What Happens To Your Body When You Drink Alcohol On An Empty Stomach

Humans have been drinking alcohol for thousands of years. Consider, traces of 13,000 year-old beer in present-day Israel may just prove the location of the world's oldest brewery (via the American Association for the Advancement of Science). However, alcohol consumption by humans has seemingly always been paired with eating. As a report published in the Journal of Archaeological Science suggests, beer, for example, was originally "brewed for ritual feasts to honor the dead."

Drinking alcohol, of course, is still part and parcel of a fine dining experience. Further, most bars offer bar food and light snacks, and for a good reason — it's safer to eat as you're consuming alcohol. But binge-drinking culture, pre-gaming, and the use of the phrase "it's 5 o'clock somewhere" have many of us drinking alcohol on an empty stomach. For most people, drinking without having eaten anything is a surefire way to get a little tipsy faster than usual. But what actually happens when you drink alcohol on an empty stomach?

The science behind drinking on an empty stomach

The first thing to understand is that when you imbibe an alcoholic drink, the body absorbs the alcohol in three different places. According to Healthline, a small percentage will be absorbed through the small blood vessels in the mouth and tongue, then 20% will be absorbed through the stomach, and the remaining 75-80% will be absorbed through the small intestine.

While everyone absorbs alcohol at a different rate based on their body weight, age, and even gender, one factor that also impacts alcohol absorption rate is how much food one eats while also drinking. Per The New York Times, drinking on an empty stomach means that the alcohol passes from the stomach to the small intestine and then into the bloodstream at an accelerated rate. This can intensify the side effects of drinking, which can impair your thinking or make body coordination more difficult.

Drinking too much can obviously be dangerous, but drinking on an empty stomach is a dangerous shortcut to being too drunk, which can be easily avoided. The next time you plan on having a big night out, make sure to also drink water and to have healthy snacks on hand, like pretzels or popcorn.