Myth: The amount you sweat has a direct connection with effort, level of fitness and calories burned.
Reality: Rate of perspiration is influenced by other factors, including V02 max, and just because you are sweating more than others doesn't mean you're working harder than they are!
If you have ever participated in a group workout, you have probably, noticed that you’re sweating more than your peers and thought, “What the hell is going on?!” No matter how logical, how in-shape, or confident you are, when you have puddles of sweat around you and everyone else looks like they barely walked through a mister fan, you start to get a little paranoid about your perspiration. “Is everyone else noticing? Do I have a problem? This is so gross!”
Fear not, sweating is one of the most complicated processes that our bodies undergo. We sweat to cool ourselves down. When it’s hot, if we have a temperature, when we are very nervous, or when we are exercising, our body’s response is to sweat; this is the same for everyone. However, when it comes to how quickly and how much, everyone varies; there is no real “normal” rate of perspiration. There are of course amounts/ frequency that fall into “normal” versus “hyperhidrosis” (a condition where you sweat very frequently, at high levels, and statistically speaking you probably don’t have it as only 2% fall into this category). There are SO many myths associated when it comes to sweating, so let’s try to tackle the most common ones.
Let’s jump right into one of the most fundamental issues about sweating: Whether being “in shape” or “out of shape” affects your rate of perspiration. There have been a series of studies where researchers monitored all types of outcomes on people during exercise (HR, sweat, temperature, etc.) often dividing participants into groups of male/ female and trained/ untrained. What they found was interesting. Trained individuals (those who regularly exercise) sweat more efficiently. Allow me to clarify; this don’t mean if you are sweating a lot you are in shape. When taking the two groups, and allowing them to work at each respective equal effort levels, the “trained” group will sweat quicker and greater amounts.
Example: Susan and Bob go to exercise and Susan is a marathon runner, and Bob doesn’t really lift (bro). If they go for a run at the same pace, Bob will probably be covered in sweat cause it’s a new hard workout while Susan won’t be working hard despite being in great shape. However, if they each were to run a pace that was 60% of their own effort level, Susan would sweat earlier and more.
So this a piggyback to Myth 1. Effort isn’t exactly what causes more sweat, it is about how much of your personal V02 max you are working on. Really, think of effort being measured by oxygen uptake. There is a relationship between how hard you are pushing yourself, how hard you breathing/ taking in oxygen, and the amount your body sweats. The higher percentage of V02 max you are at will correlate to a higher amount of sweat. Going back to be “trained”, a study indicated that this group can decrease and increase the amount of sweat based on workload throughout a workout. While the untrained group kept sweating at different workloads.
Example: Susan and Bob are back working out in a spin class. Susan will sweat a lot when doing sprints, but when doing long steady low-effort speed, her body will decrease the amount she is sweating. Bob will probably starting sweating and continue sweating nearly the same amount throughout the different workload levels.
Big shocker, this one is pretty true. It doesn’t have to do with being a manly man, but men generally have more mass, muscle and need to generate more work to move and power their frame. This causes the body to heat up more and, thus, to sweat more.
Sweating is a fascinating and weird thing our bodies do. The amounts we sweat, when, if we increase the amount are connected to each person, their bodies, and how fit they are. It would be nearly impossible to ever compare the amount you sweating and think you could judge your effort or fitness level by looking at someone else sweating during the same workout. Really, you just remember to keep drinking lots of water throughout the day because it’s the base of all your energy, and will give you something to sweat when you are getting your butt kicked in your next workout!