Drinking Hot Drinks Can Cool You Down (Biology)

There’s nothing quite like a long run on a sweltering summer day to make you thirst for a big ole’ mug of hot tea. Huh? Believe it or not, research has found that (under the right conditions) a hot drink after exercise can actually cool you down better than a cold one.

It sounds like something Snopes would shoot down. How could chugging some chai post-run possibly cool your body? There’s scientific evidence, we promise.

In a 2012 study, Dr. Ollie Jay from the University of Sydney examined the effectiveness of drinking both hot and cold drinks when it comes to lowering the amount of heat stored by your body. Volunteers were asked to ride bikes for 75 minutes at 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius) with 23 percent relative humidity — the equivalent of a nice summer day. Five minutes before the workout and every 15 minutes after, they drank water at one of four different temperatures: 34 degrees, 50 degrees, 98.6 degrees, or 122 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees, 10 degrees, 37 degrees, or 50 degrees Celsius).

The results? Those who drank the hottest drinks ended up cooling down the most. How is that possible? It has to do with your sweat and how it’s influenced by drink temperature. Sweat (or, more importantly — the evaporation of sweat) is key for helping your body come back to a temperature baseline. When you drink a hot drink, your body bumps up its sweat production, leading to more cooling. You might think that wouldn’t be enough to counteract the hot drink, but the sweat output actually outweighs any internal heating.

But here’s the slight catch — this study was performed under conditions where the volunteers’ sweat was able to evaporate completely. If you were to try the hot drink trick somewhere with poor airflow and/or high humidity, the results would likely be much different (i.e., cold drinks would probably win out). Would you ever reach for a post-workout hot chai?

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