Think Sweating Means You’re Burning Calories? Think Again

By Nicole German (RD, LD)

Sweating and CaloriesOne of my goals is to try to break a sweat everyday.

It could just be a walk up the hill outside my house, or 200 lunges. As long as I get a little sweaty, or feel sore after a small workout, I can feel like I am staying active.

For others, level of sweat and soreness is an indicator of how hard they worked during exercise.

The bad news is that sweating a lot does not always mean you burned more calories.

Here’s why…

Many Factors Involved in Sweating

  • Weather: Humid weather makes us sweat more. So, in the summertime, this does not mean we are burning more calories. It simply means our bodies are working harder to cool us down.

    In the humid weather, the air moisture makes it harder for sweat to evaporate from our bodies. This is why we begin to feel saturated with sweat and moisture when it is so humid—it can’t evaporate! It doesn’t mean we burned more calories.

  • Medical Conditions: Some have medical conditions, or their genetics cause them to sweat more than others. The hotter we get, the more important it becomes for our bodies to cool itself. Also, men sweat more than women!

    Menopause, pregnancy, thyroid imbalances, diabetes, alcoholism, heart disease, cancer, obesity, taking antidepressants, or zinc supplements may cause excess sweating.

  • Fitness: After doing an aerobic or strength activity for a long period of time, and we become highly efficient at it, we begin to become more efficient at sweating. So, we actually sweat less as we become more fit.

    However, the more fit we become, the more we can push ourselves, leading ourselves to sweat more.Therefore, your level of fitness and sweating should not be correlated.

Better Way to Perceive Effort

RPERPE: Rate of Perceived Exertion

This is a good scale to judge yourself on when working out. This is how you can determine how hard to are truly working. You can use this number to decide how to reach your fitness goals.

If you want to get an exact measure of calories burned, try using a heart rate monitor with a calorie counter.

Although sweating isn’t a good measure of effort, it is beneficial.

Sweating helps eliminate toxins and excess salt through the skin, which improves overall health. Just remember to drink a lot of water during or after sweating to restore hydration.

Do you feel like you get a good workout when you sweat?


  1. Liam Jones

    I sweat all the time doesn’t mean i’m losing weight – if only the sweat diet worked – i’d buy a sauna

  2. SmoledMan

    Nice to know that sweating means very little in terms of losing fat. When I exercise, I sweat very little because the gym has A/C. But that has little to do with my muscles getting a workout!

  3. Aussie Strength

    Sweating can cause to lose weight but it is only temporary since the weight lost during sweating is mostly water weight. If it is long-term weight loss that one is after then a cardio exercise would be best to burn calories.

  4. Sue

    I go by perceived exertion.

  5. Cindy

    I am obese and not the greatest athlete. I would hate to have a heart rate monitor telling me with some certainty that I was not working hard enough. If beleiving that heavy breathing and sweat means I am working hard and it keeps me going and coming back for more, I say good enough for now! I’ll up my game when I stiop getting results.

    • Ted Kallmyer

      Keep up the great work Cindy and do what motivates you 🙂

  6. Spectra

    I’m not a big sweater. I do get a nice glow all over when I put in a decent effort in my workout, but I never drip sweat unless it’s very, very hot. I usually go by how hard I’m breathing and how fast my heart’s beating as an indicator of how hard I’m working.

    • Jim

      People do all seem to sweat at different rates, regardless of exertion or climate. I always tend to sweat when doing anything and it’s a little embarrassing.

  7. Mehitabel

    I feel like I’ve gotten a better workout if I sweat more. Zumba’s my particular addiction, and I feel ripped off if I’m not drenched by the end of the class…and it happens sometimes, so it is definitely an indicator of my level of effort, if not of my calories burned.

    • Jim

      You will tend to sweat more when doing inside exercise without the ambient breeze of outdoor exercise. But there is a feeling after you’ve sweated heaps that makes you feel like you’ve worked hard… just watch the salts and electrolytes.