How I Use Sauna to ‘Melt Away’ Pain, Reduce Stress and Boost Energy Levels (My EXACT Method)

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This is an edited transcript of the Gut Heroes Podcast: “How I Use Sauna to ‘Melt Away’ Pain, Reduce Stress and Boost Energy Levels (My EXACT Method). Listen to the audio version here.

Sauna and cold exposure is one of the most effective things I do in my health protocol.

It’s no exaggeration to say that it has been life-changing.

I’ll definitely do more of a deep dive into the science of sauna and the science of cold exposure in the future. This is more of a primer so that you can jump in and reap the benefits right away.

We’re going to cover:

✔️ Who sauna and cold exposure is useful for

✔️ The kinds of benefits it can offer

✔️ The exact method I use based on my reading of the science behind it

✔️ My own personal testing over the past year and a half

We’ll finish up with how you can access a sauna near you and a few simple alternatives if you don’t have one locally.

So, let’s kick off with who sauna is useful for.

Sauna is useful for almost everyone, and I really mean that.

Unless you suffer from a specific medical condition that would put you at risk from heat exposure (please check with your doctor if you’re unsure) sauna is extremely benifitical for the vast majority of people.

It’s especially useful if you struggle with an autoimmune disease, something like ankylosing spondylitis, which I have, or if you’re battling painful joint issues or stiffness.

Even if you’re recovering from an injury, maybe from sport or from working out. It really is something that most people can get huge benefit from.

So what kind of benefits can it offer?

It can dramatically help reduce inflammation and pain.

I honestly thought it was like a magic trick the first time I properly got into sauna and cold exposure. It helps melt away the stiffness, reduce the joint pain, and it also has lots of side benefits. These can include:

• Giving you a boost to energy levels

• Helping you feel relaxed and less stressed

• It’s also great for improving mood

All things I think most people would benefit from and enjoy.

On top of all of that, it’s amazing for cardiovascular health, and there’s overwhelming evidence that supports this (again, that’s something I’ll dig into in a future piece).

So, what’s the method I use?

The current thinking based on studies is that around one hour’s worth of sauna a week is a really good number to get to. When you’re in the sauna, you want that to be somewhere between 80 and 120 degrees. Personally, I found 90 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to be really good.

Anything below 90, for me, feels like I’m in a very warm living room. 90 to 120 is great. Most good saunas will have it set to that anyway. How you do your hour session is really up to you.

Andrew Huberman, who’s an amazing scientist and podcaster, has done some really good analysis of this. He recommends, if you can, splitting your sauna sessions into two or three sessions a week. So, for example, you might do two half-hour sessions or three 20-minute sessions over the course of a week. That apparently is how you can maximise the benefit, but that’s not practical for me, and it’s not practical for a lot of people.

What I do is I do mine in a one-hour session. That’s something I can easily work around my work and other commitments, and I still feel incredible benefits. And actually, I think I would stick to that, even if I did have the flexibility, because it’s really working for me. In terms of the frequency and the amount, an hour, if you can do it, is great. Anything over that’s fine as well. It’s not going to be an exponential gain by going more than that, but trying to hit an hour a week is wonderful. Do what works best for you.

If you have a gym membership, for example, and you are working out a few times a week, a lot of gyms will have a sauna on the premises that you can use as part of your membership. So doing a few sessions a week should be no problem. That might work really well for you. If you’re like me and you don’t currently have a gym membership or you’ve got a really nice sauna place near you, then do an hour session if that works for you. Have a bit of experimenting, see what fits within your timetable and your lifestyle.

And then when you get there, here is what I recommend doing.

I do 10 minutes in the sauna, then I go out of the sauna and I immediately go straight into a cold plunge and I do that for two minutes.

So 10 minutes in the heat, two minutes in a cold plunge. This is a very cold pool that you get into up to your neck. And then I come out of that and then I’ll just spend a few minutes just relaxing and rebalancing. So maybe I’ll walk around or sit on a chair. And then after two or three minutes of that, I go back into the sauna, another 10 minutes in the heat, come out, do another two minutes cold plunge, and then rebalance again and repeat.

Typically, when I’m doing my one-hour session, that will mean I will do around three or four of those cycles, three or four of those hot, cold, relax, and repeat.

