Are Saunas as Good as Blood Doping?

Could sweating in a dry sauna give you the same athletic edge as blood doping? Get-Fit Guy says yes!

Ben Greenfield
2-minute read

A few weeks ago, I described my regimen for visiting the dry sauna at my local health club. At least once a week, I grab a huge pile of the magazines or journals (and sometimes even a book I don’t mind destroying), set up camp, and settle in for a good 30-45 minute sweat session.

In that newsletter, I described how the JAMA Internal Medicine released an article entitled “Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing” and found that men who took more frequent saunas (4-7 times per week) actually live longer than once-per-week users.

And now the latest news on saunas has actually inspired me to begin searching for an infrared or dry sauna for my own home and here’s why: Saunas may be as effective as blood doping for athletes.

The study reports that endurance athletes can shave 1.9% off their 5K time by spending half an hour in the sauna after every running training session for a period of 3 weeks. The effect is probably due to a rise in blood plasma, red blood cells, and the precursor of red blood cells “erythropoietin” or EPO.

Of course, if you’ve ever tried to step into a sauna after a run or any other hard workout, you know that it can be a pure torturefest if the sauna is truly as hot as it should be. But nonetheless, if you can handle the heat, then a sauna could not only increase longevity but also athletic performance and maximum oxygen consumption!

Please note: Individuals with certain health conditions are prohibited from spending time in a hot sauna. Please consult your doctor before you begin any kind of heat therapy regimen.

Do you have questions about how a sauna can help your athletic performance? Head over to Facebook.com/GetFitGuy and join the conversation there!


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.