Recently in one of our group fitness sessions the question came up about sweat. Sweat is such an ugly word and we don’t like it in my studio, so we call it “glistening.”
Specifically it was asked: “Is it true, that if you aren’t ‘glistening’ you aren’t working hard enough?” They also wondered: “If you ‘glisten’ more are you burning more fat?” The answer to both is no.
In fact, in the very class that the question came up, I was able to show them how it’s really not a good method of judging effort. In the group were two people that were polar opposites when it came to “glistening.” Let’s call them Ron and Andy. Both are the same age, size and physical condition.
Ron was the type that if he even thought about exercising he would start “glistening”. He soaks through his shirt in a matter of minutes and well… you get the idea. Andy, on the other hand, barely sweats at all. In fact, he could (and has) run a marathon and barely break out in a sweat.
During the class they were doing the exact same workout yet some thought Ron was working harder than Andy because he was “glistening” more. But was that really the case?
First what is “sweat”? Sweat is the body’s way of cooling itself off, which is called thermoregulator. Put another way, as your muscles heat up your body works to cool them down by shedding heat and water.
For those that have a tendency to glisten a lot it gives the appearance they’ve burned more fat or lost weight when all they’ve really done is shed more water. The minute they drink more, it comes right back.
Some people believe so much in the myth that they’ll avoid drinking anything while working out thinking it will help them lose more fat. Worse, they’ll wear those Belly Burner Bands, which make claims that you’ll lose weight if you wear them by increasing your thermal core temperature. While that’s technically true, as we mentioned it’s just water loss, not real weight loss.
Not replenishing your fluids can actually be a dangerous thing leading to severe dehydration and even death. One trick I teach my clients is to weigh themselves just before and after working out. If the number isn’t about the same, it could mean you didn’t replenish your fluids properly.
Getting back to Ron and Andy, we knew both of them were giving max effort in their workout. How? They both wear heart rate monitors. For a healthy person, these can be a great tool to use to see how hard you are exercising because it monitors the cardiac response, or how hard the heart is working.
Another good test is the talk test. For the average person, if you can carry on a conversation, it’s a low-moderate workout. If you can get out sentences but not easily carry a conversation, it’s a little more intense. If you can’t talk at all then it’s an intense workout. Trust me when I say neither Andy nor Ron were saying much.
So why the difference?
The volume of “glisten” is dependent on many factors including gender (men tend to sweat more than women), age, and a person’s fitness level.
But a very real factor is a little thing called genetics. We humans are born with somewhere between 1 and 4 million sweat glands. And, guess what? More glands equal more sweat. It also depends on how active those glands are. Simply put, if you are a “glistener” you can attribute some of the blame to mom and dad.
So don’t judge effort by someone’s “glisten.” It could be they just have a couple million more (or less) glands than you.
Dan Romand is owner and operator of Full Circle Fitness NY in Colonie.