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Is Drinking on an Empty Stomach Bad?

Drinking on an Empty Stomach

One timeless piece of wisdom about drinking is that one should never drink on an empty stomach. Drinking on an empty stomach, common lore suggests, causes one to get intoxicated at a much faster rate and increases the likelihood of experiencing alcohol related nausea and vomiting. But what does science say?

Food and Alcohol Metabolism

Studies on the effects of food on alcohol absorption have found that there is truth to this claim. Namely, ingesting food before drinking doesn’t just slow the rate of alcohol absorption into the bloodstream, but also lowers the peak concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream. [1]

These results have been backed up by more studies. In 1994 Swedish researchers found that eating even a modest meal before consuming alcohol not only slowed the rate of intoxication, but also reduced peak BAC by 30%. [2] Yet another study found that food also helps you sober up quicker. Having consumed food increased the rate of elimination of alcohol from the bloodstream of subjects by about 25%. [3]

Researchers have stated that this occurs because having food in the stomach slows the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.

Chances of Nausea

Research has clearly established that eating before you drink will lead to lower levels of intoxication than drinking on an empty stomach, but nowhere has research shown that drinking on an empty stomach increases the likelihood of nausea and vomiting. If these side effects really are more common when one drinks on an empty stomach, they are likely caused by people getting drunker than they intended, not because food makes the stomach any more resistant to alcohol’s side effects.

Bottom Line

Drinking on an empty stomach will make you get drunk faster, and will cause to be be drunker overall than you would be if you ate first. If you account for this when determining how much you’ll drink. there is no research to suggesting that it will make you any more likely to get sick.

Cited Studies

  1. Food effects on absorption and metabolism of alcohol
  2. The Claim: Never Drink on an Empty Stomach
  3. Effect of food and food composition on alcohol elimination rates in healthy men and women.

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