You curled, pressed, squatted, and burpee’d your way through a gruesome workout, and after an hour plus of non-stop moving, you still haven’t broken a sweat—or at least, not nearly as much as you’d expect.
You’re thinking one of two things: I didn’t workout hard enough, or what’s wrong with me? Because technically, it doesn’t count if you didn’t break a sweat, right? Wrong. You didn’t just imagine all of those brutal circuits and feeling like you’re about to keel over.
Sweat is one indicator of workout intensity, but it’s not the only one. We’re giving you the scoop on why some people sweat during workouts, and some don’t (and there’s no need to be jealous of them).
The Basics Of Sweat (+ Why We Do It)
When you think about a challenging workout, you probably think about muscle fatigue and sweating—two cardinal signs of a good sesh.
And although lifting your arms to find your pits drenched in sweat is inconvenient, embarrassing, and uncomfortable at times, it’s completely normal and essential for optimal body function.
Just think about this. People sit in the sauna for upwards of 60 minutes to sweat, or we partake in the Indigenous ceremonies in a sweat lodge—it has to be good for us, right?
While many people think sweat is just water and salt—it’s 99% water—it’s also made up of other chemical components such as ammonia, urea, sugar, and proteins 1.
There are three types of sweat glands present in the body 1:
- Eccrine: Most numerous and distributed across the entire body surface; responsible for the production of the most significant volume of sweat; the primary function is thermoregulation
- Apocrine: Found primarily in the axilla (armpits), breasts, face, scalp, and perineum; larger and open into hair follicles rather than on the skin’s surface; produce viscous, lipid-rich sweat and function mainly to produce pheromones (body odor)
- Apoeccrine: Found only in the axillary region (armpits) and empty directly onto the skin’s surface; they release saltwater secretions similar to eccrine sweat, but their function is unknown
While one of the main reasons we sweat is to regulate core body temperature, there’s much more to it:
- Maintains core body temperature
- Supports weight loss
- Aids detoxification
- Boosts heart health
- Supports muscle recovery
- Increases immune function
- Enhances skin health
- Uplifts mood
But the rate at which we sweat is a product of the density of active sweat glands and the amount of each is secreting 1.
Once stimulated, there is a rapid increase in sweat gland recruitment, followed by a more gradual increase in sweat production by each gland. From a physiological standpoint, sweating is great for the body, and lack of sweating would lead to increasing internal temperature and overheating.
For most people, breaking a sweat during exercise is an indication that you pushed hard, and some evidence suggests that reaching that level is beneficial for cardiovascular health 2.
There’s also some evidence suggesting that more sweat means a more intense workout. Still, the problem is that there’s a great deal of variation in the timing and amount of sweat between individuals, which makes claims largely unreliable.
Some people don’t sweat much during a workout, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t push.
Why Am I Not Sweating?
After an intense workout, you’d expect to be sweating buckets. And while most people probably are, several factors influence the function of eccrine glands, and the amount of sweat produced 1, 3.
- Dehydration: This can delay the sweating response because hyperosmolality increases the core body temperature threshold for the onset of sweating.
- Age: Older adults tend to have a lower sweat rate than younger adults. It generally happens gradually throughout adulthood, but the decrease in sweat rates may be affected more by reduced aerobic fitness and heat acclimation (which may result from decreased sweat gland sensitivity to cholinergic stimulation) instead of age.
- Menstruation: Although minimal, the luteal phase of a women’s cycle is associated with a lower regional sweat rate due to alterations in body temperature
- Medications: Certain medications like anticholinergic agents can interfere with acetylcholine binding at M3 muscarinic receptors, which inhibits sweating. Others like opioid agonists inhibit heat-sensitive neurons in the hypothalamus, which increases the body’s set point of temperature and the absence of sweating even in the heat.
Other factors that can increase sweat rate include:
- Salt intake
- Alcohol consumption
- Exercise intensity
- Body mass
- Heat acclimation
- Aerobic training
- Circadian rhythm
If you don’t sweat during a workout, it can be due to several reasons, with the most extreme being anhidrosis—a condition characterized by the inability to sweat 4.
There are three leading causes of anhidrosis:
- Peripheral alterations to the eccrine gland
- Central or neuropathic diseases and/or medication that disrupts neural inputs from the anterior hypothalamus to the sweat gland
That said, if you’re dealing with minimal sweating during a workout, it’s likely hypohidrosis instead of anhidrosis.
5 Ways To Ramp Up Your Workout
Dehydration can impair your body’s ability to sweat, so make sure you’re drinking enough before, during, and after your training session. How well you’re hydrated impacts how well your body performs and recovers during and after exercise.
Ideally, you want to aim for half of your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water daily. If you’re 150 pounds, you should be consuming a minimum of 75 ounces of water every day, increasing that by 20 ounces each if you drink coffee or are engaging in intense exercise.
Change it up
Whether you’re bored of your current routine or it’s not challenging you enough, changing it up now and again is a great way to challenge your body and force it to adapt and break a sweat.
Add in some HIIT circuits, try a martial arts class, or hop in the pool. New workouts also mean hitting muscles that your old training program didn’t, which leads to more excellent adaptation and more significant gains.
Throw in some supps
If you want to make sure you’re making the most out of your workout, tossing in a good pre-workout into your pre-training ritual can be helpful.
While some people rely on heavy caffeine or coffee to do the trick, we prefer to stick to something better: Pre Lab Pro, the world’s most intelligent and most effective low-stim pre-workout.
Pre Lab Pro® sparks a 2X muscle-pumping nitric oxide (NOx) turbocharge + afterburn for ultimate performance. And with the addition of smart caffeine, hydrating factors, restorative essentials, and more, there’s no need to worry about going overboard.
It delivers better physical and mental energy, peak muscle power and efficiency, extended endurance, laser intensity, and calm clarity.
Get a better sleep
If you’ve slept like trash, you’re not going to be putting your best foot forward in the gym or even getting out of bed.
Insufficient or poor-quality sleep affects your performance and ability to recover by shifting your body’s hormonal response to exercise 5. You’re more susceptible to overtraining and hitting a plateau without adequate sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours of deep, good-quality sleep per night.
Get a partner
If you struggle to push yourself during workouts, getting a training partner could be right up your alley.
It’s not always easy to walk into the gym highly motivated and give every activity 110%, but finding a training partner can help your game. Whether you have a little friendly competition or they’re there to keep you motivated, if it gets the job done, you’re on track to Gainsville.
- Baker LB. Physiology of sweat gland function: The roles of sweating and sweat composition in human health. Temperature (Austin). 2019;6(3):211-259.
- Ito S. High-intensity interval training for health benefits and care of cardiac diseases - The key to an efficient exercise protocol. World J Cardiol. 2019;11(7):171-188.
- Chia KY, Tey HL. Approach to hypohidrosis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2013;27(7):799-804.
- Harper CD, Bermudez R. Anhidrosis. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; May 15, 2021.
- Fullagar HH, Skorski S, Duffield R, Hammes D, Coutts AJ, Meyer T. Sleep and athletic performance: the effects of sleep loss on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise. Sports Med. 2015;45(2):161-186.