Alcohol metabolism time

This has been asked on the blog a lot. But remember if you are asking you may need to think about the following question:

Is it a practical question related to driving for example or are you worried about your drinking levels?

Of course, it could be both. Yet we spend a lot of time trying to work out how much alcohol is still in our systems rather than the damage it does when it’s in there. Remember we only have one liver doing its job unless you know different?

How long does it take for the effects of alcohol to wear off?

So as a rule the liver just does its job one step at a time. It does not rush even when we say “come on get a move on”.

Somehow the body’s metabolism alcohol time is actually done at a very consistent rate.

For some people however the effect of alcohol comes and goes quicker than others as a “feeling”. We all know one person who has a sip and they look like they will be on their back or get really silly very quickly!

So it is true that the amount of alcohol in our blood can vary from person to person? Can blood alcohol concentrations vary among people and situations?

So technically you could have different blood alcohol levels but the time it takes to metabolize well that is the same.

Make sense? OK no worries keep reading!

So if you think you can hold your drink less well than when you were younger you are probably right. Although I’m careful here as I have friends in their early twenties who struggle with a few drinks whereas a sixty-year old can knock it back and seem fine. ( Seem is a key world here)

The factors documented in health industry include :

  • What age are we?
  • How much do we weigh?
  • Have we eaten?
  • Are we on any medications?
  • Do we have any complications like liver disease?

Also, binge drinking where you just are not gonna drink all week then have a massive blow out on a Friday can also make a massive difference. It’s important to remember not all drinks are equal.

Which drinks contain more alcohol in terms of metabolizing them?

So these are estimated by the alcohol by volume which is why how much alcohol is in a drink really matters. As someone with liver disease I always make sure my drink is 0.0% abv and for my health that really matters!

It’s easy to check and you can also ask. Bar staff should know.

So let’s take a few examples of how long it takes to metabolize alcohol in a drink?

  • Firstly a small shot of whiskey. This would take about 1 hour
  • Where as a pint of beer would take around 2 hours. So all ready we have a difference.
  • Now a large glass if wine which is standard now as you never see a small one anymore so it takes around 3 hours
  • So you can see how it varies !

Can food help your body absorb alcohol? So let’s look at some truth and myths.

  • Water helps the alcohol in the blood system, yes this is true but it still takes the same time to metabolize alcohol in the body depending on the drink. You liver won’t be rushed no matter what.
  • Coffee helps. Nope, it does not. Its a myth that coffee alleviates the effect of alcohol quicker.
  • I like an energy drink. Will that help? No same answer as coffee. Sorry.
  • Food can slow down the level of alcohol absorption in the bloodstream so having a big meal before you drink can help you not be tipsy but it does not change the rate at which your alcohol is metabolized by the liver.

How is the alcohol measured in alcohol metabolism time ?

Let’s say you have a few beers or wine, it has to go where everything goes into your digestive system.

However, here is the thing: the beer and wine you drink is not dealt with the same way as food is and even other drinks for that matter. So let’s say about 20 percent of the alcohol from a single glass goes directly to your blood vessels.

After that it goes straight to the thing where we probably feel first which is the brain. The rest of it so the 80 percent goes to your very small intestines, then and only then does it hit your bloodstream.

So as I know from experience painful as that it was the alcohol gets removed from the body by the amazing organ the liver. Now of course if you have an issue with your liver it can inhibit your processing and the liver does not take kindly to alcohol.

How Long Does an Alcoholic Drink Stay in Your Body and can I make it go quicker?

No is the answer and I as I have said if we just take a basic one standard drink it will take about an hour. Now we know that it can take less or more time in your blood system but the body’s mechanism for alcohol metabolism is the same for us all. However, it is worth noting something called the BAC. Ever heard of it? OK let’s find out more.

What is a BAC?

So how much alcohol is in your blood is known in the medical world as Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). It’s actually basic maths, the % of ethanol in your blood per volume.

So if you have one ounce of alcohol it will be about an average score of .015% blood-alcohol concentration. This could take around 10 hours to pass through your system. The more you drink, the longer alcohol will be in your system.

