Does Wearing a Plastic Bag Help Burn Calories?

Wearing a plastic bag while you exercise makes you sweat more, and it may seem like the more you sweat, the more calories you're burning. However, that theory isn't true. Sweating removes water from the body, which can cause you to weigh less immediately after a workout, but it doesn't burn more calories. Instead, it can lead to dangerous health problems by not allowing your body to cool itself appropriately.

The Myth

If you weigh yourself right before you work out and again right after you work out, chances are you'll weigh less because some of the water in your body has been released as sweat. Wearing a plastic bag over your body or limbs can increase the amount you sweat during a workout by stopping the moisture from evaporating -- it's this evaporation that helps cool your body. Holding in the sweat keeps your body temperature higher, increasing the level of sweating. Weighing yourself immediately after working out while wearing a plastic bag can reflect greater weight loss than with a workout alone. However, the weight loss is a product of water weight you sweated, not weight loss that comes from burned fat. Once you drink water and hydrate your body, your weight will return to the pre-workout number.

Weight Loss

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Because exercising makes you sweat, it's easy to jump to the conclusion that the more you sweat, the more weight you're losing. But it's not the creation of sweat that's burning calories, it's the exercise that created the sweat that is. Exercise warms up your muscles and raises your heart rate, forcing your body to reach into its stored energy supply -- its fat supply -- to furnish energy. This is how calories are burned. Sweating is often an external sign that you're burning more calories, but it's not the reason.

Other Reasons to Sweat

Your body can start sweating for reasons even when it is not burning extra calories. You can sweat when you are nervous, embarrassed or eating spicy foods. Also, the outside summer temperatures can make you sweat more even if you're sitting still. None of these sweaty situations are related to burning more calories, and wearing a plastic bag while sweating can't make these situations burn more calories than they naturally do. It can, however, dehydrate your body quickly.


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Sweating too much without hydrating your body adequately with water can be deadly. Dehydration can lead to weakness and dizziness. If not treated promptly, it can result in severe heat stroke and kidney failure, which can cause death. Sweating typically releases urea and sodium along with the water in your body, passing through the skin and removing dirt and toxins along the way to cleanse your pores. However, sweating too much, such as when you wear a plastic bag, can remove essential electrolytes that keep your organs from functioning properly. While water is often best to hydrate your body, sports drinks can help if you've sweated more than normal by restoring the sodium and electrolyte balance in your body.