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The Meat Sweats, Defined

Are they even a real thing? And if so, why are they so sweaty?

The hallmark of every summer three-day weekend is link after link of encased meat. Or if not link after link of encased meat, piles of fatty red meat. Or if not piles of fatty red meat, stacks of white meat (aka chicken) and the other white meat (aka pork). Or a giant table full of everything listed above.

But that’s the American tradition, and one we’re happy to uphold — as long as we get to take a nap afterward.

With all that meaty indulgence, however, comes the phenomenon known as the “meat sweats,” an experience defined by Urban Dictionary as “an intense build up of perspiration as a result of the excess consumption of meat or meat-related products.” Which, yeah, pretty much sums it up. But could this fine sheen of forehead simply be the summer sun playing tricks on us?

We decided to get to the bottom of this greasy mystery.

So… Are They Real?

To date, science has yet to prove the existence of the meat sweats. But according to nutritionist and personal trainer Sean Salazar, there are three prevailing theories as to what may be causing them:

  1. “Because the food that’s generally being served is fresh-off-the-grill hot, that could explain why eating so much of it would cause you to sweat. It’s the same thing that might happen if you were eating bowl after bowl of hot soup.”
  2. “Because protein is fairly difficult for the body to break down, the body is literally working to do so, causing you to perspire.”
  3. “Because meat is high in sodium, it increases water retention. Sweating is one thing our body does to excrete this water, hence, the meat sweats.”

When asked whether or not he believes any of these theories, Salazar says that enough people have asked him about the meat sweats that he does believe they’re a real occurrence. But he also admits that since everyone who has asked him about them has, without exception, been an overweight male, there may be a simpler explanation for all that sweat.

Assuming They Are Real, How Do You Get Rid of Them?

For Salazar, the only answer is to eat less meat, plain and simple. “A normal portion of protein for an average person trying to maintain their weight should be between 4 to 10 ounces,” he says. “If they stuck to this amount, they would avoid the possibility of getting the meat sweats.” Yet another reminder that we’re all eating way too much protein.

Where Did the Term Come From, Anyway?

Most people first heard of the meat sweats on an episode of Friends, which aired on November 22, 2001:

Since then, there have been countless memes, jokes and even a Progressive commercial mentioning them. But where did they start? In the course of our investigation, several sources led us back to the same man as the potential progenitor of the phrase: Daytime TV writer David Kreizman.

Kreizman, the co-creator of Peabody-winning podcast The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel, is, despite his tremendous contribution to the American lexicon, a humble guy. “I can’t be sure, but it’s possible that the term ‘meat sweats’ did come from me,” he says. It all started, apparently, in college, as a running gag between Kreizman and his friends when they observed the phenomenon among themselves.

“From me, it entered the world of competitive eating,” says Kreizman. Back in the late 1990s, he was friends with George Shea, who ran the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island. “I’d spoken to him about the meat sweats, and he used the term during his commentary of the competition around 1998 — he attributed it to me on ESPN.”

Kreizman admits it’s possible that the Friends writers independently thought up the phrase, but it seems pretty likely that the New York-centric show’s writers might have absorbed it from watching the Coney Island contest and remembered it. After all, the years seem too close for it to be coincidence.

Meanwhile, Kreizman, who wholly believes the meat sweats are real, is amazed by how often the phrase comes up, and how interested people are in the idea that he created it. “This is going to be on my headstone,” he says. “Forget the Peabody, it’ll say, ‘possibly coined the term meat sweats.’”