Is it Better to Drink Alcohol on an Empty Stomach?

It’s an age-old rule about drinking alcohol, and one that most people have broken: Always fill up on foods dense in proteins, fats, and rich carbohydrates before drinking, that is if you want to feel less buzzed and delay the effects of the alcohol.

Every college and scientific article about blood alcohol concentration (BAC) will tell you that it’s bad to drink on an empty stomach because you’ll get drunk faster. When you drink in the normal social setting, the highest BAC is usually achieved about 30 minutes after your last drink. However, when you eat a large meal with the drinks, it could take up to two hours to fully absorb the alcohol.

WHAT DOES BAC MEAN?

BAC refers to the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream. It’s quickly absorbed through the walls of the stomach and small intestine, then it goes into the bloodstream where it travels through the body and to the brain.

Does it make a difference if you’re drinking a light beer or vodka? No! Alcohol is alcohol, it doesn’t matter what type, but the alcohol concentration of the drink does matter. Meaning, the strength of the drink or the alcohol volume will have a direct impact on how fast BAC rises. One shot of vodka (40% alcohol) or tequila will hit you faster than a beer with 4.5% alcohol simply because the alcohol content is higher.

Since we’re talking about alcohol being absorbed through the stomach and small intestine, it makes sense why food would slow down the absorption of alcohol, thereby slowing down the rise in BAC.

WHY PEOPLE DRINK ON AN EMPTY STOMACH

When someone drinks on an empty stomach, they’re likely to attain the same level of euphoria after two drinks that they would have after four drinks and a full meal. Makes sense why people opt to drink on an empty stomach, since it’s cheaper and they get drunk faster. The alternative: drink on a full stomach and gradually ascend into tipsiness.

Many people know they can control that euphoric feeling, so they will save the food for later. The trick is that if they happen to be planning on driving home, that meal might be coming too late because their BAC has already shot through the roof. Having a meal before drinking just might keep one from climbing over the legal BAC limit of .08%.

If you’re planning on drinking, your safest bet is having a nondrinker drive you home since it can be hard to accurately guess your BAC, with or without food in your stomach.

Related: Are Women More Affected By Alcohol Than Men?

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