XPT’s Top Benefits Of Heat
One of the basic foundations of XPT is recovery. Within this pillar, we strongly advocate contrast therapy—specifically as it pertains to ice bath recoveries and the benefits of heat therapy. Heat therapy is something many people misunderstand and are unfamiliar with, and thus, they don’t fully register the need for heat therapy for recovery. They might be used to icing, but they’re not often jumping into a sauna!
What are benefits of heat? They’re numerous and cannot be understated—especially as part of broader contrast therapy. Some physiological adaptations that occur subsequent to acclimation to heat include:
Improved cardiovascular mechanisms and lower heart rate
Lower core body temperature during workload (surprise!)
Higher sweat rate and sensitivity as a function of increased thermoregulatory control
Increased blood flow to skeletal muscle (known as muscle perfusion) and other tissues
Reduced rate of glycogen depletion due to improved muscle perfusion
Increased red blood cell count (likely via erythropoietin)
Increased efficiency of oxygen transport to muscles
There are a few ways of heating up, and we love the sauna. The ability to sweat well is part of the acclimatization to heat. The sauna exposes this very well in an environment that is easy to get comfortable in. The heat can be set fairly high in a non-infrared sauna, which allows for quicker response time; with infrared saunas the heat is a lot lower, but you can spend more time in them.
A hot shower can help with heat as well, but it doesn’t work as well as a Jacuzzi or sauna in that running water needs to be pretty warm for it to be effective enough for heat acclimation (although it can work well for the cold). If you choose the hot shower, make sure to integrate with cold as well. Even with sauna or Jacuzzi work, ending on a hot session leaves the body very tired—we’ve seen recovery affected the next day by only using heat. We have a saying here: “never end on hot.”