Should You Go for Calories or Bulk When Eating to Sober Up?

The bad news is, eating a giant, greasy meal isn’t going to save your intoxicated self.

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Hey, you big drunk dummy. Are you reading this after your eighth post-midnight tequila shot, wondering by what grace of God you’ll be able to sober up enough to make it to your 4 a.m. flight in one piece?

Well, I’ve got some bad news, my sweet blackout buddy: You’re screwed. I’m sure you thought you could just scarf down a big breakfast platter, chug a coffee and maybe take a cold shower and all would be well. Wrong! That is not what the science says.

“Once the alcohol is in the bloodstream, there’s nothing you can do to get it out,” says Aaron White, the Senior Scientific Advisor to the Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Per the Department of Recreation and Wellness at Bowling Green State University, alcohol leaves the body at a rate of .015 percent per hour, regardless of body size or gender — this is simply the maximum rate at which our liver is able to break it down. So basically, ain’t anything you can do to hasten your return to sobriety. Essentially, alcohol works by entering your bloodstream. Have you ever tried to remove something from your bloodstream? It’s not easy! And as powerful as a massive breakfast platter might sound, it’s not strong enough to slam the alcohol out of your blood.

What is strong enough to detox your bloodstream?

Only time.

But according to White, eating before drinking is critical, too. Really, any food is better than none, as having food in your stomach slows the rate at which the alcohol you consume can be absorbed, since your body needs to break the food down as well. “Eighty percent of alcohol is absorbed by the small intestine,” he says. “Food helps slow the absorption of alcohol in the small intestine by keeping it in the stomach longer.”

The slower that food gets broken down, the slower the alcohol gets absorbed. Since fat is the slowest of the macronutrients to be absorbed, it would seem hypothetically possible that say, taking shots of olive oil would hinder the impact of shots of vodka.

For better or for worse, though, that isn’t really true. “In a lab, you could probably detect a difference in alcohol absorption [by drinking oil], but on a practical level, my advice is just to eat food,” says White. Since the oil doesn’t take up that much physical space, he explains, the alcohol will still reach your small intestine pretty quickly.

Instead, it’s much more important to just get some bulk in your stomach, as the amount of food is more important than the actual macronutrient profile, according to White. “There’s no magical food. Just eat what you like,” he says. He also notes that eating prior to drinking is critical to avoiding a blackout, and that your blood alcohol content will ultimately be a third lower — regardless of the quantity of alcohol consumed — if you had a solid dinner before hitting the bar.

So, you no longer really have an excuse for that late-night drunken burrito. You do, however, have an excuse for a sober early-evening burrito.