Everyone sweats. After all, it’s your body’s way of preventing your core temperature from getting too high. But other than the fact that it cools down your skin (and is sometimes incredibly inconvenient), how much do you really know about it? Turns out, there’s plenty people misunderstand about sweat—so we tapped experts to set the record straight on some of the most common myths about sweat.
How Sweat Works
The majority of your sweat comes from eccrine glands located in our skin, explains coach and powerlifter Robert Herbst, C.P.T. When you start to overheat (like on hot days or during a tough workout), your body produces sweat, which helps cool the skin.
Read More: Why Do Some People Sweat More Than Others?
However, you also have sweat glands called apocrine glands, which are located in the armpits and nipple and genital areas. “Apocrine sweat contains some proteins and fats, as well as water,” Herbst says. “This sweat is the body’s response to stress, fear, and sexual arousal, as opposed to general overheating.”
Myths About Sweat To Stop Believing
Whether you’re sweating in the gym or during a nerve-wracking presentation, don’t get mixed up with the following myths.
Myth #1: Sweat Smells Funky
Contrary to popular belief, sweat itself does not have an odor. “The odor associated with sweat is actually caused by bacteria and fungi (normal parts of the microbiome living on the skin) as they ‘eat’ or metabolize the perspiration,” explains Denny Hemingson, FDN-P, functional health practitioner at All Access Health Pass. (Fun fact: Your diet and personal hygiene practices can affect the bacteria and fungi on your skin.)
When you wear deodorants or antiperspirant, they mask the odors produced by those bacteria and fungi.
Myth #2: Sweating More Means Burning More Calories
While sweat is a good indicator of a hard-earned workout, it is not directly connected to burning calories, according to New York City-based trainer, Cary Raffle, C.P.T.
And if you do lose weight right after a super-intense sweat session, chances are it’s only temporary water weight lost.
“Lie on a hammock on a hot, humid day and you’ll sweat a lot without burning many calories,” Raffle says. “The sweat just evaporates more slowly and doesn’t cool you as effectively, so your body produces more.”
Myth #3: You Can Lose A Maximum Of Three Liters Of Sweat Per Day
A myriad of factors determine how much sweat a person can lose, including genetics, gender, physical activity level, and ambient temperature, says Heminson. “In hot conditions, it is possible for some people to lose up to three liters per hour,” he says.
For that reason, Heminson recommends loading up on electrolytes (which help maintain hydration) when you’re more prone to dehydration, such as in very hot weather or when you’re sick.
Myth #4: You Sweat More If You’re Out Of Shape
Think an out-of-shape runner gets drenched before a more conditioned athlete even starts dripping? That’s not necessarily how it works.
In fact, perspiration mechanisms actually become more efficient the more you train. “The body reacts sooner and more robustly to increased temperature through physical exertion,” says Heminson. Basically, fitter people may actually sweat more (and sooner) than unconditioned people.
Myth #5: Sweat Rids The Body Of Toxins
Ever been told to “sweat it out” after a night of drinking—or when you’re feeling under the weather? This concept is perhaps one of the biggest myths about sweat out there, according to trainer and sports nutritionist Melissa Morris, C.E.P., C.S.N.
“Sweat is a mixture of water, salt, and a few other minerals and substances,” she says. “Your liver and kidneys are the organs responsible for metabolizing and removing most toxins.”
While it’s true that your body can eliminate certain heavy metals and environmental toxins through sweat, there’s not much evidence out there about how this affects health. So although that hour-long sauna session may help your body remove a very small amount of toxins, it’s not enough to impact your health.
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