“Should I cheat on my steam room with that sexy sauna?” Ruminations of a hot room aficionado.

by Gregory
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I’m a serial monogamist. I’ve never been one to “sample the goods” from more than one source.  I don’t really ascribe to the idea that “variety is the spice of life.”  Maybe it is attributable to my OCD-esque tendencies (as mentioned in this Confessions of an Obese Child episode) or maybe because I take pleasures in the simple things.  I see this played out in different aspects of my life: the foods I eat, the women I love, the workouts I employ.  Even in my heating biohacks. I’m an unabashed hot room aficionado

I’ve long been very loyal to steam rooms.  Well, at least as long as I’ve belonged to a gym that has had one and as long as I’ve known about its benefits.  For a good three plus years, I have gone into the misty, warm room of naked men at least five times a week.  I love the smell of eucalyptus that my friend, Bruce, puts into the vents.  I love the conversations in which the men indulge.  But most of all, I love the profuse sweating.

In the past, I would sometimes walk into the dry sauna afterwards.  I hated it. Three minutes after sitting there, I wasn’t sweating a drop.  I felt it was a complete waste of time so I walked out.  I mentioned in a previous post about steam rooms that an accomplished athlete put into my head that saunas were better for your health than steam rooms.  Partly because it heats up the body internally whereas steam rooms just heat the air inside.

He also dropped on me that steam rooms were aerosolizing toxic fluoride.  (Click HERE why fluoride is problematic.) It blew my mind.  I try my best to avoid fluoride in my adulthood.  I couldn’t believe my “best friend,” the steam room, would do this to me.  It was the first seduction…nay temptation of the sauna.

Then came the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”  Revelations from the studies coming out Finland showing the mind boggling benefits of saunas.  (Listen to this NPE Radio episode on it.)  In short, sitting in a sauna for over 15 minutes 4-7 days/week, lowers your risk of Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular death, and all-risk mortality anywhere from 45-67%.  “Sold!” I said.  As much as I’ve never liked the sauna before I couldn’t deny the science.  Any good, rational biohacker will change his habits if the science is there.

So I just had to make the move.  In most cases, I spent about 10-15 minutes in the steam room so the same time in the sauna shouldn’t be too bad.   It has been about a week since I’ve made the transition.  What I’ve done is spend 3 minutes in the steam room just to get sweaty before going into the sauna to do my minimum 15 minutes.

Here are my observations.

  1. I burn my skin if I go into the sauna wet.  The moisture coming off my skin after the steam room heats up quickly. If I don’t have a towel to lie on, I would feel like a pancake on a griddle.
  2. I can read the paper in the sauna. That is nice!  Can’t do that in the steam room.
  3. I can listen to music or podcasts in the sauna.  But after about 10 minutes, I get a warning my phone is going to break due to excessive heat.
  4. I can fall asleep in the sauna.  Can’t do that in the steam room.

Going back to the steam room, one of the issues with the steam room is germs.  Simply put, a warm environment like a steam room is a reservoir for bacteria.  Bacteria which can enter through wounds or inhalation.  If the steam room is not cleaned well and daily, it is even worse.  That is why at my gym there are signs posted that no sneakers are allowed inside.  Imagine the dirt and filth that would be brought in otherwise.  And it’s funny how men reprimand other mean who come into the steam room with sneakers on.

Either way, whether you employ the steam room or sauna, it is very important to hydrate during or after your heat treatment. Afterwards, especially if I’ve done cardio that day, I feel like a desiccated corpse who is recovering from cholera, dysentery or Ebola. I know that it is important to drink fluids afterwards also because thirst masquerades as hunger. One tends to overeat after a workout as is partly due to the release of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, after workouts and also because of the emotional crutch that we rationalize that since we worked out we can eat more. Since pushing those fluids is crucial.

Who Wins?

Will I ever go back to steaming as my pre-eminent hot treatment? Right now, no, but you never know. The studies are so overwhelming concerning the enormous benefits reaped from saunas that it is hard to spend MORE time in the steam room. Especially given the fluoride and bacterial concerns. I will develop a tolerance for the dry sauna. And perhaps I will soon to love it…heck I can read a book in there! The steam room will always have a place in my heart, especially in the winter when all of those respiratory illness pervade us. But for now, hit me with that dry heat!

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