Thirsty (for knowledge) Thursday: All About Sweat

>> Thursday, September 17, 2015

I like to sweat. And I recently came across this article that someone shared as they mentioned they sweat more than other people. It shared some "sweat science" that I wanted to pass along.

First, let’s break down the science of sweat. “Sweating is a necessary process that cools down the body,” explains David M. Pariser, M.D., a dermatologist and founding member of the International Hyperhidrosis Society.

When your body starts to overheat, the nervous system stimulates sweat glands to release perspiration. As the droplets evaporate off of your skin, they take some body heat into the atmosphere. (Think about how chilly your skin is when still wet from the shower—as the water dries, it cools down your body. Sweat works the same way to cool you down as it evaporates.)

What sweating doesn't do is “detox” your body, Pariser says. ”More than 99 percent of sweat is water, along with trace amount of electrolytes like salt.” While a small amount of toxic substances can find their way out of the body through perspiration, detoxification primarily occurs in the liver, kidneys, and lungs—not through the skin.

So take THAT hot yoga hippies who swear by the detoxing effects of 95 degree yoga!

But how do you know if you're sweating TOO much? When is it an issue?

Just about any amount of sweat is considered normal. “There’s a lot of variability as to how much people sweat, and most of it is in a normal range,” Pariser explains. “Just like height, there’s an average when it comes sweat—and some people produce more and some produce less.”

If you’re constantly a little clammy, worry not. “Everyone sweats a baseline amount at all times,” Pariser says. And most people sweat more noticeably when exercising, in a hot place, or in a stressful, embarrassing, or uncomfortable situation. (Awkward first date, anyone?)

However, if you’re sweating a ton all the time, especially in certain body areas, it may indicate a medical condition called hyperhidrosis, which affects 2 percent of the U.S. population, Pariser says. One type, known as focal hyperhidrosis, may be genetic, and the sweating occurs only on specific body parts (usually the underarms, feet, hands, or face). The second type may be a side effect caused by another disease (such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism), menopause, or certain medications. If you feel like you're suffering from excessive sweating, talk to a doctor to see if it could be hyperhidrosis.

If you're pretty sure you don't have a medical condition but STILL think you sweat a lot, it might be a good sign. It might just mean you're in good shape! Many studies in the last 10 years have shown that "trained endurance athletes sweat sooner and produce more perspiration compared to untrained people." Nice. Blame it on your fitness.

“The more fit you are, the more efficiently your body sweats,“ explains Tony Musto, Ph.D., director of fitness and an exercise physiologist at the University of Miami. This is a good thing, since sweating helps cool you down and enables you to lift, run, or cycle at a higher intensity for longer. (What you don’t want is your body to reach the critical core temp of 104 degrees, when people tend to pass out from heat illness or heat stroke.)

This isn’t to say sedentary folks will stay dry. There’s a relationship between sweat and a person’s maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max), a measure of cardiovascular fitness and aerobic endurance. Research shows that the higher the VO2 max (and therefore fitness level) of a long-distance runner, the more quickly he starts to sweat and the more sweat he produces.

Here’s where it gets a little complicated: When performing the same absolute work (i.e. jogging at 5 miles per hour on a treadmill), an unfit person may reach his VO2 max more quickly than a fit person, prompting him to sweat sooner and sweat more, even if the fit person sweats more efficiently overall, Musto says. That's because the unfit person may be working at 80 percent of his VO2 max, while the fit person is only at 50 percent.

On the other hand, if both a fit and unfit individual are working at the same relative workload (i.e., 60 percent of their VO2 max), the fit person who’s running at 8 miles per hour will start to sweat more quickly and produce more sweat than the unfit person running at 5 miles per hour, Musto says. This also helps explain why the trained runners sweat more than the unfit people in the study above - they’re able to run faster and harder, creating more body heat and more sweat.

Finally, here are a few other factors that impact how much you sweat:

1. Gender
Dudes sweat more. We all know that. In a study of fit men and women compared to unfit men and women biking in an 86 degree room for an hour, researchers found out that fit men perspired the most, especially during the more intense exercise. The fit women produced the second-most sweat, while the sedentary women perspired the least of any group. Even though women have more sweat glands than men, they produce less sweat from each gland, the researchers explain.

2. Body Mass
“Men tend to be heavier, have more muscle mass, and in turn produce more heat than women do while working out,“ Musto says. Further research has shown that the higher a person's body mass index (BMI), the more they sweat.

3. Coffee
Hot coffee will obviously dial up your body temp, which can encourage sweating. However, if coffee's diuretic effect takes place before you work out yet you go to the bathroom prior to exercising, you may actually sweat less, Musto says. That could equal a less-than-stellar workout, so be sure to drink plenty of H2O in addition to java to stay hydrated.

4. Alcohol
Alcohol increases your heart rate and dilates blood vessels in your skin, bringing blood to your skin's surface. This in turn raises your body temp, which can cause you to sweat more. Despite what hot yoga devotees may believe, you (sadly) can't "sweat it out" after a big night out: Only about 5 percent of alcohol leaves your body through urine, breath, and sweat; 95 percent is metabolized by the liver.

5. Spicy Foods
Eating spicy foods also triggers your body temp to go up, so your body produces sweat to help cool itself down. If you find you sweat a ton when you eat and it's making you uncomfortable, it could be a sign of Frey's syndrome, or gustatory sweating. People with Frey's sweat excessively at the mere thought or taste of any food (even ice cream).

6. Hot Weather
This may be another “duh“ moment, but warmer days raise your body temperature, increasing heart rate and blood flow in an effort to cool down the core, Musto says. Humid weather is a double whammy: Since there's more moisture in the air, it's harder for the sweat on your skin to evaporate, deterring the cooling process.

Here's the takeaway from Dr. Musto:

There are plenty of factors that determine how much sweat an individual produces, and just about every level of sweating can be considered "normal". Bonus: The fitter you are, the more you sweat, which enables your body to keep on running, lifting, cycling - whatever you're into - for longer. However, if you're constantly sweating like crazy, especially in one specific area, it could be a sign of a rare condition called hyperhidrosis. Check with a doc if you're concerned.

For more "Thirsty Thursday" posts that highlight workouts, body science, and all kinds of interesting information, CLICK HERE.

1 comments:

SteveQ 10:08 AM, September 17, 2015  

Fun fact to add: Men sweat most on their chest, then forehead, then back, as a way to protect vital organs. Women sweat most from their arm pits - and any further comment about that always gets me in trouble.

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comments! Have a great day!

Twitter

Follow steveinaspeedo on Twitter

Facebook Fan Page

All content and original images copyright 2006 - 2016 by Steve Stenzel, AKA "Steve in a Speedo." All Rights Reserved.
Want to use something seen here? Just ask - I don't bite.