Should I Keep My Sweatshirt on While Exercising? Layering Up While Working Out, Explained

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You asked and we’ll answer: will I lose more weight if I sweat more during my workout? Should I keep my sweatshirt on?

The short answer? Yes, you might see a lower number on the scale, BUT it may only be temporary, and it doesn’t equate to fat loss. Let us explain.

Sports nutritionist Nate Green recently lost 20 pounds in 5 days to demonstrate what many boxers, wrestlers, bodybuilders and combat athletes do leading up to a contest. He achieved his drastic weight loss by doing things like exercising in sweat suits and hoodies, in addition to sitting in saunas to increase his body temperature and sweat rate. But despite Nate’s drastic weight loss, his body fat percentage remained the same. What gives?

Weight Loss Does Not Equal Fat Loss

One of the most common misconceptions in fitness is that weight loss is synonymous with fat loss, and this has been shaped by our unhealthy obsession with the scale. When both men and women decide it’s time to get in better shape, they often will set goals around how much weight they’d like to lose—even though they mean fat. In order to know whether their efforts are working, they’re forced to use the scale as their one source of truth. The problem with this? The scale is a liar. (Okay, not technically, so don’t charge us with defamation quite yet.)

But in all seriousness, in most cases, relying solely on the scale to see your fat loss efforts is misleading and can give you false information about what’s happening with your body. It’s important to remember that the number on the scale is your total mass weight; that means it’s made up of everything in your body: your bones, muscles, water levels, fat—even that turkey sandwich you had for lunch. So, when you do step on the scale, be sure to take into consideration the other changes that could be happening in your body that may be influencing that number.

Okay, now that we got that out of our system, let’s get back to what this article is actually about: wearing a hoodie or sweatshirt while working out.

So, although Nate lost weight (according to the scale) by exercising in sweat suits and workout hoodies, his body fat percentage never changed—and that’s not even the most shocking part. Within 24 hours of completing the experiment, Nate had already gained back the entire 20 pounds that he had lost over the course of 5 days. True story. Since the pounds that Nate lost were comprised of mostly water weight and stored carbohydrates, they were replaced as soon as he stopped his extreme efforts of wearing hoodies in the gym and sauna. It seems far-fetched, but try thinking about this on a smaller scale: if you lost one pound during an upper body training session by sweating more, you’d likely gain the same pound back later that day or as soon as you drank more water or ate a meal.

There is an overwhelming amount of information out there when it comes to weight loss vs. fat loss. But just remember: weight loss can be easily manipulated, but fat loss cannot. Fat loss primarily relies on a person’s energy balance and the only way to burn fat is to expend more calories than you’re consuming, also known as “calories in vs. calories out.”

Does Working Out in a Hoodie Burn More Calories?

If you’ve ever dressed in a sweater or hoodie while exercising, you know how quickly you can work up a sweat. The fabric acts as insulation to your body, which causes your heart rate to increase and blood to circulate faster in attempt to cool your body temperature down. Makes sense, right? But just because your body is warmer and is sweating more as a result, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s expending extra calories. As we learned earlier, the more you sweat, the more your body is experiencing water loss. This may equate to lower numbers on the scale, but remember, it’s only temporary.

While we wish burning more calories was as simple as sweating in a sweater (bet you can’t say that 5x fast), it’s not. Research has shown time and time again that sweat rate during exercise has little to no effect on the number of calories you burn or the amount of fat you lose. Instead, calories are burned solely by the output of energy; so, although your body temperature may be warmer in a sweater, your body doesn’t necessarily need to work any harder to output the same amount of work. Slightly disappointing, we know.

But there is good news! Keep reading.

Are There Benefits to Wearing A Hoodie While Exercising?

Don’t throw your gym hoodies to the wayside quite yet! Just because you now know that gym hoodies are not the secret weapon for burning calories and losing fat, doesn’t mean they can’t still be useful. Similar to how running shoes provide stability and support, hoodies and other warm fabric products may actually have a few benefits that will help you in your own fitness routine. Here’s some information about what gym hoodies can do:

  • Assist you in warming-up (both literally and figuratively). If the gym is cold, or if you’re outside in cooler temperatures, throw on a sweater—especially in the beginning of a workout when you are stretching out and warming up.
  • Keep muscles and joints warm for the duration of your workout to increase performance and mobility, while lowering your risk of injury.
  • Help your body sweat. In order for your body to release toxins, your body needs to sweat; but for some people, sweating doesn’t come easy. Wearing a sweater or hoodie can encourage your body to get its sweat on!
  • Provide a great way to release toxins and purify your body, so wearing a sweater or hoodie made of warmer fabric may help you get your sweat on.
  • Improve insulin sensitivity, endurance levels, and nutrient delivery due to improved and increased blood flow throughout the body from being warm.
  • Make you feel comfortable while working out; because no one ever said hoodies weren’t comfy. Plus, not everyone enjoys exercising in tight fabrics and clothing. Sweatshirts can make you feel like you’re wearing an invisibility cloak. It’s all about preference!
  • Help you exercise harder. Studies show that comfortability directly affects productivity. The more comfortable you are, the harder you’ll work, and an increase in exercise intensity has the ability to cause favorable adaptations beyond fat loss or calories burned. Win!

Is Working Out in a Hoodie Safe?

When it comes to working out, there is always risk involved. Just as you could sprain your ankle or tear a muscle while weightlifting, you could experience heat stroke, over exhaustion or dehydration while exercising in a hoodie—and we don’t want that!

Here are a few tips that will allow you to safely exercise in a gym hoodie if you choose to do so:

  1.     First and foremost: always listen to your body. In addition, if you start to become dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseous, stop exercising immediately and rest until symptoms subside.
  2.     Dress in layers. We recommend wearing a t-shirt or tank top under your sweatshirt, so that you can remove the hoodie when you are done warming-up or become too warm during your workout.
  3.     Pick a sweater made out of performance fabric or other sweat-wicking material. Cotton sweatshirts will do, but like cotton t-shirts, the fabric makes it difficult for sweat to evaporate and can leave it feeling wet and heavy.
  4.     Make sure the sweatshirt fits properly. If the sweater is too big or too small, it can affect your mobility and range of motion—especially during upper body workouts.
  5.     Hydrate! It’s recommended that you drink 8 ounces of water every 15 minutes while doing strenuous exercise to protect against dehydration and water loss.
  6.     Hydrate again—and no, this isn’t a typo! Excessive sweating should be paired with excessive water intake. If you choose to wear a sweatshirt while exercising, you need to drink more water than you would if you weren’t wearing it. Bottoms up!

Is Exercising in a Hoodie Right for You?

Now that you have all of the need-to-know information when it comes to working out in gym hoodies, the decision is up to you! With new fabric and clothing technology on the market for both men and women, working out in sweaters is safer and more fashionable than ever before (guys, you know it’s true). Whether it’s to help you sweat more, prevent injury, or just because Rocky Balboa did it, there are plenty of good reasons to exercise in a sweatshirt.

Bottom-line: what you choose, or don’t choose to wear in the gym is completely up to you. You make your own choices!

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