I know. This sounds odd.
I grew up understanding the importance of taking care of yourself. In the summertime, taking care of one’s self could mean buying an expensive water bottle to keep your contents cool, or some other 21st century solution to survive the suffocating heat.
The most simple way to replenish yourself is by drinking a glass of cold water. It’s what we were taught to do. It is also the fastest way to get a sense of relief. The temperature difference is usually enough to trigger a refreshing feeling to rush over you.
Where did this idea come from?
In many countries around the world, there’s a longstanding belief that drinking hot beverages in warmer climates can cool you down.
Tea is one of the most consumed beverages in the world, and most of it is sold in tropical and desert regions. Just look at India, a country known for its oppressive summer heat. If you travel there during the summer months, you will not find a crowd of people asking for a ‘cold’ chai (tea). It’s the same order year-round, and now we are closer to understanding why.
So how exactly does drinking hot fluids cool you down?
Here is what Ollie Jay, a researcher at University of Ottawa’s School of Human Kinetics, had to say:
“What we found is that when you ingest a hot drink, you actually have a disproportionate increase in the amount that you sweat,” Jay says.
He continued by saying, “Yes, the hot drink is hotter than your body temperature, so you are adding heat to the body, but the amount that you increase your sweating by—if that can all evaporate—more than compensates for the added heat to the body from the fluid.”
So, the answer is two-fold:
- The body produces more sweat.
- The cooling effect takes place when the sweat evaporates.
Seems simple, right? It is, but you have to remember what we said earlier—hot drinks don’t ALWAYS cool you off in the heat.
So when do the rules not apply?
The cooling effect only takes place when the sweat you produce can actually evaporate. If there is no space for the water to move, then you want to avoid this cool-down method.
“On a very hot and humid day, if you’re wearing a lot of clothing, or if you’re having so much sweat that it starts to drip on the ground and doesn’t evaporate from the skin’s surface, then drinking a hot drink is a bad thing,” Jay says. “The hot drink still does add a little heat to the body, so if the sweat’s not going to assist in evaporation, go for a cold drink.”
It is nice to know I haven’t been wrong for my entire life, but it is better to know how differently our bodies respond to our environments and actions.
Next time you’re looking to relieve yourself from the heat, try a nice cup of tea, and let us know how it works for you!