Take a steakation
Admittedly, I was hesitant to go on a self-imposed Steakcation for the name of science. I blame it on my frugal spending habits and recent decision to give up eating pork because pigs remind me too much of my dog. However, as the opportunity gained traction and grew some legs, I let my love of fine grocery store steaks do the talking and take control of my editorial decisions. In an effort to understand and experience the meat sweats, I ate three pounds of steak in roughly 12 hours and learned a lot about myself in the process. Do I regret taking my body for an all-expenses paid trip to Meatville or did I enjoy every minute of it? No spoilers, but I freakin’ loved it. Ok, I guess that was technically a spoiler.
STEAKING MY CLAIM
Milling through my local Key Foods, I grew worried that I wouldn’t be able to find the tasty medium between Peter Luger cuts of steak and the kind of Grade Z shit they serve at high schools across America. So, you could imagine my surprise (and delight) when I came across two backs of NY strip steak priced at around eight dollars each. Obviously, I don’t consider myself a meat connoisseur by any means, but I feel alright about my abilities to judge a food based on how it looks uncooked. From what I could tell about my two 1.78 oz. slices of meat, I had a lot to look forward in the next 12 hours.
The deal was to eat as much steak as I could “and track how much you eat and how much you sweat from meat,” according to my editor. I figured one steak per meal—prepared almost identically—would fuel the fire of meaty science. But before I was to cook my food, I had to seek out the expert advice of a nutritionist to see what exactly I was getting myself into and if I would even experience the kind of sweats I was expecting.
“Ok, so what exactly are the meat sweats?” starts NYC-based Registered Dietitian, Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD. “Some people attribute this to the thermic effect of protein. In simple terms, this mean the amount of energy and heat your body needs to break down protein. The body breaks down carbs pretty easily, but it takes more energy to metabolize protein. Therefore, some will experience an increase in core temperature and start to sweat.”
I laid out my plan, step-by-step, to Dr. Rizzo and told her the goal of my journey was to see how I personally respond to a hot meat injection.
“[This] all really depends on how your body reacts and processes the meat. Everyone is different and people have different metabolic rates. For some, meat sweats may actually be real, and others may metabolize protein without any heat generation or sweat.”
As I cooked steak #1—which I affectionately named “steakfast,” I tried to think back to times I had sweat specifically from an overdose of meat. Several examples came to mind. The most glaring memory was when I went on an all-inclusive trip to Colorado’s own Mesa Verde National Park with my family. It’s a fascinating place that showcases the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings—they also have an on-site restaurant featuring a “contemporary menu inspired by regional heritage foods and flavorings.” What does this heritage food consist of? A metric fuck-ton of meat: Braised short rib, cider-brined pork chop, pan-seared steelhead trout, Korean BBQ New York strip, and your classic short rib and cheese tortellini. Being 17 at the time, I welcomed this treasure trove into my stomach and made it a point to try something new every night—and every meal. It was after my second Korean BBQ New York strip lunch that I noticed a distinct film of sweat covering my head. Thinking I was catching a cold, I turned to brother and noticed the same film on his face. The meat sweats. No big deal, right?
As I finished my one-pound breakfast steak, I scoffed at the doctor’s words and packed up steak #2 for lunch.
With part of the deal being I couldn’t eat ANYTHING but steak, I found myself growing very hungry very early in the day and actually ended up sneaking a couple bites of my lunch steaks before noon. Maybe it’s because my love for steak can overcome any obstacle—including normal physical bodily reactions—or maybe it’s because my office is kept at a chilly 50 degrees fahrenheit, but I experienced zero meat sweats as I stuck my last piece of meat down my talk hole. Dinner, however, provided the answer to the hypothesis I sought to prove.
MEET THE SWEATS!
I will go and say that it was a very hot day that turned into an especially balmy night. With my apartment nestled on the third floor of my building, it takes quite a while for even my small living room to cool down. Add a hot oven in the mix and you’re playing with fire, baby! With my first two steaks, I tried to follow in the footsteps of the kinds of salty chefs you see on food shows and sauteed the meat on a burning hot stove with salt and butter. For my dinner steak, I decided to quickly sear my NY strip and stick it in an oven. At this point, I’d already gotten bored of meat and needed to find some kind of deviation in my routine.
Sitting down in front of my favorite show, Naked and Afraid, I felt fortunate to have such a generous bounty on my plate and gobbled it up accordingly. Now, here’s where the interesting part comes in: While I was warm previous to eating, I didn’t start sweating until about three minutes after gobbling up that last piece of meat. It was the very same thin salty film that had covered my face and chest all those years ago in Mesa Verde.
Now obviously, there was very little actual science involved in the experiment since I’d have to set up control meals and experimental steaks for a year to accurately test the difference blah blah blah. Still, what I set out to prove—the idea that eating an ass-ton of meat would give me the meat-sweats—was proven.
“I wouldn’t recommend tons of red meat in a day,” adds Dr. Rizzo, citing the high content of saturated fat and the fact that all this meat is likely replacing more healthy foods like fruits and vegetables; ya know, non-meat stuff.
“If someone REALLY wanted to eat a diet heavy in meat, I would probably suggest adding in some chicken and fish to get some leaner protein choices.” As I’ve always said, fish don’t have feelings and chicken is for Commies! Thank you, steak, for showing me the limitations of my fantastic human body.