There is always a running debate going on about drinking hot drinks when it’s warm outside, but is there actually a reason why some people prefer hot beverages compared to cold beverages even when the weather gets warm? There is actually a good reason why some people may be ordering a hot drink. Keep reading to learn more about the science behind this decision:
When and How Does a Hot Drink Cool You Down?
So, how can drinking something that is meant to warm you up actually have the opposite effect? Well, let’s start by stating something obvious. A hot beverage will increase your body heat — or something that scientists like to call the body’s heat load — at least temporarily. But it is how the body reacts when it is suddenly exposed to heat, which is the secret to why drinking something hot can make you feel cooler: It sweats.
You already know from elementary school science class that sweating is one of the body’s natural way of trying to cool itself. One thing you might not recall is how thermoregulation, the process of increasing or decreasing your core body temperature works. To refresh your memory, it is not the sweating itself which releases heat from your body, but it is what happens to the sweat once it is on your skin which is important.
In the ideal conditions, when the temperature is high, but the humidity is low, the sweat evaporates which eliminates excessive heat. At the same time, vasodilatation occurs where the blood vessels get wider carrying blood away from your warmer core towards your skin where it is cooler. This process can make skin of some people appear redder than normal.
But if heat causes an increase in the body’s heat load, and triggering thermoregulation which leads to sweating and becoming flush; why bother drinking something hot when it is already hot out? The answer is that when you drink a hot beverage, you are trying to trick the thermoreceptors lining your mouth and throat into reacting like it hotter than it actually is in order to make your body works harder to try reduce this perceived heat.
Interesting enough, drinking an ice-cold beverage on a hot day can actually inhibit your thermoreceptors from activating correctly. This means that the cold drink you think is cooling you off may be making you warmer.
So, the next time you are ordering to-go at your favorite coffee shop, and the weather outside is hot and dry, forgo the iced latte and choose a hot one instead. The barista may be confused, but you will know you are making the right decision.
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