Samuel S. Van de Velde1, Bryant R. Byrd1, Jennifer S. Fargo1, Christina A. Buchanan1, Lance C. Dalleck1. The Performance Benefits of Training with a Sauna Suit: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. 1High Altitude Exercise Physiology Program, Western State Colorado University, Gunnison, CO, USA.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to quantify the performance-related benefits to training with a sauna suit. It was hypothesized that training with a sauna suit would elicit better improvements in maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), ventilatory threshold, and 5km time trial performance (in temperate and simulated hot environments). Methods: Apparently healthy and endurance-trained men and women (n=14) were match paired according to sex, VO2max, and 5km personal best times and subsequently randomized to a control group and treatment group. Participants in both groups completed usual volume and intensity of training for 14 days with the treatment group performing all training sessions in a sauna suit. Participants performed a maximal exercise test and 2 x 5km time trials (in temperate and simulated hot environments) at baseline and post-training. Weight was obtained before and after time trial performances to quantify sweat rate. Additionally, body core temperature was monitored continuously throughout each time trial performance in both environmental conditions. Results: After 14 days of training with a sauna suit there were significant (p < 0.05) improvements in VO2max (+9.1%) and ventilatory threshold (4.6%). The 5km time trial performances in both hot (52 sec) and temperate conditions (38 sec) were significantly faster (p < 0.05) in the sauna suit treatment group after 2wks of training. Relative to the control group, sweat rate and thermoregulation improved (p < 0.05) during the 5km heat time trial after 14 days of training with a sauna suit. Conclusions: Findings from the present study support the utility of training with a sauna suit as a novel form of heat acclimation. Indeed, the present study demonstrated that 14 days of training with a sauna suit elicited improvements in VO2max, ventilatory threshold, and time trial performances. A greater sweat rate and lower core temperature likely mediated improved time trial performances following training with a sauna suit.