Does Sweating Really Burn Calories?

If you believe that the amount you sweat directly represents the number of calories you're burning, you aren't alone. We often sweat when we engage in physical activity, leading us to believe that sweating more means more calories burned. But is this true?

Dermatologist Adele Haimovic explains why we sweat to Healthline, "By promoting heat loss through evaporation, sweat helps regulate our body temperature." This means that the body is constantly monitoring our internal temperature and regulating it to maintain an ideal temperature of around 98 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Houston Methodist. When we sweat, a substance comprised almost entirely of water is secreted from our sweat glands, located in various places around our body. This water evaporates from our skin and creates a cooling effect. 

Sweating doesn't just happen when working out or expending energy (via Houston Methodist). Ingesting certain foods, such as spicy foods, can trick our brain into thinking our internal temperature has risen. In turn, we may begin sweating. Houston Methodist also points out that sweating can result from nervousness or another emotional experience. Our body's fight-or-flight response sends a message to the sweat glands to begin secreting. 

Does sweating in and of itself burn calories?

The short answer is no (via Health). Sweating is simply the way our body cools itself down or reacts to certain stimuli and doesn't indicate the number of calories we are burning at any given time. The sweat that occurs when you work out results from your body's internal temperature increasing. However, the number of calories your body burns depends on the type and duration of physical activity. The more muscle groups you activate during a workout, the more calories you'll burn. The amount of sweat you produce won't change this number. 

We all react differently to physical exertion, meaning that the same activity and intensity may cause one person to sweat more than another (via Health). Exercise specialist Gabbi Berkow explains that sweating less "doesn't mean you didn't get a good workout, burn calories, or build strength — it just means your body temperature didn't rise as much." The amount you sweat will also depend on the external temperature when you engage in physical activity. On a hot day, your internal temperature will likely rise faster than on a cooler day, causing your body to sweat more.

Sweating may not be a good indication of how many calories you're burning, but there are other ways to tell (per Health). The best way to know the exertion of your body in response to any given activity is to monitor your heart rate, ideally with health trackers or apps.