Sweat Playbook

Meat Sweats: The 'Bigfoot' of Food Reactions?

by Dennis Madden
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The origin of the term meat sweats, or at least when it really became a household term, seems to be the 2001 Thanksgiving episode of "Friends" in which Joey consumes a hefty serving of turkey. Are they real? The short answer is: not really. At least, not yet. Searches through scholarly databases come short, but sometimes the science follows real world experience. You don't have to be an avid fan of competitive eating to know about the 4th of July Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. When crowd favorite Joey Chestnut (who claimed his victory in 2016 by eating 70 hot dogs in 10 minutes) mentioned the meat sweats in 2013, you have to at least hear him out. If anyone knows it would be him, right?

Probable Causes

The first place to look is the thermic effect of food. It takes energy to digest food. As you digest, your body heats up the surrounding environment. Remember, more energy means more heat production. Why? The body, like any machine (whether it's made of meat or metal), isn't that efficient. In other words, every process that costs energy requires a little extra because some of it is lost in the form of heat. But look on the bright side: humans are still more efficient than the internal combustion engine, which according to the California Energy Commission only converts about 15 percent of energy from gasoline into forward motion. Think about how hot that engine block is. It's all wasted energy!

Others have pointed fingers to the increased sodium consumption found in processed meats. This, as a cause of the meat sweats, is a little murky. The primary reason is that electrolyte levels are managed by the kidneys, and when the kidneys want to get rid of something, they send it straight to the bladder for elimination. While it's true that some people have higher levels of sodium in their sweat than others, this is a separate question than the volume and onset of sweating.

How to Avoid the Meat Sweats

Luckily, social situations where one would find himself cramming in enough meat to raise his body temperature enough to sweat, are not likely those where you'd be worried about making the best impression. If you somehow find these two worlds colliding, a great antiperspirant is a good place to start. You could also throw some face wipes and an extra shirt in your bag to be prepared as well.

This article was brought to you by Colgate-Palmolive Company, the makers of Speed Stick® products. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of the Colgate-Palmolive Company.

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