Whether or not you’ve experienced the phenomenon, you’ve likely heard someone refer to the “meat sweats.”
According to the internet (and Joey Tribiani from Friends) eating a particularly meaty meal can induce excessive sweating. But is this an urban legend—or should you double up on deodorant before your next burger?
What Causes Meat Sweats?
The meat sweats are, in fact, a real thing—probably. While there hasn’t been any definitive research into the topic, there’s one strongly supported theory: Diet-induced thermogenesis, or the thermic effect of food, is likely to thank for our post-feast clamminess.
Let’s break this down:
Your metabolism converts food to energy. Your basal metabolic rate is the amount of energy your body needs to function at rest. Your body needs to use more energy when it is active. That’s why your metabolic rate gets higher when you’re doing something that requires a lot of movement, like running or playing sports. This is also the reason you tend to sweat and feel hot when you exercise—the more energy that’s being used, the more your body will heat up.
But movement isn’t the only thing that causes your metabolic rate to rise: Don’t forget that your body needs energy to digest food, too.
Usually, you won’t notice this effect. Sometimes, though, the food you eat causes a more significant temperature increase.
Research suggests that breaking down protein requires your body to use 20-30% more energy than it does when breaking down carbohydrates. Further, it may take even more energy to digest animal-based proteins than plant-based proteins.
It makes sense, then, that consuming a lot of meat would cause your body to heat to a higher temperature than consuming a lot of salad.
Should You Be Concerned?
Most of the time, meat sweats are nothing to worry about. A slight temperature rise is your body’s way of breaking down the nutrients it needs to survive.
However, that’s not always the case. If you’re having meat sweats often, you should talk to your doctor about:
- A food allergy. While sweating isn’t a symptom of a food allergy, certain symptoms of an allergic reaction could cause you to sweat. For instance, constriction and tightening of the airways could cause you to struggle for breath—this would use energy, which could cause your temperature to rise.
- A food intolerance. Likewise, sweating isn’t a symptom of a food intolerance. However, certain uncomfortable symptoms could theoretically cause you stress, which could cause a rise in temperature.
- Overconsumption of meat. If you’re eating so much meat that you’re excessively sweating on a regular basis, you may need to talk to your doctor about a diet change. Your body needs a wide variety of foods to function properly, and too much of anything can be harmful.
How to Prevent Meat Sweats
If you’re prone to sweating after you’ve overindulged in meat, there’s really only one thing you can do about it: Eat less meat.
If you limit your meat consumption and still experience excessive sweating after meals, you might have something else going on—talk to your doctor ASAP.