On the hunt for the best fabric for working out? You’re in the right place!

Picking the perfect activewear material is an essential part of any fitness journey. You need fabric that feels comfortable, performs well and moves with you – like a second skin.

But which material is the best one for your workout needs? Do you need fabric that’s durable and stretchy? Is your priority breathability and odour resistance?

Perhaps, like us, you care about sustainability and are curious to know where your sportswear comes from and what happens to it after you're done.

This article uncovers the best fabric for working out. We compare the performance, sustainability and life cycle of popular activewear materials. Plus, we'll introduce you to Tripulse's top choice: TENCEL™ Lyocell.

Are you ready? Let’s get moving!

  

What is the Best Fabric for Working Out? Our Verdict

Best fabric for working out: TENCEL™ Lyocell
Worst fabric for working out: synthetic materials

When it comes to workout clothes, synthetic fabrics like polyester are often seen as the elite choice. Yet plastic activewear has major performance pitfalls. It can be less breathable, holds onto odours, and may even expose you to harmful toxins. Plus, it’s devastating for the environment.

TENCEL™ Lyocell is the ultimate nature-powered fabric perfect for any workout. It's incredibly breathable, durable, and naturally odour-resistant. Not only is TENCEL™ eco-friendly and toxin-free, but it's also thermoregulating and exceptionally gentle on the skin. That’s why we believe TENCEL™ is the best fabric for working out.

Ready to perform your best during every workout? Move with plants, not plastics. And by plants, we mean TENCEL™ !

Discover the perfect companion for your active lifestyle with our naturally breathable, cooling and skin-loving essentials, powered by nature and made to perform. Shop Tripulse TENCEL™ activewear and get ready to feel the difference!

 

Discover the Best Fabric for Working Out: Top Performance Fabrics Explained

 

VIRGIN POLYESTER 

Pros of Virgin Polyester:

  • Affordable
  • High strength, durability and compression
  • Flexible and stretchy
  • Wrinkle- and stain-resistant
  • Moisture-wicking and quick-drying

Cons of Virgin Polyester:

  • Not breathable or odour-resistant
  • Can cause skin rashes and irritation
  • Highly polluting
  • Risk of toxin exposure
  • Releases microplastics
  • Can’t biodegrade 

 

Performance and Usage
Polyester is the go-to fabric for sportswear. It's considered the best for high-intensity workouts due to its durability to moisture-wicking properties. However, polyester has its disadvantages. It quickly develops bacterial growth and bad odours, which isn’t great when you’re working up a sweat! Plus, it’s processed with a cocktail of harmful chemicals. Toxins in clothing can cause health problems from skin allergies to severe conditions.

Materials and Origin
Virgin polyester is a man-made synthetic fabric. It's derived from non-renewable fossil fuels such as crude oil or petroleum. The most common form is polyethylene terephthalate (PET), also found in plastic bottles.

Production and Environmental Footprint
Virgin polyester production involves a complex and resource-intensive process.
PET pellets are transformed into fibres by adding alcohol and carboxyl. The fibres are then spun into polyester fabric. Polyester is easy to dye using synthetic (disperse) dyes. This process is both polluting and toxic. It requires as much as 125 MJ/kg of energy and emits 27.2 kg of CO2 per kilogram of polyester.

End of Life
Virgin polyester can take hundreds of years to degrade. Rather than decomposing naturally in the environment, polyester breaks down into harmful microplastics. That said, it is possible to recycle polyester if it’s not mixed with other fabrics. Always check the label!

Note: Polyester and other synthetic fabrics shed microplastics when washed. A single wash can release up to 700,000 microplastic fibres. Marine life suffers the toxic effects of microplastics such as genetic damage and immature deaths. Moreover, a recent study found microplastics in the human body, affecting our digestive system and reaching organs like the kidneys, liver, and brain.

 

RECYCLED POLYESTER (rPET)

Pros of Recycled Polyester:

  • Affordable
  • Moisture-wicking and quick-drying
  • High strength, durability and compression
  • Wrinkle- and stain-resistant
  • Flexible and stretchy
  • Less polluting than virgin polyester

Cons of Recycled Polyester:

  • Not breathable or odour-resistant
  • Can cause skin rashes and irritation
  • Risk of toxin exposure
  • Releases microplastics
  • Can’t biodegrade

 

Performance and Usage
Like virgin polyester, recycled polyester is very durable and versatile. This means it withstands a variety of low and high-intensity activities. However, recycled polyester is not the best fabric for working out because it’s a tightly woven fabric, trapping heat and odour-causing bacteria. It’s also processed with a myriad of toxic chemicals which can absorb through the skin when you sweat.

