Summer heat is upon us, which means most of us are liable to significantly increase our consumption of cold drinks. But not just any drink. With the temperature rising, so do the sales of beer, juice, and soda across the globe. Summer months are some of the most significant for these drinks, particularly sodas. Among people looking for options to cool down on the go, soda bottles are the first choice for a massive part of them.
Part of that is advertising; there’s no doubt about that.
But there might just be a bit more science as to why we crave sparkling drinks like soda and beer in summer.
Why We Crave Beer, Juice, or Soda Instead of Water When It’s Hot?
From a strictly physiological perspective, the only drink we should be craving in summer is water. The science behind this physiological need is simple. Once the weather gets hotter, our bodies produce more sweat, and the more they produce, the more fluids they lose. Helping the body maintain optimal hydration levels means increasing our water intake to compensate for lost fluids.
The problem is that humans aren’t ruled by purely physiological needs. If we were, we would only ever consume healthy food and plain water to keep our bodies alive, with no regard to taste.
Hot weather influences our consumption patterns not just through physiological needs (i.e., we get thirsty more often) but through what is unofficially referred to as the “cravings channel.” In other words, once the heat starts to rise and we start craving more liquids, the liquids we desire are primarily the taste and feel of which we enjoy, not plain water.
If the drink you’ve been primarily using for your “summer cool-down” is beer, juice, or soda - that’s what you’ll be craving more of when the heat starts to rise.
The Science Behind Cooling Effect of Cold Liquids:
It may sound suspicious, but the cooling effect of cold liquids’ comes less from their temperature and more from their rehydration capabilities.
In fact, the cooling effect from a small amount of cold liquid will be pretty short-lived because internal organs will soon warm it up. A large amount of cold beverage may cause blood flow to slow and impede the body’s capability to transport heat.
And then there’s the fact that if the cold liquid you consume is highly caloric (i.e., juice, soda, or beer), your metabolism will likely kick in. The digestive process for breaking down calorie-rich foods generates additional heat and shortens the time the cooling effect from the drink lasts even further.
Yet, aside from their rehydration power, cold liquids have one potent weapon in their ammunition: we believe they cool us down. This psychological effect is often a lot stronger than the physical effects that the drinks have on us, especially if specific other characteristics align as well (including low-calorie content and what we’ll refer further down as “refreshing flavor”).
Do Sparkling Drinks Even Cool Us Down?
After what you’ve just read about the cooling effect of cold liquids, you might be skeptical about the cooling effect of sparkling drinks, but certain sparkling beverages do indeed cool us down (or at least trick us into it for longer than most other beverages).
First of all, it depends on the kind of sparkling beverage we’re talking about because not all are made equal.
When it comes to regular sparkling water, not only does it cool us down, but there might be a chance it cools us down better than plain water. Japanese researchers at Suntory Global Innovation Center conducted a small experiment comparing the cooling effects of plain water and sparkling waters. They measured the heart rates, core body temperatures, and skin temperature at the extremities of the subjects after the consumption of carbonated water and plain water. The experiment showed that both types of water had cooled the subjects’ body temperature, but sensory stimulation from sparkling water had additional temperature-decreasing effects. A much larger study is required for more definitive answers, but the initial findings have merit.
Flavored sparkling water may also have additional cooling effects, depending on how it’s been flavored. You might have noticed that refreshing effects from citrus-flavored beverages that aren’t overwhelmingly sweet can last longer. It’s due to sour drinks’ tendency to stimulate salivation. A dry mouth is a way for your body to let you know that it requires additional hydration. Sour tastes increase saliva production and give an illusion of continuous hydration even after you’ve finished your drink. Italians, for example, have long known about the refreshing effect of sour and bitter flavors and provide plenty of options. San Pellegrino sparkling water and fruit beverages come in various acidic flavors like lemon, blood orange, and grapefruit that utilize that refreshing effect.
