Ever wondered why some people drip buckets in the gym while others remain dry as a desert? The rate at which we sweat is affected by a range of factors. Your gender, hydration levels, age, muscle mass and body size all play a role. If you aspire to know why we perspire then read below!
Purpose of Sweating
The human body likes to be at a happy medium temperature (homeostasis). If we are too hot or too cold, we can not function optimally. In fact, you can actually die from excess heat, just like a car breaking down when the engine gets too hot. The act of sweating literally prevents us from cooking from the inside out. Being able to sweat is therefore a good thing. It’s like having your own internal air conditioning unit.
Benefits of sweating
Even though it might feel a bit gross, sweating is beneficial for a few reasons. One is that your body can eliminate toxins like BPA through sweat glands. A second reason why sweating is great is that your body can exercise harder if it has an effective cooling system in place. Your body heats up when you workout. If you are unable to cool down efficiently, you won’t be able to exercise for very long. This is why fit people tend to get sweaty quite fast.
An inability to sweat is called hypohidrosis. This can be dangerous because a lack of perspiration results in dizziness and nausea. Next time you feel disgustingly sweaty, just be glad that your body is able to effectively cool itself down.
What makes us sweaty
The amount of water you lose through sweat varies from individual to individual. Factors affecting your sweat rate include stress levels, fitness levels and recently consumed foods. Anyone who has started sweating after smashing a spicy curry can attest to this. This occurs because spicy food contains chemicals which trigger nerves that warm your body.
Your fitness level affects your sweat rate in interesting ways. Fitter people sweat sooner and more profusely than those who don’t do as much exercise. This is because fit bodies learn how to become more efficient. Humans adapt to the conditions they are placed under. If you’ve noticed that you sweat more since you commenced your workout regime, you aren’t wrong. This is your body getting better at thermoregulation.
Men sweat more
Your sex also plays a role in how much you sweat. Anecdotally we might believe that boys are sweatier than their female counterparts but it turns out there is science to back this up. Studies show that men have a higher sweat rate than women. This may be because women have less body fluid than men so they sweat less in order to prevent dehydration. Hormones could also have something to do with this. Researchers have found that testosterone enhances your sweat response. Since males have more testosterone, this would explain why they get a bit sweatier during workouts compared to women.
Although sweating is usually good for us, it is important you don’t lose too much fluid. Losing more than 2% of your bodyweight in water can result in serious dehydration. Make sure to drink water throughout the day, not just when thirsty. Drinking beverages with electrolytes can also help replenish your fluids. Remember that your body likes to be at homeostasis. Being overly hydrated is just as detrimental to your health as dehydration. You want to find a happy medium in order to feel your best. Unfortunately not everyone agrees on the optimal water intake but this literature review suggests no less than 1.8 litres per day. Obviously the more you sweat, the more water you should drink.
Next time you notice sweat patches on your shirt at the gym, don’t be embarrassed. This is your body functioning the way it should. Turning into a sweaty mess when training is a sign that your natural air conditioning unit is functioning properly. Provided you don’t have a rare condition that causes you to sweat excessively (hyperhidrosis), sweating is a natural biological response. Own those sweat stains and take pride in the fact that your body is trying to help you work harder.