How much does hot drink on a cold day help?

How much does hot drink on a cold day help?

The temptation to sip a hot cappuccino or tea when the mercury drops seems almost universal. But does it actually raise your body temperature if you pour a steaming beverage into your mouth, or does it just feel that way?

An expert, Alan Hedge, director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory at Cornell University, in frigid Ithaca, NY, explains why a cup of joe may not be ideal for freezing days and what the Mongols drank to survive winter invasions.

Core concepts

The body is armed with two ways to respond to the cold, says Dr. Hedge, who teaches at Cornell’s Department of Design and Environmental Analysis. One is the concentration of the organs in the torso, which the brain works hard to maintain around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When a person feels cold, the brain will tell the body to shake, thus generating heat.

The vascular system can also move warm blood to what Dr. Hedge calls the body’s shell, such as the skin and limbs. “The shell can handle a wider temperature range than the core, and goes all the way from being frozen to being burned,” he says.

Most of the time, people are warmer than their ambient temperatures, which emit heat to the environment. In colder weather, chills generate body heat, which is primarily delivered to the core and sacrifices heat to the toes and fingers.

But if you sip a beverage that is hotter than your core temperature, you can feel the heat move through your body, the professor says. As long as that drink is between about 98.6 and 115 degrees (which can burn), the body should feel warmer by about 2.6 degrees, according to a study.

Another small study showed that participants who kept a hot drink in a cup judged that a target person had a more generous, caring personality than the participants who kept a cold drink, suggesting that feeling hotter can make a person act hotter.

Beware of caffeine

Although coffee or black tea is the typical go-to for many winter-bound Americans, the caffeine in them is a diuretic, “which will encourage you to urinate, which is another way to lose heat because that liquid is much warmer than environment, ”says Dr. Hedge.

He also does not recommend alcoholic beverages as hot toddies. Alcohol, another diuretic, can dilate blood vessels and create a warming sensation. “But those blood vessels take blood from the extremities,” he says. He points to alcohol as a major contributor to the approximately 1,000 annual deaths in the United States due to hypothermia.

The Milky Way

If it is very cold outside, a thermos filled with a hot, decaffeinated beverage such as herbal tea or even water will help keep your body temperature at a comfortable level. Dr. However, Hedge says these drinks do not offer calories to generate even more heat.

He says the ideal liquid to combat winter chills is a hot, milky beverage like hot cocoa or a decaffeinated latte: “The calories that are most quickly converted to heat come from fat,” he says. He points to people living in the Himalayas who drink a hot beverage made from yak butter during the long winter, and even to Mongolia during the reign of Genghis Khan.

“The Mongols drank fresh, warm mare’s milk, which gave them the ability to have a sustained, high-calorie, high-calorie diet that kept them warm,” says Dr. Hedge.

For those who can not tolerate dairy drinks, stick to something between 98.6 and 115 degrees without caffeine. “Try chamomile, and hopefully your core stays warm,” says Dr. Hedge. Or just put on another sweater.

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