The Truth About Meat Sweats

It should have been called "The One with The Meat Sweats" — the Friends episode where Joey breaks out in a sweat after eating most (all?) of a Thanksgiving turkey... but he's not queasy enough to pass up Monica's pie. And while most of us had more than reason to doubt that meat sweats were a thing (because it is Joey, after all), it turns out that he may have been right — all we needed to do was more research on metabolism and how it works.

It's a medical fact that the process of digestion burns energy. A 2009 review on the digestive process shows that the average metabolic rate for a human increases at an average of 25 percent during and after a meal (via US National Library of Medicine). Another body of research shows that your body actually burns more calories as it digests animal protein than it does when it works through carbohydrates or soy protein. In a study reported by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, subjects burned more calories over a 24-hour period after they ate pork than they did after eating a meal of soy protein or carbohydrates.

But is digesting meat such a complicated process that it can actually make a person break into a sweat?

There is a case to be made for meat sweats

We can't really blame our bodies for breaking into a sweat when it has to digest a massive meat-heavy meal.

"Proteins are extremely complex molecules and require a lot more energy than fats or carbohydrates to metabolize," says Keya Mukherjee, a Texas A&M University graduate student who studies carbohydrate metabolism. "If you're eating a lot of protein in your diet and you're not eating much of anything else, your body will be producing a lot of energy and a lot of heat. Of course, this could result in sweating." This means that in order to metabolize a meat-heavy meal, your body will have to come up with different enzymes, and producing those enzymes makes your system work a bit harder.

Mukherjee says even the texture of animal protein makes it a challenge for your body to work through, saying, "Given the toughness of meat and its complexity, it needs to be chewed quite a bit before swallowing it."

While Joey and his meat sweats sound like a fast-track way to lose weight because you're eating your meat and having it too, having the meat sweats (or what Dr. Weil refers to as "gustatory sweating") could be a sign that your body could also be dealing with a medical condition. If having your favorite steak meal makes you break out into sweat regularly, it may be time to see your doctor.