Concerned about toxin exposure? Check out our comprehensive guide to toxins in clothing. Discover simple ways you can detox your activewear wardrobe today!

Materials and Origin
Recycled polyester uses existing plastic as its raw material. This diverts rubbish from landfills and reduces the demand for non-renewable resources.

Production and Environmental Footprint
Recycled polyester is made by melting down plastic items such as post-consumer waste. This process uses 59% less energy than creating new polyester. But there's a catch! Sometimes, harmful chemicals like chlorine-based bleach are used in recycling. Plus, a new report from Greenpeace USA found that recycling can make plastics even more toxic. So, while it's a step in the right direction, recycled polyester isn't perfect.

End of Life
Recycled polyester doesn’t break down naturally. Experts are still figuring out whether it can be continuously recycled in a closed-loop system, or if it decreases in quality each time. Textile-to-textile recycling is very limited. Less than 1% of old textiles are transformed into new clothing. Either way, it stays out of landfills for longer than virgin polyester!

 

NYLON

Pros of Nylon:

  • High strength, durability and compression
  • Flexible and stretchy
  • Affordable
  • Moisture-wicking and waterproof
  • Wrinkle- and stain-resistant
  • More sustainable options available (e.g. ECONYL)

Cons of Nylon:

  • Not breathable or odour-resistant
  • Can cause skin rashes and irritation
  • Risk of toxin exposure
  • Highly polluting
  • Releases microplastics
  • Can’t biodegrade

 

Performance and Usage
Another popular choice for sportswear is nylon – a type of synthetic polyamide. Nylon is the second most used synthetic fibre globally. Thanks to nylon's low absorbency, it dries faster than other fabrics. Its waterproof and stretchy qualities mean it's ideal for swimming and cycling. However, if you have sensitive skin, nylon might not be the best fabric for working out. It's a haven for odour-causing bacteria which can cause skin irritations and even infection.

Materials and Origin
Nylon comes in different forms but the most common in the fashion industry is nylon 6,6. This combines two molecules found in petroleum: adipic acid and hexamethylenediamine.

Production and Environmental Footprint
Nylon is formed through a chemical reaction that occurs in a high-heat and high-pressure environment. This reaction involves mixing diamine acid with adipic acid to produce nylon salt. This is then melted, spun, and stretched into a fabric. It’s an energy-hungry process that requires 85 MJ/kg. Producing nylon releases nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is 300 times worse than CO2. Like other synthetics, nylon releases microplastics when washed.

Pro tip: If you like to exercise in synthetic activewear, why not consider investing in a microplastic filter? Research shows filters can capture as much as 87% of microfibers from a wash. A simple yet effective eco-friendly investment!

End of Life
As you might have guessed, nylon is non-biodegradable. Like polyester, it can be recycled. Many brands are working towards creating a closed-loop system for nylon waste. For example, ECONYL and Loopamid create recycled nylon using a chemical recycling process. Other bio-based polyamides may be biodegradable depending on the fibre content. Identifying biodegradable synthetic polyamides is a tricky business. It depends on the type of polymers it contains which isn’t always transparent.

 

TENCEL™ LYOCELL 
Pros of TENCEL™ Lyocell:

  • Natural, eco-friendly alternative
  • Smooth, comfortable, non-itch
  • Naturally breathable and  odour-resistant  
  • Efficient moisture wicking properties
  • High strength, compression and durability
  • Quick-drying and naturally thermoregulating 
  • Skin-friendly and free from toxins
  • Certified biodegradable and compostable

Cons of TENCEL Lyocell:

  • Higher price point compared to synthetic sportswear
  • Requires extra care when washing Performance and Usage

  

Performance and Usage
TENCEL™ Lyocell is an innovative and versatile fabric perfect for any workout. It's super breathable, naturally resilient, and versatile. Plus, its soft, cotton-like feel means it's very gentle on your skin. The best part? TENCEL™ is antibacterial and odour-resistant so you can wear it multiple times before washing. TENCEL™ is also quick-drying and naturally structured to regulate your body temperature. Perfect for keeping you dry and cool – even during your most intense training sessions!

