Why You Should Drink Hot Stuff When It’s Hot Out (Sometimes)

(Image credit: iravgustin/ Shutterstock)shutterstock

It’s sweltering out. Sweat is trickling down your back in a way that is most unappealing. There’s little respite from what feels like the inside of an armpit — except a cold drink. A chilled soda, the perfect iced tea, or a frosty beer, perhaps?

But as counterintuitive as it may sound, you may be better off reaching for the hot drink instead.

Why You Should Drink Hot Stuff, According to Science

In some cultures, drinking hot beverages no matter the temperature is the norm. In India, you can drink chai even in the hottest blazes of summer, while steaming maté can be found in the hands of Argentines no matter the season. And, it turns out, people in these parts of the world have the right idea, according to several recent studies.

When we feel hot, it’s because our bodies are at a temperature that is warmer than they prefer in order to keep all our physical and chemical processes working. So the hot parts send signals to the brain saying, “Hey, cool me off!” The body usually responds by sweating, which makes the skin feel cooler. When the sweat evaporates, it takes some of the body heat with it.

Hot drinks — and spicy foods, too — essentially trigger those signals to the brain. When something hot arrives in the stomach, the brain thinks, “I’m hot,” so the body compensates by sweating, which cools you down.

(Image credit: Chris Perez)

The Caveat: When Cold Is Better

But there’s a catch: This only works if there’s enough evaporation going on. In other words, if sweat is already dripping off you, telling your body you’re even hotter isn’t going to make much difference.

Under those conditions, a cold drink might be your best bet, after all. An icy beverage will lower your body temperature, reducing how much you sweat and prevent you from losing too many fluids.

The most important thing is really to drink enough fluids — hot or cold —something many of us tend to neglect during the summer months (or any months). Bottom line? Do what you gotta do to stay cool and hydrated, but don’t scoff at the person who orders a hot coffee instead of an iced one.

Do you drink hot coffee or iced in the summer? Share with us in the comments!