There is a lingering misconception of a good workout vs a bad workout and which side sweating during exercise falls on. It is often believed that a workout is only good if you come out of it looking like you entered a wet T-shirt contest. But in reality, your fitness goals are the ones that will determine whether your workout was actually a good one.
Let me explain
If your goal is to improve internal temperature regulation then you should be looking to raise your body temperature through high-intensity exercises that burn a high amount of calories; which will ultimately result in a very sweaty situation. Usually, if your goal is to raise your core temperature then you know your workout is effective when it results in a high sweat build-up. This could be a specific goal to work toward.
Differently, a good workout doesn’t always have to leave you a sweaty mess to mean you have achieved something for the day. Sweat is a complementing element of your training session but definitely not a requirement. A good workout should include exercise fundamentals such as increasing Intensity or repetitions and exercise progressions that make functional movement more challenging and get you closer to your goals. Meshing together our understanding of a good workout and what sweating actually means during exercise, will make for much more strategic gains down the line.
Sweating is the process of cooling yourself down during exercise, and as much as we sometimes would like it to be, it is not fat crying. This is important because as we exercise, we are burning energy which gets released as heat, thus sweating is a natural mechanism that regulates our body temperature. It prevents our body from overheating by keeping its temperature in a safe zone of 98 to 103 degrees, even when you increase your exercise intensity.
Now knowing what sweating means, let’s put another myth to bed.
MYTH: The more you sweat the more calories you burn.
Actually, energy-demanding exercises will lead to some sweat build-up but this does not correlate with calorie expenditure. It is often assumed that the more you sweat the more calories you burn but again, this is just our natural cooling process. With these two factors being unrelated, this brings up the case of not sweating but still reaching fatigue during exercise.
But wait? If I’m not sweating then that means I’m not working hard enough right?
No. It is very common to not sweat during exercise and this is primarily due to the lack of body fluids, better known as dehydration. Dehydration can be detrimental to performance. For example, when completing a high-intensity exercise on a day where the only liquid you put in your body was coffee, performance can decrease by as much as 45%. This shows that water is extremely significant prior to exercise and even during recovery between sets. Staying hydrated promotes an improvement in performance and ability to regulate core temperatures which allows for greater success. Keep in mind that not sweating during exercise doesn’t mean you’re not exerting yourself, it just means that you probably need to go drink some water to improve your body’s natural cooling mechanism.
Sweating does not determine the quality of your workout; reaching your fitness goals does. Progress is often determined by progressive exercises and increased intensities or volumes. If you are able to continue making progress and meeting the goals you set for yourself, then you know your workouts are effective whether you sweat or not. Keep this in mind the next time you’re in the gym. Hard work isn’t measured by assessing how much sweat your clothes have absorbed, that’s only good for aesthetic purposes. The hard work you’re after occurs set to set, so don’t sweat it.