Fun fact: TENCEL™ is much more comfortable to sweat in than polyester. A study by Lenzing compared TENCEL™ and polyester activewear in extreme sports. The results showed that odour and bacterial growth were significantly worse in polyester. So, with TENCEL™, you can stay fresher for longer!

Materials and Origin
TENCEL™ Lyocell is a natural fibre derived from trees. Yes, you heard it right! It’s made from wood pulp that’s sourced from sustainably managed forests, including eucalyptus, pine, spruce, and birch. This means TENCEL is 100% renewable!

Interested in learning more about the key differences between TENCEL™ and polyester sportswear? Check out our comprehensive TENCEL™ vs polyester guide for the ultimate fabric showdown.

Production and Environmental Footprint
TENCEL™ Lyocell follows an eco-conscious circular process free from toxic chemicals. The wood pulp used to create it is grown without pesticides or artificial watering. It’s also energy-efficient, needing just 21 MJ/kg, and it has a low carbon footprint, emitting only 4.6 CO2/kg. Since TENCEL™ is plant-based, it doesn’t shed any microplastics when you wash it!

End of Life
Unlike synthetic materials, TENCEL™ is certified biodegradable and com postable. This means when it reaches the end of its natural life, it can fully revert back to nature in just 3 months. Pretty amazing, right?



Ready to try the best fabric for working out? Shop Tripulse activewear made with TENCEL™ and get ready to transform the way you move!


BAMBOO 

Pros of Bamboo:

  • Breathable and moisture-wicking
  • A regenerative crop that requires minimal resources to grow
  • Thermoregulating and sweat-absorbent
  • Biodegradable and compostable provided its chemical-free
Cons of Bamboo:
  • Higher price point compared to synthetic and cotton sportswear
  • Risk of toxin exposure
  • Bamboo’s anti-bacterial and UV-resistant properties are not conclusive
  • Performance and usage

Performance and Usage
Bamboo fabric boasts some great performance features for all types of workouts. It's soft against the skin and effectively absorbs moisture. It's also thermoregulating so you can feel comfortable exercising in different climates. 

Note: Bamboo's antibacterial properties and UV resistance are not conclusive. To turn bamboo into fabric, it's often processed with lots of chemicals. This raises questions about whether these benefits can survive the process. However, a study by the Journal of Consumer Sciences says otherwise. It tested the antimicrobial properties of cotton, regenerative bamboo, and viscose rayon. Regenerative bamboo and viscose rayon had a higher antimicrobial effect than cotton.

Materials and Origins
Bamboo is a type of fast-growing grass crop in tropical and subtropical climates. It requires little water, no harmful fertilisers and quickly regenerates once harvested. In fact, bamboo absorbs 5 times more carbon and produces 35% more oxygen than an equivalent area of trees.

Production and Environmental Footprint
There are many ways in which bamboo is transformed into fabric. The most popular choice for activewear is bamboo rayon and viscose. The process by which cellulose or pulp is crafted into fabric is chemically-intensive and very polluting.


End of Life
Bamboo fibres are biodegradable and compostable if they haven’t been chemically treated. 

Pro tip: Considering bamboo for your sportswear? Skip rayon and opt for sustainably sourced bamboo lyocell. The latter uses fewer toxins and follows a closed-loop process. An even cleaner and more sustainable choice is TENCEL™ Lyocell sportswear, which offers a similar feel and appearance.

 

COTTON

Pros of Cotton:

  • Breathable and antibacterial
  • Comfortable and soft
  • Absorbs sweat effectively
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Affordable
  • Biodegradable

Cons of Cotton:

  • Prone to wrinkling and shrinking
  • High environmental footprint (unless organic and certified)
  • Not suitable for high-intensity workouts
  • Doesn't dry quickly
  • Lower odour-resistant compared to other fabrics such as TENCEL™
  • Performance and Usage

Performance and Usage
Cotton sportswear is a cheaper, natural alternative to synthetic fabrics. Although cotton is a breathable material, it's very absorbent so isn't effective at wicking away moisture. For this reason, cotton is best for low-medium intensity workouts. 

Materials and Origin
There’s no doubt about it: the fashion industry is cotton-obsessed! According to WWF, around 50% of all textiles are made from cotton. It’s a natural material derived from cotton plants.


Production and Environmental Footprint
Cotton sportswear may come from natural beginnings, but its production is far from eco-friendly! The process involves hazardous fertilisers, contributing to water contamination, soil erosion and degradation. Cotton is also an incredibly thirsty crop. It requires colossal amounts of water to grow – so much so that entire sea basins have dried up.


