Running In A Trash Bag: Risks, Benefits + Weight Loss Potential

Published:

Our diet and nutrition resources are rigorously vetted by our expert team and adhere to our Diet and Nutrition Guidelines.

With all of the advances in performance running apparel, seeing someone running in a trash bag is a surefire way to get heads turning in confusion. 

Running in a bin bag or wearing a trash bag running is sometimes considered “the bag method for weight loss.”

But, does wearing a trash bag burn fat or burn a lot of calories? What are the benefits of running in a trash bag? Is the trash bag weight loss workout method effective? Is running in a trash bag like working out in a sauna suit?

In this guide, we will discuss why people run in a trash bag, whether the bag method for weight loss works, exercising in a sauna suit for weight loss, and the potential risks and benefits of working out in a sauna suit or wearing a trash bag working out.

We will cover: 

  • Why Do People Run In a Trash Bag?
  • Is Running In a Trash Bag Good for Weight Loss?
  • What Are the Benefits of Sauna Suit Exercise?
  • Should You Run In a Trash Bag?

Let’s jump in!

Someone pulling a sled in a sweatsuit.

Why Do People Run In a Trash Bag?

Running in a trash bag can be seen as a “poor man’s” sauna suit workout analog.

Essentially, wearing a trash bag for exercise traps your body heat due to the impermeability or lack of airflow and breathability of the plastic trash bag.

This is a similar principle to exercising in a sauna suit, which has long been used as a method for rapid weight loss, particularly among wrestlers and other athletes who have to make weight for a competition.

Is Running In a Trash Bag Good for Weight Loss?

The most common questions about using a sauna suit for weight loss or running with a trash bag for weight loss are:

Does the trash bag workout method work for weight loss, or will working out in a sauna suit help me lose weight? Does wearing a trash bag burn fat? Does running in a trash bag burn calories?

Let’s look at these trash bag weight loss questions one at a time.

First, it is critical to distinguish the difference between “weight loss“ and “fat loss.“

A roll of trash bags.

Body weight, or sauna suit weight loss results, refers to your total body weight when you step on a scale irrespective of any individual constituent components of your body weight.

Body fat, or trash bags fat loss results, refer to body fat specifically, which is adipose tissue that your body accumulates as a reserve of stored energy when you consume more calories than you burn.

So, can you lose weight working out in a sauna suit, and does the trash bag method for weight loss work?

The short answer to this type of question is that, yes, running in a sauna suit for weight loss or exercising in a trash bag for weight loss can work for acute weight loss at the moment.

Because the trash bag or sauna suit traps in the heat, and the impervious nature of the trash bag prevents sweat from evaporating off of your skin, you will see weight loss reflected on the scale if you weigh yourself before working out in a trash bag and immediately afterward.

Working out in a sauna suit or a trash bag increases your sweat rate, which can lead to significant weight loss immediately after the workout due to the loss of water weight from sweat.

A person stepping on a scale.

Sweating is a natural thermoregulatory mechanism that kicks in when the core body temperature increases.

The process of sweating in and of itself does not cool the body; rather, sweating works to cool the body via evaporation.

Excess heat energy is used to turn liquid sweat droplets into water vapor. This phase of matter transition requires energy in the form of heat, so sweating helps use up some of the excess heat that your body is accumulating during exercise.

However, sweating does not cool the body significantly if the sweat cannot evaporate.

Running in a trash bag largely blocks airflow or the ability for the sweat to evaporate off of your skin readily.

Then, your body continues to overheat and produce more sweat.

For this reason, exercising in a trash bag or running in a sauna suit causes your sweat rate to increase because the entire physiological purpose of sweating is significantly compromised by the trash bag or sauna suit.

A person zipping up a sweatshirt.

Therefore, you will lose more water weight before and after sauna suit workouts than if you were to wear appropriate, performance-wicking, breathable fabrics that allow your skin to evaporate sweat.