This refreshing effect from high acidity can spread to other, sweeter sparkling drinks as well, like citrus-flavored sodas and lemonades. Surprisingly, this is also the secret behind Coca-Cola’s cooling effect. While Coca-Cola is super-high in sugar (and sweetness doesn’t have a refreshing impact), its pH levels are close to vinegar. Its high acidity levels offset high sugar contents and maintain the illusion of a refreshing effect.
Why People Prefer Sparkling Drinks to Water:
Another benefit of sparkling drinks over plain water is that many people find it more palatable and thus experience less trouble with consuming adequate amounts.
Research shows that the main reason is not aroma or flavor (though they matter) but the feeling. The sensation we get when drinking sparkling water is akin to the one we get from spicy food. It’s when pain receptors light up, reacting to carbon dioxide.
The trick is to stimulate the receptors to the right degree so that they react to discomfort caused by carbonation as pleasurable and not painful.
When the drink is carbonated correctly, it’s more pleasurable to consume than plain water because it stimulates the right receptors. That’s all there is to it.
(Also, it’s actually acid responsible for that sensation, and we already know that proper acidic levels induce refreshing sensations. That might also be why some people prefer sparkling drinks to plain water, even if the drinks aren’t flavored).
Why You Should Avoid Alcohol in Summer Heat:
There’s this stereotype that all Russians drink vodka. As most stereotypes go, it has been seriously exaggerated, but there’s undeniably a kernel of truth in there. A lot of Russians drink vodka, particularly in winter. Because vodka creates the illusion of warming up, and for some people, that’s the only way to warm up in brutal Russian winters
In reality, this is due to a process called vasodilation. Alcohol intake speeds up heart rate, and heart rate speeding up causes blood vessels close to the skin to widen. The blood flow through widened veins increases, making the skin feel warm and flushed for a short while.
Long term though? Alcohol cools you down. Since more blood rushes to the surface level, your core body temperature starts to drop. Additionally, the momentary flash of warmth may trigger sweat release, which cools you down further once that sweat evaporates.
So no wonder beer has become one of the summer staple drinks, right? It should all be good.
It’s not all good, especially when you consume more than a couple of cans of beer and don’t control your water intake.
Consuming alcohol in summer can be a hazard because it’s a diuretic. In the heat, when you’re already losing fluid through sweating at an increased amount, consuming something that forces you to lose even more fluids can quickly lead to dehydration and subsequent heatstroke, especially if you drink beer throughout the day as means to cool down.
There’s nothing wrong with carefully controlled beer intake, but you should definitely try to increase your water intake and maybe look for other alternatives.
One way to decrease beer intake is to train yourself to transition to non-alcoholic drinks, at least partially. Ramune Japanese soda can be an excellent transitory drink.
Ramune Japanese Soda: Gateway to Less Alcohol
If you already know what makes Ramune Japanese soda special, good for you. For those not in the know - Ramune contains alcohol. At about 4% alcohol content, Ramune Japanese soda is quite close to most beers (with an alcohol content of 4.5%-5%). But unlike beer, Ramune comes in a variety of flavors, most similar to other non-alcoholic sparkling drinks (though there are a few unique flavors like muscat grape, yuzu, and green tea).
For those who like the alcohol’s buzzy effect, switching from beer to Ramune should be more accessible than other sparkling drinks, not to mention plain water.
That said, consuming even low-alcohol drinks like Ramune in large quantities will have adverse effects, so use should be limited (and the final objective should be to at least partially switch to non-alcoholic drinks to cool down).
Why Italian Soda Might Be the Best Choice for Soda Lovers:
If you’re a dedicated soda drinker, then just the theoretical knowledge that it may not be the best drink for cooling down won’t be enough to reduce consumption. As we mentioned above, humans aren’t ruled by cold hard logic. Cravings lead us, and for many of us, heat exacerbates soda cravings because we’re used to consuming iced Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Mountain Dew when the temperature rises.
