points:
How does heat conditioning improve athletic endurance?
In this new video, Dr. Patrick starts by discussing the ways in which our body adapts in response to heat and how these adaptations help to improve athletic endurance:
Heat adaptations can improve athletic endurance by:
From here, Dr. Patrick then discusses a specific study demonstrating how sauna use can improve athletic endurance. In this study, six distance runners were able to increase the distance they could run by up to 32% by using the sauna twice a week. This really is an outstanding result, and likely due to the endurance enhancements caused by heat conditioning mentioned above.
How does heat conditioning help build muscle?
Next, Dr. Patrick discusses how hyperthermic conditioning can improve ‘muscle hypertrophy’. This is the term used for gaining muscle mass by increasing the size of our muscle cells (which is the aim of the game right!?). To increase the size of our muscle cells we require extra protein and ‘protein synthesis’ is the term used for the creation of new proteins in the body. Exercise has long been known to assist in protein synthesis, resulting in increased muscle mass. On the down side, exercise can also place oxidative stress on our bodies, meaning that some of these new proteins we create may be broken down – not ideal! So, we must find a balance between the building up and breaking down, which is how wearing a sauna suit during exercise can play a part (see below).
Increasing our body heat during exercise i.e. wearing a sauna suit, can combat oxidative stress resulting in ‘muscle hypertrophy’ by the following two methods:
The next point of discussion is a little technical, but essentially Dr. Patrick is explaining how heat conditioning can result in ‘heat shock protein’ levels remaining high post workout, even when we are at rest (referred to as basal) and additionally, that the amount of ‘heat shock protein’ we release will increase with each subsequent high temperature work out.
How does heat conditioning positively affect the brain?
Now, if improving athletic endurance and muscle mass is yet to have you convinced about the benefits of heat conditioning, listen up! Heat conditioning has also been shown to have positive effects on brain function, including improved memory, attention, focus and nerve cell repair! This is due to the brain hormones Norepinephrine and Prolactin and heat conditioning has been shown to significantly increase the amount of these hormones released and stored in the body.
Exposing our body to heat on a regular basis can also improve neurogenesis – the production of new brain cells, a vital and important process that we should all want to maximize! This is because, during heat exposure, the body releases a substance known as Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (lets go with BDNF for short) which promotes neurogenesis. Along with helping to produce new brain cells, BDNF has also been shown in to improve learning and memory, reduce depression and anxiety and promote muscle growth.
Exciting stuff hey!!!
So what about the ‘runner’s high?
In the last part of her video, Dr. Patrick discusses what causes the ‘runner’s high’, or that buzz you get during or after a long run/workout. She goes on to explain that this feeling is due to the presence of Dynorphin in the body, a substance released when we feel discomfort i.e. exercise, heat. Dynorphin allows the body to then release and respond to Endorphine, the substance well known as a ‘feel good’ hormone. Wearing a sauna suit further increases our body heat and can maximize this process, helping us to respond to Endorphine during a workout – hence the runner’s high!
Ok, information over load, but the content is very valuable! So let’s summarize Dr. Patrick’s main points.
Conditioning the body to heat can:
We knew that getting hot and sweaty was good for us, but now we know why (beyond the burning of extra calories)! Of course, as with any workout, it is important that you don’t overdo it and listen to your body when using the sauna or working out in a sauna suit. Make sure to always rehydrate and take a break if need be. So there you have it, working out in a Kutting Weight sauna suit can not only help you to lose weight, but also build muscle, improve our memory and fill us with feel good endorphins! What is not to love!
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