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What Does It Mean to Be 'Meat Drunk'? Daniel Vaughn Explains

If anyone knows about meat intoxication first-hand, it'd be the Texas Monthly barbecue editor.

A 2.5 pound beef rib will definitely get you meat drunk.
A 2.5 pound beef rib will definitely get you meat drunk.
Robert Strickland/Eater National

Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn probably eats more smoked meats in one week of traveling the state than many people do in a lifetime. An enviable career tract, surely, but not one without its own set of unique dangers: Besides being pestered by strangers concerned for his cholesterol levels, Vaughn also knows a thing or two about getting meat drunk.

In a piece for September's Modern Farmer that was reposted on TMBBQ this week, Vaughn explains the phenomenon thusly:

You're experiencing a rapid heartbeat, flush cheeks, and a sweaty brow. All are symptoms of overindulgence, but not of the alcoholic kind. Rather than an elevated BAC, the cause might be a high that even a teetotaler can get. You're getting meat drunk. ... That's what can happen after a big steak dinner, an ill-advised 10×10 at In-N-Out Burger, or that second turkey leg at a holiday meal. Your body begins to react in ways not associated with normal levels of food consumption. Besides feeling full, you might feel a rush of blood to the head or even suffer from the meat sweats. While the meat sweats haven't received much attention from the medical community, my bald brow can attest to their existence.

Vaughn quotes a neuroscientist as saying that "high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do," which could certainly be one reason for the so-called meat drunkenness phenomena. Additionally, excessive meat consumption can also result in a rapid blood sugar drop, which could certainly account for some of that light-headedness you feel after pounding a couple beef ribs: "Basically, after a few pounds of brisket your body freaks out and starts over-producing insulin to process the extra food load," he says, backing his theory up with an NPR story on overeating.

So what's the moral of the story here? Vaughn concludes with the old "everything in moderation" adage, which is always good advice — but maybe bringing a vegetarian friend along to your next barbecue feast to serve as designated driver wouldn't be the worst idea.

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