Eating before drinking is believed to be one of the best ways to avoid getting so drunk that you become the subject of a Lit song. But what and how much should you eat before boozing? First, it’s important to understand how a belly full of food can help prevent you from getting too drunk in the first place.
“Alcohol is absorbed into the body primarily through the small intestine,” explains George Koob, director of the American National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “How quickly alcohol gets into the body depends on the rate of gastric emptying, or the movement of stomach contents into the small intestine. Having food in the stomach while drinking slows the emptying of alcohol into the small intestine, which slows the absorption of alcohol into the body and reduces the peak blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
“Because a small amount of alcohol is metabolised in the stomach, slower gastric emptying also allows more time for alcohol to be metabolised before making it into the body. Evidence suggests that alcohol is also cleared from the body more quickly when consumed with a meal. For all of these reasons, it’s a good idea to eat while drinking.”
Koob warns, however, that eating won’t make you completely immune to overdoing it. “While having a meal could reduce the peak BAC, the only way to avoid becoming too intoxicated is to limit alcohol intake,” he emphasises, in advice I will absolutely 100 percent definitely totally follow next time I go out, pinky swear, hand on heart, for realsies this time.
Now back to our first question: Which foods are best consumed before drinking to provide a protective base against the incoming onslaught of tequila shots? “Research suggests that drinking alcohol after eating a meal, regardless of the nutritional composition, results in slower alcohol absorption and lower peak blood alcohol levels,” Koob explains. “While some nutrients, such as fats, might slow gastric emptying more than others, the important thing is simply to eat while drinking. The presence of food is more important than the specific type of food.”
In other words, anything goes. But since Koob mentioned that fats are a good choice, consider opting for fish (or sushi), which usually contain a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Alternatively, as we learned a while back, soup and an avocado-filled omelette are surprisingly good at negating the unwanted effects of alcohol (avocados in particular contain high levels of healthy fats).
As for the question regarding how much food we should eat before boozing, the answer is equally vague. “A typical meal would suffice,” says Koob. “But having any solid food in the stomach would probably be better than nothing.” In other words, your best bet is to eat a real meal—one with some protein, carbs and veggies—rather than a small bag of chips (although even that would help more than nothing).
So there you have it—there’s really no set amount of food when it comes to preparing for a wild night out, but if you want to be prepared for the worst, just try to eat something that could actually be considered a meal. Got it? Good.