I sat across the table at the Walla Walla Steak Co as the server brought out 34 ounces of bone-in prime ribeye, carved tableside – the “Hatchet” they call it. My friend Bryden started to carve in, overzealous with joy. However his pace began to dramatically slow, his heart rate increasing with every bite. His forehead started to glisten, and his eyes slowly raised.
Sweating profusely, he looked at me and said, “Oh man, I’ve got the meat sweats.”
The meat sweats are a phenomenon caused by the thermic effect of protein.
Contrary to popular belief, exercising isn’t the only way to burn calories.
Some of the calories you eat are used to digest, absorb, metabolize, and store food, while other calories are burned off as heat. This process is known by several different names including diet induced thermogenesis (DIT), specific dynamic action (SDA), and the thermic effect of food (TEF).
Your body converts the food you eat, or calories into units of energy, effectively burning calories. This is done through metabolism and a process called thermogenesis. In the human body, energy equals heat. The more energy you’re expending, the more heat you are producing. To cool your body down, your body sweats.
The “meat sweats” are thought to be instigated by eating a copious amount of animal protein. Diet induced thermogenesis (DIT) or the thermic effect of food (TEF) is essentially the energy “cost” it takes to breakdown your food, digest it, and convert that energy into fuel.
Different foods and macronutrients require energy to break down and digest. Carbohydrates for example are broken down very quickly, meaning that your body does not require much energy to digest them. Protein is far more complex and requires 20-30% more energy to break down, expending more energy and producing more heat.
Thus, it is possible that your body will require more energy to break down large portions of meat, and there by, require your body to perspire in order to cool itself down – and there you have it, the phenomenon otherwise known as the meat sweats.
The easiest way to avoid the meat sweats, is to simply not eat a substantial amount of animal protein in a single sitting. Eating smaller portions can help reduce the amount of food you have to metabolize and digest, therefore, limiting the amount of heat you produce, from converting food into energy.
If you are a meat lover like me, a way to help dampen the effects if you will, is by drinking more water and staying hydrated. Water improves digestion and metabolism. More water will effectively help you move through the protein faster.
Plant lovers and vegans, just because you don’t eat meat, does not mean you’re safe from the meat sweats. Yeah, sorry. A study found in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition found that protein rich foods, have the same effect on thermogenesis. The study found that your body uses more energy to break down animal protein, nonetheless, it still takes significantly more energy to break down protein, regardless of the source. So, you might not eat meat, but you can still get the soy sweats [R].
If you get the meat sweats, besides some minor embarrassment on a first date, or the great stories your friends will have about you, meat sweats are… no sweat. Keep on keeping on meat lovers and impossible burger stuffers.
While the cumulative effect of the thermic effect of protein on total daily expenditure is small, it still contributes to burning more total calories and supporting your weight loss goals.
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