However, the trash bag method for working out does increase sweat rate and thus weight loss; sauna suit fat loss results are another story.

In order to increase fat loss, you have to burn more calories, as body fat is a reservoir of stored energy or excess calories.

Although running in a trash bag can increase the intensity of your workout because your body is under a thermal strain, the increase in caloric expenditure from a trash bag workout or sauna suit workout is generally too insignificant to result in appreciable fat loss.

Therefore, sauna suit exercise fat loss results are next to nothing.

What Are the Benefits of Sauna Suit Exercise?

It is true that there are some potential benefits of running in a trash bag or the benefits of working out in a sauna suit independent of potential weight loss or fat loss.

Here are some of the purported sauna suit workout benefits aside from weight loss:

A person drinking water in the sun.

#1: Heat Adaptation 

One of the trash bag workout method benefits is the potential to expedite heat acclimatization.

Because trash bag workouts trap in body heat, the trash bag exercise method can help your body begin the process of making heat adaptations, such as the earlier onset of sweating, more dilute sweat, and increased blood plasma volume.

This will make exercising in a hot climate more tolerable, as it typically takes about two weeks for the process of heat adaptation to occur for an athlete.

Therefore, if you were going to be competing somewhere much hotter than where you live, running in a trash bag in your training leading up to the event can help facilitate physiological heat adaptations so that your body can perform better come competition day.

#2: Better Cardiorespiratory Fitness

Heat adaptation has various benefits; according to the Cleveland Clinic, having greater blood plasma volume is a measure of better overall cardiorespiratory fitness.

If you are consistently training in a sauna suit, your body will adapt by increasing plasma volume as one of the heat acclimatization changes.

This theory seems to be somewhat substantiated by research.

According to a research study conducted by the American Council of Exercise (ACE), sauna suit exercise improved overall aerobic endurance with no additional changes made to the training program compared to controls who did not exercise in a sauna suit.

A person running in a hooded sweatshirt.

#3: Improved Markers of Health

Another ACE study found that Exercisers who had obesity demonstrated improved blood glucose levels, lower body fat percentage, and higher resting metabolic rate after doing an eight-week sauna suit workout program compared to controls who wore regular exercise apparel.

Should You Run In a Trash Bag?

As antiquated as running with a trash bag or running in a sauna suit may seem, the truth is that working out in a sauna suit is still a surprisingly popular trend.

In fact, the hashtag #saunasuit has 211.3 million views on TikTok, with all sorts of videos showing sauna suit workouts for weight loss or sauna suit exercise before and after short reels showing the exerciser drenched in sweat after working out in the sauna suit.

However, just because a lot of people are still doing sauna suit workouts does not mean that this is a safe or effective practice.

Sure, running in a trash bag could be a quick weight loss hack for immediate weight loss, but you are just severely dehydrating yourself rather than actually burning more calories and losing body fat.

A person bent over exhausted from running.

Plus, there are some serious risks of exercising in a trash bag or sauna suit.

Because exercising in a sauna suit or trash bag increases core body temperature, it increases thermal strain and sweat rate. This puts you at a greater risk for severe dehydration and heat-related illnesses.

Plus, both dehydration and exercising under increased thermal strain are risk factors for rhabdomyolysis, a potentially fatal condition in which your muscle tissue starts to break down and leach toxic compounds into your bloodstream.

Wrestlers using sauna suits for weight loss have died due to heat-related illnesses while exercising in a sauna suit, so the risks of running in a trash bag are real and should not be taken lightly.

Therefore, if you are considering the bin bag workout method or want to jump on the resurgent sauna suit workout trend, it is imperative that you stay well hydrated before, during, and after running in a rubbish bag or sauna suit.

Weigh yourself before and after your workouts and listen to your body to make sure that you are not overheating or experiencing signs and symptoms of dehydration.

For healthier approaches to true fat loss, check out our guide to running for weight loss here.

A person drinking water.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.