What we can do is search for alternatives that allow, if not entirely replace, at least cut down on the consumption by finding a suitable alternative. And Italian soda might just be that alternative. Firstly (and most importantly), it contains less sugar (and no alcohol), lessening the risk of dehydration. Secondly, it comes in a variety of flavors verging on the bitter side, thus amplifying the refreshing effect of the drink: blood orange, limonata, grapefruit, or chinotto soda flavors will provide that refreshing psychological effect that will make you feel cooled down for longer, simply because we’ve become conditioned to believe that acidic tastes are refreshing.
While Italian soda might not always quench your craving for Coca-Cola (we are, after all, psychologically attached to the brands we love), it can help you veer off cola.
It can also serve as a good transitory option between sweet sodas and more refreshing sparkling drinks, like the flavored sparkling water we mentioned earlier.
The Science Behind Hot Drink Trick (Does It Really Work Better?):
For a few years now, the popular theory has been that if you want to cool your body down, instead of tricking it into thinking it has cooled down, you should drink hot drinks in summer, not cold ones.
According to the scientists, the truth is a bit less straightforward.
Drinking hot drinks can cool down your body temperature - but only in very specific circumstances. Again, the trick has to do with the body’s thermoregulatory capacities.
Here’s how it works: if you drink a beverage that is hotter than your body temperature, you’ll be adding heat to your body during the consumption, making you hot. But it will also force your body to disproportionally increase the amount of sweat it produces. Once all that extra sweat evaporates, your body will cool down, and more sweat means more cooling, which overcompensates for the heat you ingested with the drink.
But that sweat must evaporate fast for your body to cool down to a comfortable temperature. If you sweat so much that it starts dripping to the ground instead of evaporating, your body won’t be able to utilize the sweat for a cooling effect. It won’t work in high humidity or if you’re wearing clothes that cover most of your skin and absorb sweat instead of letting it evaporate.
In other words, there’s a reason why countries like Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan, etc., have a longstanding tradition of serving hot tea in small glasses in summer, but it’s not a thing on, say, the US East Coast. It’s a trick that works in moderation in dry climates.
So What Should You Drink on Hot Summer Days for Best Cooling Effect?
As we’ve established in this article, to get the most cooling effect out of your drink, you need it to serve three purposes:
- Salivation stimulation;
- Psychological satisfaction.
In other words, you need to choose a drink that will hydrate your body to ensure it doesn’t lose more fluids than it takes in during the day while sweating, prolongs the impression of proper hydration for you to feel refreshed, and last, but certainly not least, convinces your mind that you’ve cooled down.
As the beer and coffee study we mentioned earlier shows, how the drinks make you feel is not less important than the physical effect, they have on your body. In other words, hot tea may have a cooling effect on your body, but if it doesn’t make you feel refreshed, there’s a high possibility you won’t feel like you’ve had a refreshing drink that has made it easier to deal with the heat. That’s why we crave beer in the first place, despite alcohol having dehydrating effects instead of hydrating the body.
As mentioned above, good old plain and sparkling water are the best choices for summer drinks because they have a strong hydrating and refreshing effect. If you’re one of those people who can’t stand plain water taste, flavored sparkling drinks can be an optimal alternative, as long as you’re smart about your choices.
Italian soda can also be a good choice for dealing with the summer heat. Particularly the citrusy (blood orange, lemon, chinotto soda) flavors that verge on the bitter side: Italian soda also contains no alcohol and less sugar than classic American sodas, lessening dehydration. Suppose you feel like you can’t give up classic cola taste. In that case, Galvanina’s Italian cola should work as a substitute (but it would be better if you slowly start transitioning to more bitter soda flavors first and move to flavored sparkling water with time.
Yummy Bazaar hosts a large selection of sparkling drinks, including sodas, lemonade, ginger ales, flavored sparkling water, etc., if you wish to experience the cooling effect they have yourself.