Does a hot drink really cool you down on a hot day?

Wednesday, 16 October, 2019

That’s what people claim – that if you want to cool down, you should swap out that cold drink for a hot coffee or tea. It’s counterintuitive for sure, but according to recent research, the short answer is yes, drinking a hot beverage on a hot day can help your body stay cool. The long answer (and reason behind this phenomenon) is a little less reassuring…

Here are the facts. A hot drink can help the body stay cool, but it does so in a roundabout way. A hot drink increases your core temperature, which then triggers the body’s natural response: increased perspiration (aka sweat). As the sweat evaporates from your skin, it cools you down. It also cools you down more effectively than a cold drink, which only provides temporary relief and wears off quite quickly.

The best way to cool down?

The complication is that the sweat you produce has to be able to evaporate for it to have a cooling effect. So, humid conditions are a no-no for hot drinks – all that extra moisture in the air prevents the sweat on your skin from evaporating. All that extra sweat has to go somewhere, and if you’re wearing a lot of clothing, or sweat so much that you start to drip (i.e. it doesn’t evaporate off your skin), then that hot drink is only going to make your situation worse. Uncomfortably worse. 

In this case, a cold drink really is your best bet. It’s not going to make a huge difference to your core body temperature, but at least you won’t be dripping from every pore on your body… So, note to self (and readers): only turn to hot drinks if it’s a dry heat (desert vibes) and you’re scantily clad, and you don’t mind sweating a lot more than usual.

That summer sweat

At the end of the day, it is possible that a hot drink can reduce your body temperature … if you’re happy to sweat disproportionately more than you’re used to. It’s the same reaction the body has to spicy foods and chili – setting off those sweat receptors. 

With summer well on its way, we’re all feeling the heat … so will you be inclined to exchange your hot coffee for a cold brew, or vice versa? I can comfortably say I’ll be skipping the hot drink experiment and beating the heat with a cold brew or iced coffee. Rather momentary relief than an endless summer sweat!

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