The Meat Sweats
Are Real

Turns out, protein is the hardest macronutrient to digest

Joey on Friends having the meat sweats
Joey on Friends having the meat sweats

We’re heading into a season surrounded by good, indulgent food. First comes Thanksgiving and all the leftovers. That’s followed by a heap of cookie-swaps and various holiday feasts. It eventually finishes with the Super Bowl. Seriously, this is a gluttonous time.

Anyone who plans on packing away as much poultry as humanly possible next week should just be prepared for a case of the meat sweats. You know what I’m talking about.

Have you ever gobbled up a big ol’ burger or a great steak, only to find yourself a little groggy and sweating after the meal? Slightly embarrassing and uncomfortable, this variation on the food coma is known as the meat sweats.

While there isn’t a clear scientific explanation as to why meat sweats happen, they are real. One theory is that has to do with something called the thermic effect of food, which a doctor explained to Insider as anytime your body digests something you eat, it burns calories, which can raise your body temperature. Therefore, “the theory is that if a person was to eat very large quantities of meat in one sitting it would require a lot more energy to break it down, therefore creating more heat and possibly leading to sweating.”

And it just so happens that protein is the hardest macronutrient to digest. In fact, a 2004 scientific review found that high-protein diets increased body temperature more than diets lower in protein.

Food & Wine spoke with some culinary experts to get their professional opinion on how to handle the sweats. “You just need to pass out and sweat it out,” said one charcuterie expert. “It’s a meat hangover.” But another suggested going outside. “Just a little bit of walking pre- and post-binge eating can jumpstart the metabolism to help aid in digestion.” Remember that alcohol increases the thermogenic effect of the meal, so the more you drink, the more likely you’ll suffer the sweats.

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Turkey illustration

Space Out Your Servings

Still hungry? Nutritionists suggest waiting at least two hours before digging into the leftovers to give your body time to digest. This is better for your body than pounding an extremely large serving in one sitting.

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