Tailgates are all fun and games until it's barely 40 degrees and your university sweatshirt isn't doing anything to fight the wind chill. Trust me, I've been there. And all I could think about was getting warm somehow instead of having a good time.
Turns out that drinking alcohol when you're cold does not have the effect that many of us thought it did. Even though it may feel like you're getting warmer, in reality you're lowering your body temperature by drinking.
Here are the three main reasons you probably should pass on the apple cider jello shots the next time you're partying in the cold.
1. Blood Flow
When you're cold, your internal temperature decreases. To keep that core temperature up, your blood usually starts moving away from your skin and inwards towards your organs where its heat is needed. But when you drink alcohol, your blood vessels dilate and move the circulation towards your skin instead. This current of warm blood triggers the heat-sensitive nerves near your skin and that's why you may temporarily "feel" warmer while drinking.
However, this also means that the body's natural process of staying warm is being reversed, so your poor organs are getting cold and neglected.
Biology 101 refresher: your blood vessels also dilate during physical activity, and it doesn't just make you feel warmer, but also leads to sweating. Perspiring is your body's way of releasing heat to cool you down. But when your blood vessels are dilating, your body can't tell if it's because you've been enjoying too much spiked hot chocolate or partaking in Crossfit training for an hour.
Either way, the dilation means you'll most likely start sweating. And if you happen to be outside in the cold when it happens, you'll be losing the internal heat that your body should be retaining in chillier weather conditions.
The Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine did a study where they discovered that alcohol gets in the way of the body's ability to shiver. We shiver because our brain has recognized that we're cold and sends that message to our muscle cells. The cells start working harder to help us generate body heat, causing this super quick muscle movement. But drinking alcohol reverses this reflex as well.
So if it wasn't clear yet, these effects of alcohol leave you practically defenseless to the cold weather. Rather than risk potential hypothermia, put down the cheap beer, and maybe try to raise your body temperature with these foods instead.