So imagine with each drink your BAC levels are going up and up by similar percentages and so the effect you feel from the alcohol increases. Alcohol’s negative effects start to increase.

So what might start off as feeling good, leads to being depressed and then the after effect kicks in. If it is really serious the body can go into shock with alcohol poisoning which needs emergency treatment very often.

So if you liver takes the time it needs why is your blood any different. Well according to research certain things can make a difference.


Age can play a factor as our body develops so have you have ever heard someone say I can’t drink as much as I used to ? For some reasons our body deals with alcohol differently as we grow older. Of course there are always exceptions!

What sex are we?

And before you say really ? Well think about it we all have different hormones and physical constitution depending on our sexual make up. It’s just a fact of life. If females for example are on a period their hormones will be different. So it seems in some cases the frame body reacts differently to alcohol than the males make up and of course the other way around.

Except of course when it does not. There are always exceptions.

What we eat?

There is no doubt that what we eat before a drink can really help the absorption of the alcohol in the blood via the stomach. Remember this will have no impact on how fast your liver metabolizes the alcohol; it will just slow the rate of alcohol into the bloodstream.

When one of the reasons’ you get drunk quickly is because you have an empty stomach this is why.

Its the reason alcohol attacked my liver so much, I did not have lots of carbs in my stomach because I was going low carb at the time. Big mistake even for a few glasses.

Make sure you have something to eat before you go out or pace yourself before eating a meal. You will thank me for it.

You might even not need to have a late night kebab after a night out, just think of all the calories and money you will save!

Body Makeup affects us

Now our body size and make up can affect the alcohol’s effect in the bloodstream. So if you have lots of fatty tissue with water the more you absorb alcohol quickly compared to more muscle tissue. So the more body fat you have on you the higher the blood alcohol level might be.

If you also take a very muscular person but quite short they have a higher alcohol level in the blood than someone taller but with the same muscle. It’s confusing but it’s all about how quickly the alcohol gets into your system at a basic level.

Be aware of medications!

Now some medicines have alcohol in them as I write about here much to the shock of many. Some medication also completely changes our reaction to alcohol and can be very dangerous. Please be aware of this as it can really throw up all sorts of issues with your liver as well as your alcohol blood levels.

For more advice on knowing your alcohol limits visit drinkaware


Educate yourself on what a standard measure is in real terms. It is on most menus now but people just say large or double. This is not a standard measure. Remember alcohol blood levels are different to how much the alcohol metabolism time is.

Have you also thought about going alcohol free with drinks which I review on my blog so beers, gin, mocktails and fizz are now very decent and available if you look for them. Check out my reviews and see what you think!

I would love to hear your thoughts about alcohol metabolism time. Have you underestimated it and did you know the difference between alcohol in the blood system and how your liver deals with it? I also get back to you on every comment you make.

Please leave a comment below.

4 thoughts on “Alcohol metabolism time”

  1. Knowledge is power, and this is great info!  Two of our grandchildren are going to college next year, and the subject of alcohol came up recently with them.  They talked about a lot of myths about alcohol, including several things they said would make your body metabolize alcohol faster.  I came across your article that I plan to share with them.  They’re great kids who don’t get into trouble, but we’re not naive enough to think that they won’t do any drinking at college.  I want them to have the right information, thank you!

    • Wow what good timing Janelle, it is really interesting what myths are out there. That was a great share so thanks very much. I really appreciate you taking time out to comment. Let me know how you get on, all the best, Phil

  2. Hello Phil, how wonderful it is to learn sine if the basic things we should know about alcohol and I feel glad about learning how to absob it from the body because I’ve seen people get intoxicated and we were quite confused with which step could help. Also the factors that can help with the level to which also a start affecting a person is cool to learn. Cherrs

    • Thanks Justin, it is an amazing area of study and there are so many misconceptions about it. Certainly people get confused between how the liver does it job and how alcohol moves through the bloodstream. I really appreciate your comments on the article and I am pleased you found it interesting, all the best, Phil


Leave a Comment