No, You Can't Sweat Out Toxins - and here's why!

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No, You Can't Sweat Out Toxins - and here's why!

Being able to sweat out "toxins" has been an idea circulating in the health industry for years, but unfortunately for those looking to work off the previous nights hangover, its not backed by science.

What are Toxins?

Many fitness and nutrition trends will try to convince you that by partaking in their diet or by simply sweating, you are eliminating toxins. Many times, they won't even explain WHAT toxins are, but they are convinced (or at least would like to convince you) that you have them, and that you MUST get rid of them. However, most "toxins" only are harmful in certain situations and the word often gets over exaggerated.

"Toxins" are any compound that causes a state of toxicity in your body. Certain toxins, such as mercury (fish), can be consumed through our diet and can cause lead toxicity, especially if you lack iron or calcium in your diet. Other toxins such as azodicarbonamide are found in yoga mats, and also (until recently) Subway sandwich bread. In alcohol, its the ethanol which can cause alcohol poisoning when over consumed, at which point it would be considered "toxic". And of course, you've heard of the bisphenol A (BPA) in our plastics. These ARE serious toxins we should be concerned about, but unfortunately we can't sweat them out. And the reason we know this is simple:

There are no trace elements of toxins in your sweat 

Toxins don't leave our body via sweat. In fact, there are no trace elements of toxin's present when sweat is extracted and analyzed in a lab. Instead, sweat consists almost entirely of water (about 99%). The other 1% is made up of electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. 99% water: 1% electrolytes. That's it. No mercury, no ethanol (sorry), and no residual subway sandwich bread (not sorry). Unfortunately, when toxin's enter our system, it takes a lot more than just a little hot yoga to get rid of them.

However, just like in so many different ways, exercise can still be medicine when trying to get rid of toxins - just not by sweating.

So how DO we eliminate toxins?

How Exercise CAN Eliminate Toxins

When you exercise, blood flow increases such as to the skin to sweat, or to the working muscles. What this also does is pick up white blood cells that get trapped in the arteries, thereby increasing your circulating white blood cell count. This recharge to your immune system can help fight off many harmful elements, including toxins that may have made their way into your body. Additionally, the increase in blood flow will help facilitate the delivery of toxins to the liver and kidneys, which DO get rid of toxins via your urine and feces.

So the moral of the story (EVERY story) is that you should be exercising. When it comes to getting rid of toxins, its no different. Exercising CAN help eliminate toxins, just not the way you thought- so keep exercising (and sweating), and really...don't worry about it.

Thanks for reading!

Kalan is a Human Performance Expert & Ph.D. Candidate who aims to optimize YOUR performance in both sport and every day life. He is recognized as a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA), and has obtained his Master of Science in Kinesiology degree at the University of Victoria. Through his masters thesis research, Kalan has established and implemented the KFit Test Battery for Combat Sport Athletes which is used by Karate BC, Boxing BC & Karate Canada as their standard fitness test for athletes across the country. Additionally, Kalan is an exercise prescription & physiology lab instructor at the University of Victoria, and trains individuals every day to help meet their fitness needs and goals. He has many years of experience both as an elite athlete and high performance coach and is knowledgeable in the many fields surrounding human performance.