End of Life
Unlike synthetic, and semi-synthetic, fabrics like polyester and bamboo, cotton is 100% natural. Under the right conditions, it can revert back to nature.

 

MERINO WOOL

Pros of Merino Wool:

  • A soft, comfortable and non-itch fabric
  • Odour-resistant
  • Toxin-free
  • Lightweight and durable
  • Moisture-wicking and thermoregulating
  • High UV resistance
  • Biodegradable and compostable

Cons of Merino Wool:

  • Requires extra care when washing
  • More expensive than other sportswear fabrics
  • Prone to pilling
  • Risk of animal cruelty
  • May take longer to dry than other fabrics

Performance and Usage
Merino wool is a natural and super versatile fabric. Although prone to pilling, merino wool activewear can last a long time if cared for properly. It also feels soft against the skin and effectively regulates your body temperature. So you can feel comfortable exercising in hot and cold weather!

Materials and Origin
Merino wool is a natural fibre produced year-round from domestic Merino sheep. Australia is the biggest global provider of merino wool, producing approximately 45% of the world’s wool.

Production and Environmental Footprint
Merino wool production is a woolly subject – especially when it comes to animal rights. Castration, tail docking, and mulesing are common practices in merino wool production. Most of the time this is done without pain relief. Wool production is also resource-intensive. It requires vast amounts of water, and land, and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Producing a wool jumper emits 27 times more greenhouse gas-equivalent emissions than a cotton knit jumper.

End of Life
As merino wool is a natural fibre, it can biodegrade. One study found that it takes just nine months for merino wool to break down in the environment.
Pro tip: Like wool but want to avoid animal cruelty and environmental degradation? Opt for merino wool activewear that’s certified and mulesing-free.

TENCEL™ Activewear by Tripulse: A Vision for Zero Plastic

Never tried TENCEL™ activewear? Curious about this incredible fabric? Let us introduce you to Tripulse’s game-changing sportswear, powered by nature!

Our passion for sports, people, and the environment drives our vision to free activewear from harmful plastics, creating a truly healthy and sustainable alternative. We use revolutionary TENCEL™ to craft timeless, versatile, and functional activewear that elevates your workouts while protecting your health and the planet.

Whether you’re a runner, gym enthusiast, or yoga lover, our activewear is designed to help you feel your best while reaching peak performance.
But don’t just take our word for it – our customers in over 52 countries love hugging their skin in TENCEL™. Discover why our community considers TENCEL™ the best fabric for working out!

Switch to TENCEL™ activewear by Tripulse – the best choice for yourself, people and nature.

 

Best Fabric for Working Out FAQ

What Fabric is Best for Keeping Cool?
When it comes to staying cool during workouts, choosing the right fabric is crucial. Among the various options, TENCEL™ Lyocell stands out as the best fabric for keeping cool. It’s naturally thermoregulating which means it helps regulate your body temperature. This means TENCEL™ activewear is perfect for exercise because it keeps you fresh and cool, even during your most intense workouts.

What is the Best Fabric for Sweating?
Natural and breathable fabrics like TENCEL™ are by far the best choice for sweating. While synthetic fabrics like polyester have moisture-wicking properties, they trap heat and bacteria, causing discomfort and odour. TENCEL™, on the other hand, is naturally odour-resistant, can efficiently absorb sweat, and allows your skin to breathe. The result? Keeping you cool, fresh and comfortable during every workout.

Hug your skin in game-changing TENCEL™ activewear and feel empowered to push your limits with confidence. Shop Tripulse today!

Is it Better to Workout in Cotton or Polyester?
When it comes to working out, polyester generally outperforms cotton due to its moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties. However, both have drawbacks – polyester traps heat and odours, while cotton retains moisture. For the best workout experience, opt for workout clothing made with TENCEL™, which offers superior breathability, moisture-regulating, and odour-resistant properties.

Best Fabric for Working Out: The Bottom Line
Sweating in synthetics may seem like the go-to option for many, but plastic-based materials have significant drawbacks. From issues like poor breathability and odour retention to health and environmental concerns, it's clear that plastic isn’t the fabric of the future!

 

While natural alternatives like merino wool and bamboo may seem appealing, they come with their own set of social and environmental challenges. That's why when selecting the best fabric for working out, it's worth considering the innovative and eco-friendly option of TENCEL™ – offering the highest performance, comfort, and sustainability.


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12 Mai, 2022 — Franziska Mesche

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