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Monday, September 18, 2017

How Well Do You Know Your Sweat?

Breaking into a sweat while we work out is a vindication. It is proof that we pushed hard, and that the results must surely follow. Other than wiping our forehead with a towel, most of us have never given sweat a second thought. What you’ll find is that sweating is a more complex topic than you imagined!

First up, there are two distinct types of sweat – which come from separate sweat glands. You’ll also find that sweat does not smell, at all. It is microbes feasting on your sweat which create that unique odor. Whether you run, lift or work out with home fitness equipment - read on for more on these, and some other fascinating facts about sweat and sweating.

Know Your Sweat #1 – There are Two Types of Sweat

Sweat glands come in two varieties. The most common are ‘Eccrine’ glands. These cover most of your body, and number in the millions. Eccrine sweat glands produce a thin, watery and salty sweat.

In your armpits and genital area, you’ll find a second type of sweat gland – Apocrine glands. These share ducts with your hair follicles. They produce sweat which contains nitrates, ammonia and fatty acids. This type of sweat provides food for microbes. They feast on the fatty acids, and the smell we associate with sweat is a by-product of microbes breaking down their food.

Know Your Sweat #2 – Fit People Sweat Sooner

The primary function of sweat is cooling. Your brain takes an average of your core temperature and average skin temperature into account when triggering this. A secondary function is to get rid of nitrates that you consume. Working out, especially lifting weights, raises your core temperature quickly.

As you get fitter, your body starts to become optimized in many ways – including cooling. This means that fit people will start to sweat sooner than an average person. Note that inactive (and especially obese) people will also sweat easily. This is because the effort required to exercise is greater, increasing their temperature.

Know Your Sweat #3 – Antiperspirants

Most of us use an antiperspirant these days. These are a relatively new thing. The very first was only invented 130 years ago – this was ‘Mum’ brand by Edna Murphey. It was not until the last few decades that use became expected and (almost!) universal.

These work by physically blocking the ducts of Apocrine sweat ducts. The main active ingredients are aluminium salts. These include Aluminium Chloride and Aluminium Chlorohydrate. They combine with sweat to form a plug, which can last for a few days.

The fastest way to improve the effectiveness of underarm antiperspirants is to shave your armpit hair. Women have known this for decades, and men are only now starting to catch on. Most antiperspirants will also contain alcohol. This kills off the microbes which feed from your sweat, helping to reduce odors.

Know Your Sweat #4 – Clothing Choices

Sweating in the gym is one thing, outside in the workplace or bar – it is never desirable. Smart clothing choices can make a big difference. This is especially useful if you are genetically predisposed to heavier sweat.

Dark shades are best for hiding sweat, with plain black and navy blue leading the way. If you prefer lighter clothes, then plain white is the next best option.

If you still have patches, then an undershirt and even special absorbent pads are both back-up options.

Know Your Sweat #5 – Extreme Sweat Reduction

For some people, excessive sweating becomes a medical issue. Regular reduction techniques including clean eating, no caffeine or alcohol and antiperspirant simply do not work.

There are two more measures which are used in case of medical hyperhidrosis.

First is Botox treatment. Botox is injected into the affected areas, effectively killing the nerves which carry the ‘start sweating’ signal from the brain. Second, and most extreme, is surgery. Sweat glands can be scraped away from under the skin – or removed by lasers.

Fortunately, most of us have sweat under control. Having read this page, you’ll now know your sweat a little better!