A few things to note on this. A two-minute cold plunge for someone who’s brand new to this is probably going to be way too much. You know, you have to start slow and build up. So if you’re new to cold exposure, you might just start by doing 10 or 15 seconds and then build up over time. And don’t worry about how quickly or slowly you do this because your body will tell you how much you can bear.

I think it took me a few months to get up to two minutes, and two minutes is the max I want to do. That gives me amazing benefit. I come out, my whole body’s tingling, I can feel the dramatic decrease in stiffness, I feel more flexible, I can move more easily. Ten minutes of heat, two minutes of cold seems to be the magic number for me, but play around with what works for you. And in terms of the health benefits, somewhere between the 5, 15, 20-minute mark in the heat is really good.

So you could do eight minutes, you could do 15 minutes, it doesn’t really matter too much. I do 10 minutes because it feels like the right amount for me, easy to remember, but I don’t bother with a watch. You know, you’ll get a sense of the timing, your body will tell you, and then after that, do your cold plunge, and two minutes really is the magic number I found for that. So I hope that makes sense on the timings. Ten minutes, two minutes, a few minutes to reset. Hot, cold, relax, repeat.

And the last thing to quickly cover is how do you access a sauna?

Because it will be new to a lot of people. I know it’s had a lot of media attention over the last few years, really. It’s become more popular, but most people won’t have come across a sauna before. The easiest thing to do there is to hop onto Google, type in “sauna near me,” and you will see the places that offer that as a facility. I live in London, and it’s kind of seen an explosion here. We have this great set of community saunas, and they’re really lovely, friendly places.

I think they must be subsidised in some way because I’m only paying somewhere between five and eight pounds, so seven to ten dollars kind of thing for my one-hour session, and that includes access to all the saunas and the cold plunges and all of that, so really a good deal. The other thing you can do is to see if your gym offers it. So if you already have a gym membership, the chances are they may well have a sauna. And if they do, that’s brilliant.

If they’ve got a cold plunge as well, then amazing. You have everything you need. If they don’t have a cold plunge, don’t worry. So what you do is you do your session in the sauna. You do your 10 minutes, then you come out and you go immediately to the shower and put it on the coldest setting for two minutes. And hopefully, if it’s a decent facility, the water will get pretty cold.

So for many people with a gym membership, it kind of works out as free because, you know, hopefully, you’ll have that as part of that. If not, look for these community pop-ups that are appearing more and more. But the other alternative is if you live near a freshwater lake or reservoir or body of water that’s clean and that you’re allowed to swim in, that can be an amazing way of getting your cold exposure. So you go in there, have a swim, come out.

Obviously, you’re not going to get the immediate heat benefit unless there happens to be a sauna right there, but that can be a great way of getting cold exposure.

The other way is to have a cold shower at home for two minutes. This is something I’ll do in a separate podcast about cold exposure, but I’m just flagging this up here because it’s another great option.

The last method, if you live somewhere where you don’t have access to this stuff or you just want something that’s more convenient that you can do at home, an infrared sauna is something that is becoming increasingly accessible.

So what is an infrared sauna?

Well, it’s a similar idea to the normal sauna, which involves normally a kind of wood-burning stove which gives off waves of natural heat. That is by far my favorite method. Personally, I seem to get the best benefits from that. But an infrared sauna has had lots of studies done on it. It’s incredibly beneficial. You can buy these kind of little rooms almost, which heat you up, or these kind of tent-type things that heat you up with infrared.

I have bought a sauna blanket, so this is kind of the smallest version of this because you can pack it up and put it in a bag, and what you do with that is you just lie on the bed, you switch it on, and you can have it on for 45 minutes or an hour or however long you want to do, and you can do that multiple times a week, and it’s pretty easy, pretty straightforward.

I will do a special podcast on this, telling you my methods for doing that. But obviously, when you’re doing that method at home, you have the opportunity to then jump into the shower and get that cold exposure.

So you can do both with that method. But the key takeaway I wanted to have here is just to really look into sauna, see if it’s something that can help you. There are lots of resources online about this.

As I said, Andrew Huberman’s done some great work on this in terms of making the information readily accessible and explaining the health benefits. I’m going to do my own podcast on that, but I just wanted to cover this now because I want you to get the benefit if it’s something you think could help you.

I hope you’re feeling happy and healthy, and I hope you enjoyed this podcast. Make sure you click subscribe so that you don’t miss another episode, and please recommend this to anyone else you think might find this helpful, and I will see you next time.

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