Cool Down in the Summer • What’s Better — Cold or Hot Drinks?

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 a hot one?

Does consuming hot beverages in warm weather really cool you down? What about during and after exercise?

How a hot drink can be refreshing

It’s late afternoon, you want to do another workout, and you’re really craving that large coffee or tea.
However, it’s the middle of summer; so do you get iced coffee or tea instead?

A hot beverage could actually cool you down — here’s how it works:

  • 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.

green tea

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 doesn’t evaporate so easily, you should opt for a cold drink?

Not so fast.

Let’s take a look at how drinks affect temperature after exercising in different weather conditions.

How to Stay 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.(1)

And what happens if you drink a cold drink?

cold drink

Effect of cold water on the body during & 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 in hot weather?

Is it hot and humid outside?

  • Yes: your drinks should be room temperature. 
  • No: drink something hot so you sweat more and cool off.

Don’t forget:

Hot or cold — what matters most is that you stay hydrated. Watch out for these signs of dehydration and find out how much liquid you need per day and what are the healthiest drink choices to help you stay hydrated.

Takeaway

Many countries with the highest number of tea drinkers are in warm regions.
Drinking hot beverages to cool down has been conventional wisdom in many societies for centuries. And 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!

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Jen Rhines Jen is one of the best female runners in the world – she has participated in the Olympic Games three times. "I can't imagine a life without running," says the running and health coach. View all posts by Jen Rhines »