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Some people might bemoan the inevitable onset of the meat sweats after a particularly meaty meal, but this phenomenon may not be as inevitable—or real—as we're led to believe.

Hosted by: Stefan Chin

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[INTRO ♪].

Picture yourself at a summer barbecue, chowing down on burgers, hot dogs, and ribs. But somewhere between the 3rd helping and the resulting food coma you experience an extremely uncomfortable zone of overeating.

My friends, I’m talking about the meat sweats. Now, you might have had this experience, but is there any science to back up this meaty meme? The idea that eating food can raise our body temperature isn’t anything new.

Warming up slightly is a totally normal byproduct of our bodies using energy. And our bodies use lots of energy—by exercising, of course, but also just by being alive and having a heartbeat. The other way is through something called diet induced thermogenesis, or DIT.

Food doesn’t just instantly get converted into usable calories— your body has to put in some energy to start the breakdown process, so it takes energy to make energy. DIT is usually around 5 to 15 percent of your daily caloric use. And while it’s tricky to measure super accurately, the more calories you eat, the higher your DIT will generally be.

And that might be the secret to the meat sweats. Protein has a higher DIT than any other macronutrient like fat or carbohydrates, so you’ll use more calories to digest that thousand calorie rack of ribs than the same thousand calories of ice cream. The proteins found in food are chunky molecules that take time and energy to break down into more digestible components.

And this increased thermogenic effect might have to do with the fact that your body doesn’t have an efficient storage system for those amino acids. Now, while increased protein consumption is strongly linked to increased thermogenesis and a slightly increased body temperature, it’s not so much of an increase that it’ll cause you to overheat. No actual studies have linked meat consumption directly to the act of sweating.

So what other factors could there be? One could be the spice that we use to season meat. Capsaicin, the chemical that gives peppers their pungency, can increase thermogenesis also, despite having no calories.

So that whole “takes energy to make energy” thing doesn’t really apply here, but spicy seasonings could potentially make you even warmer than bland meat would. Ultimately, this meme got popular from competitive eaters eating dozens of hot dogs in the sun, and Guy Fieri taking you to Flavortown over a hot grill. So, the meat sweats might be an actual thing, but we still need some direct evidence.

Thank you for asking, and thanks to our patrons for supporting what we do here at SciShow. If you want to help us make even more videos about all kinds of different science, check out [OUTRO ♪].