Alcohol & You

Drink Charts & Alcohol Calculators

It’s not only how quickly you drink and the strength of the drink that determines how fast, how intensely and for how long you’ll feel the effects of alcohol. There are many important individual factors and circumstances that affect your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels. Estimate your BAC with Lifeloc's online breath alcohol content calculator.

Blood Alcohol Consumption charts cannot adjust BAC test results due to individual variations, only a precision breath analyzer that reads breath alcohol content directly can.

How Quickly You Drink

The faster you drink, the faster your peak BAC will raise and the more quickly you will become intoxicated. The liver metabolizes alcohol at a rate of approximately one standard drink per hour; 12 oz. beer, 5 oz. wine, .5-ounces or a "shot" of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey). If you consume alcohol more quickly then one drink per hour then the liver will be unable to keep pace and more alcohol will circulate in the blood stream until the liver can catch up. The more alcohol in your blood the drunker you’ll be.

Body Weight

On average men have 76 c.c. of blood /kg body weight and in women it is 66 c.c. of blood /kg body weight. Not only do men have more blood in which to dilute alcohol by virtue of their greater size but even men of the same weight as women have slightly more blood in which to dilute alcohol. This is because muscle tissue contains more water than fat tissue, so men -- who have more muscle and less fat on the average than women -- can have about 10 percent more water in their bodies. The elderly generally will have lower ratios of blood to body weight making them more susceptible to the effects of alcohol.


Altitude

It is commonly thought that higher altitudes will cause intoxication more quickly than at sea level. Studies for the Federal Aviation Administration do not confirm the common belief. Additionally, for those living at higher altitudes the body compensates for the thinner air by producing more blood in which to carry oxygen. More blood by weight provides more dilution of alcohol.


Food in the Stomach

About 20 percent of alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream directly through the walls of the stomach and 80 percent is absorbed into the bloodstream through the small intestine. When there is food in the stomach, alcohol is absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream. Food in the stomach slows the absorption of alcohol by preventing it from going directly to the small intestine which is where the majority of alcohol we drink enters the blood stream. The effects of the alcohol will still occur but at a slower rate.

It is a myth that food absorbs the alcohol. It does not. Drinking on a full stomach slows the absorption of alcohol because the stomach's pyloric valve, which connects the stomach and small intestine, closes to allow food to digest. The closed pyloric valve keeps alcohol in the stomach longer before it enters your small intestines.

It follows that fatty foods are more effective in slowing alcohol absorption than are other foods because they are more difficult to digest. Carbohydrates are passed through the stomach more quickly causing both the food and alcohol to enter the small intestines more quickly than with high fat content foods.

The pylorus valve may also go into spasm in the presence of concentrated alcohol, trapping the alcohol in the stomach instead of allowing it through to the small intestine. The drinker who downs several straight shots in an effort to get a quick high may actually experience a delayed effect.

It is another myth that "coating" the stomach with milk before drinking will absorb the alcohol. drunkenness. It might marginally slow the speed at which alcohol is absorbed b because it dilutes it but it does not absorb alcohol.

Male or Female

In general women reach higher BACs faster than men because they have less water in their bodies to dilute the alcohol and women also have more adipose tissue (fat), which is not easily penetrated by alcohol.


Standard Drink equivalence image

The definition of a standard drink varies widely by country. In the USA a standard drink is equivalent to:

One 12 fl oz. (355 mL) bottle of beer or wine cooler

One 5 fl oz. (148 mL) glass of wine

One mixed drink containing 1.5 fl. oz. (44 mL) of 80-proof hard liquor, such as gin, whiskey, or rum


"Proof" is a measure of how much alcohol is in a given type of alcoholic beverage. In the United States, where the measure is commonly used, proof represents twice the percentage of alcohol by volume. 100 proof means 50% alcohol. 80 proof means 40% alcohol.

Alcohol Concentration

Generally, the higher the alcohol concentration of a drink the faster the alcohol will be absorbed into the blood stream. One standard drink of hard liquor does have the same alcohol content as a regular beer. Since hard liquor is frequently less diluted (as in a shot) the effects will be noticed more rapidly.


The Size of a Drink

The concept of a standard drink, that is 12 oz. beer, 5 oz. wine, .5-ounces or a "shot" of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey) is often not a good guideline for judging your own BAC.

No two bartenders pour the same amount of alcohol and party hosts frequently pour more "Doubles" and drinks made with more than one type of liquor typically contain much more alcohol than the Standard Drink.

Type of Mix Used

Water and fruit juices mixed with alcohol slow the absorption process, while carbonated beverages will speed it up. Carbonated drinks speed alcohol through the stomach and intestine into the bloodstream, creating a more rapid rise in BAC .

Medications

Medications can amplify the effects of alcohol on your body. Aspirin, tranquilizers, anti-depressants, and cough medicines to name only a few can effect when mixed with alcohol. Never mix alcohol and drugs without talking to your doctor or pharmacist.

Alcohol Tolerance

Long term drinkers develop tolerance to alcohol. One reason is that the liver becomes more efficient at metabolizing alcohol. In people with high tolerance to alcohol it takes more alcohol to produce the outward signs of intoxication. BAC is not affected by alcohol tolerance. Someone with higher alcohol tolerance is not safer to drive according the law.

Fatigue, Stress & Mood

Alcohol has a more pronounced effect on those who may be fatigued or under stress. Since alcohol is a depressant, someone who is depressed will likely become more depressed when drinking.

Shape of the Glass can affect the amount of alcohol poured

The Shape of the Glass

Unbelievable but true. According to recent research the shape of the glass has a significant effect on how much alcohol is poured into a drink. Two commonly used drinking glasses are tall highball glasses and short, wide tumblers. This study found that adults poured between 20-30% more alcohol into the shorter glasses than into taller ones, even though both glasses held the same volume. It seems we underestimate how much a short glass holds and therefore pour more alcohol then we do with a similar volume tall glasses.

If you are hosting a party it may be better to use tall glasses rather than short ones to reduce overall alcohol consumption. Choose and offer a tall glasses if you are concerned about your alcohol intake.

More Information:

Even Bartenders can't accurately pour liquids

New Year's Eve warning: Shape of glass influences how much alcohol is poured -- and how much you will drink