How does tattooing affect the body's ability to sweat?
We’ve spoken about hydration and drinking enough fluid during training sessions and racing to ensure you stay adequately hydrated. But what about how the body cools itself? One of the key ways your body does this is via sweat.
Interestingly, those with tattoos may actually have altered their bodies’ ability to sweat… wait, what?!
You read correctly. Spending much time in the tattoo parlour may have changed how much you sweat, and how much salt there is in that sweat, according to a recent study. Researchers at Alma College examined how changes in sweating function in tattooed areas of the body.
Getting a tattoo involves puncturing the skin multiple times with needles that leave the dye for the tattoo in the dermal layer. This layer happens to contain the sweat glands which is where your sweat is secreted from.
Whilst the study was small (only 10 people), the researchers found a 53% lower sweat rate and a higher sweat concentration (64%) in areas with tattooed versus non-tattooed skin!
Though further research is required to draw serious conclusions, sweat plays a key role in body temperature regulation; inability to sweat may have an impact on performance particularly in hotter race conditions, due to increased difficulty managing body temperature.
An interesting one to consider, particularly if you regularly race in hot conditions, and if you were considering a tattoo.
Strategies to Lower Body Temperature
So what happens if you are already heavily tattooed? Or even if you do often train in hotter conditions?
Aim to use other strategies to keep body temperature low: having icy slushies or other drinks available to drink during high temperature training sessions, doing tougher sessions during cooler times of day and utilizing ice baths (if available) cold towels and cold showers post training to help bring your body temperature back down.
Chloe McLeod is an Advanced Sports Dietitian and Accredited Practicing Dietitian for MX Endurance. Get in touch with her.
(Header photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash.)