Cooling down after exercise, especially in the summer heat, is an important part of recovery. What is the best way to do it – do you go for an ice cold drink or one that’s very warm? Does consuming hot beverages in warm weather have counterintuitive cooling capabilities? What about during and after exercise? It’s late afternoon, you still have to work out, and you’re really craving that large coffee or tea. However, it’s the middle of summer; so do you get it iced or hot? A hot beverage could actually cool you down – here’s how it works.
HOW A HOT DRINK CAN COOL YOU DOWN Here’s what happens when you consume a hot drink on a hot day: • Your core temperature initially rises (you are adding heat to your body) • The sensors in your mouth, throat, and digestive tract send a signal to your brain to produce more sweat • This increase in perspiration is the key to cooling you down While lots of sweating may feel uncomfortable or seem undesirable, sweat is beneficial and helps cool you down when the sweat evaporates from your skin. Keep in mind: For this cooling effect to take place, you need to be in an environment where the sweat can evaporate. Does this mean that in hot and humid conditions, when sweat evaporation is limited, you should drink cold drinks? Not so fast. Let’s take a look at how drinks affect temperature after exercising in different weather conditions. STAYING COOL DURING EXERCISE A study compared body temperature after exercising for people who were drinking either a warm drink or a cold drink during exercise. It showed that drinking a 50˚C drink, which is even cooler than the temperature of the usual takeaway hot drinks, reduces the overall body heat storage more than drinking cold drinks. And what happens if you drink a cold drink? EFFECT OF COLD WATER ON THE BODY DURING AND AFTER EXERCISE Drinking cold water or ingesting ice after exercise can shock the organs and doesn’t help the body with its natural cooling process. What happens when you drink a cold drink during exercise? • During exercise your internal body heat moves to your body’s surface, while your inner temperature actually decreases. • Ingesting too much cold food or drink will cause the blood vessels to tighten (restrict blood flow) and make the body retain heat. This will make you feel warmer, not cooler. So, what is the best choice of drink depending on the weather? GUIDELINES ON HOW TO STAY COOL WHEN EXERCISING IN WARM WEATHER 1. IS THE WEATHER HOT AND HUMID? • Yes, then stick with room temperature drinks • No, go for the hot drink to increase your sweat rate and help cool you down
2. ARE ICE AND COLD WATER AVAILABLE? • Pour cold water over your head and shoulders • Wrap a wet, cold towel around your neck and/or wrists • Rub ice on the inside of your wrists
TAKEAWAY Drinking hot beverages to cool down has been conventional wisdom in many societies for centuries. Many of the largest tea drinking societies are located in warm climates. Science has shown that it does in fact work. So if you’re heading out into dry heat for that run or workout, go for the hot drink to cool yourself down. Just be prepared to sweat!