5 Things You Should Know About How Alcohol Affects Your Body

Alcohol can affect your body quickly.

Within 20 minutes, your liver starts to process the alcohol consumed. However, varying factors like body composition, sex and rate of consumption can determine how quickly you start to feel the effects.

In the early stages of drinking, reaction times may be slower and the brain increases production of dopamine. This can contribute to lowered inhibitions or that “tipsy” feeling associated with letting loose. Continued alcohol consumption will affect cognitive and physical abilities, as most people who have had too much to drink have experienced.

Acetaldehyde is a byproduct of alcohol that can ruin your next day.

You’ve probably heard of ethanol (the chemical name for alcohol). After consumption, ethanol is broken down in a two-step process: first into acetaldehyde and then into acetate (essentially vinegar).

Your liver is excellent at performing this two-step process, but some ethanol turns into acetaldehyde in the gut as well. Since the gut doesn’t possess enough of the enzyme that transforms acetaldehyde into acetate, the acetaldehyde can build up and eventually absorb into the bloodstream. This is a problem because acetaldehyde significantly contributes to the negative day-after effects of drinking alcohol.

Your BAC can increase even when you stop drinking.

On average, it takes about an hour for your body to process one ounce of alcohol. The body can only metabolize at a certain rate depending on a variety of factors unique to each person and drinking faster or in higher quantities than your body can process will result in higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels along with diminished motor skills and cognitive functions, so it’s important to be aware of your limits. In other words, remember to pace yourself!

BAC can also keep rising even after you’ve stopped drinking or go to sleep since it can take a little while for your body to absorb the alcohol. Try to get plenty of restorative sleep by having your last drink at least an hour before you go to bed.

Alcohol can make you feel hungry.

Consuming alcohol can have the effect of making people feel hungrier. Both the energy it takes to metabolize alcohol and the alcohol itself suppress the oxidation of fatty acids, which stimulate feelings of hunger.

That same alcohol metabolism also increases thermogenesis (heat production that utilizes your calories), which can cause you to feel hungry faster than normal. Alcohol intake also affects two hormones that work to regulate hunger response: Leptin and GLP-1.

So if you’ve ever been out drinking with friends and feel the call of food was stronger than usual, it might be the alcohol talking.

Not every myth about alcohol is true.

Recovering from a night of drinking can also affect everyone differently. Despite common myths like drinking coffee, “hair of the dog,” taking a shower and guzzling electrolyte drinks, there’s no proven way to speed up the recovery process after alcohol consumption.

Although studies show alcohol doesn’t actually cause dehydration, it’s still important to drink water while you’re consuming alcohol (aka pace yourself) and to stay hydrated when recovering as your body works to return to normal.

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