If you're like many people, the answer to this question probably seems pretty straightforward. Of course beer gets you drunk! After all, it's full of alcohol and that's what makes you drunk, right? Well… yes, but there's more to it than that.
It turns out there are several things that make getting "drunk" from beer a little more complicated than it might seem at first glance. For example, you have to consider the strength of the specific beer you're drinking (there's quite a range in alcohol content) and also things like your size and alcohol tolerance.
So yes, beer can get you drunk. But it depends on your body and what type of beer you drink. Beer typically has around a 4% - 10% ABV (the alcohol content) in most cases, but it can go a lot higher or lower than this.
If you are drinking beer or any other alcoholic beverage for the first time, then keep in mind that different types can have different effects on people and again, this will vary according to the person's weight, height and metabolism rate.
Let's take a look at how beer can get you drunk—but also how to drink it responsibly.
Why do I feel drunk after non alcoholic beer?
As strange as it sounds, even non-alcoholic beer can lead to you feeling a little, well, tipsy. But how?
Well, one possibility is that zero-alcohol beers do still contain trace amounts of alcohol. This is due to the brewing process used in the production of these drinks.
The more likely explanation however, is similar to something called the placebo effect. This suggests you're more likely to experience the effects of alcohol when you believe it's in your drink.
In the case of non-alcoholic beer (even if you know it's alcohol-free) your brain cannot necessarily tell the difference between an alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink.
The reason for this is mostly due to our taste buds, which have receptors that can detect certain flavors which we may have learned to associate with alcohol. Each time we drink something that tastes like alcohol, this can stimulate drunken feelings even without actual alcohol present.
So enjoy that non-alcoholic beer, but don't be surprised if you end up with a bit of a buzz! Just know you're not actually drunk.
How much beer will make you drunk?
There isn't a definitive or universal answer, but several factors play a large part in a drink's intoxicating effect:
- Alcohol tolerance
- Body size
- When you last ate
- How fast you drink
- The beer's alcohol content
For some people, a beer or two can make them feel sleepy or relaxed. For other people, the same volume may make them giddy, or overly chatty.
Let's dive into some of the main factors that will help determine your personal beer intoxication limit.
Understanding your alcohol tolerance
Alcohol tolerance is essentially how much alcohol you are able to drink before suffering noticeable or negative effects on your body.
Each person has a different alcohol tolerance which varies based on the biochemistry of your body, your age, weight, metabolism rate and even race and gender.
Alcohol tolerance can also rise through repeated exposure to alcohol. For example, if this is your first drink then your tolerance is very low and it's going to take less to feel drunk (perhaps just a little over a bottle of beer for example).
Drinking more beer consistently will result in increased tolerance, but this isn't recommended for health reasons.
Beer consumption as a function of time
The speed at which you drink your beer will influence how drunk you get, too. If you drink it quickly then by the time that first beer is finished, your liver will not have enough time to process the alcohol.
As a general guide, liver metabolizes one standard drink of alcohol per hour. So 12 ounces of beer per hour is considered a reasonable safe limit.
In the United States, one "standard" drink contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:
- 12 ounces of regular beer, which is usually about 5% alcohol
- 5 ounces of beer, which is typically about 12% alcohol
So, to get the same effects with wine you would have to consume less than half the quantity within the same time period. For this reason, it's much easier to get drunk faster with wine or liqor than beer.
Your beer and its alcohol content
Beer has a fairly low alcohol percentage compared to other alcoholic drinks. It is at the lower end of the scale, typically at 4% - 7% ABV and wine is just above that at 12% - 15% ABV. Liquors such as whiskey, gins and vodka contain a much higher concentration of alcohol.
If you want to moderate your levels of intoxication with beer, look for brands and styles with lower alcohol content. The taste of beer is not dependent on the amount of alcohol it contains, so you can still have great beer without risking getting too drunk.
Your gender and body size
Women usually are smaller in stature than men. A woman's lower body weight and proportioned smaller size, typically result in women feeling the effects of alcohol more.
However, a man of a lower weight can be affected just as easily, so it's still important to drink on an appropriate basis according to your size and tolerance.
If you are a man of small build, then you may find that a glass of beer is capable of getting you just as drunk as it would for a woman of similar size.
Your most recent meal
If your stomach contains nothing, then alcohol will be absorbed quickly. On the other hand, if you have food in your stomach then you'll be better able to control your levels of intoxication.
The fact that alcohol is absorbed more slowly when the stomach contains food, is the main reason why people shouldn't drink on an empty stomach.
Reasons to go easy on your beer consumption
Alcohol should be enjoyed, but never be consumed just to get drunk. Here are some reasons to make you think carefully before rushing that next beer.
It'll make you want to order takeout
It's true that alcohol enhances mood, but it also impairs judgment. Getting drunk encourages binging by increasing the activities of the areas of the brain that regulate eating habits.
The munchies-causing effects of a bottle of beer can be quite strong, so you have to consider if the extra calories of those unhealthy snacks you may be tempted by are worth it in the long run.
You'll also be more likely to eat food that you wouldn't normally choose. Why not meal prep a healthy dinner for nights when you drink instead? That way you can enjoy a beer or two and still keep your calorie count in check.
You may have a terrible night of sleep
While drinking does have sedating effects, it doesn't have the same refreshing effects as a good night's sleep.
While you may feel like you slept a lot, the quality of your rest will be impacted by drinking, leaving you tired and cranky in the morning.
If you already struggle with sleeping, drinking is not the answer: try a relaxing herbal tea before bed instead.
It'll have a lot of liquid calories and carbs
Beer starts at around 150 calories and 12.8 grams of carbs for a 12 oz. can or bottle. A few of those can really add up. This is in addition to the snacks you can easily munch on while you consume them!
I'm not saying you should avoid beer completely; just know that it's important to be aware of how many hidden calories can be in your drink. Many people don't see beer as a major source of calories in their diet, but this is not always the case.
Tips to avoid a beer hangover
Step out for some fresh air
Drinking alcohol can cause a change in temperature in your body, a flushed face—and can lead to dehydration. This is one of the main causes of a hangover.
In addition you might find yourself too warm due to socializing in a small space, especially when everybody is drinking. This can be avoided by taking a break outside for some fresh air.
Avoid drinking on an empty stomach
Not eating or drinking any water is a surefire way for getting drunk quicker. Alcohol is always absorbed faster on an empty stomach, which can cause high levels of alcohol your body is unable to process.
Eating a nutritious meal with or before consuming alcohol gives your body the nutrients it needs to process the alcohol properly, and moderate your drinking to a safe level.
Stay hydrated with water
Not only is water good for preventing a hangover, it's good for your health in general. Drinking water should be a daily habit!
Alcohol is dehydrating, so it's important to drink water at the same time to make up for this. Try alternating alcoholic drinks with glasses of water to stay hydrated and sober.
Try to pace yourself
Instead of just finishing your beer as fast as possible, take a slower approach and enjoy each sip. If you struggle with pacing yourself, try pouring it into a smaller glass.
Also remember to drink water in between each beer to keep your alcohol levels under control and avoid dehydration.
It's also important to pace your drinking sessions apart from each other. If you drink every night, why not try cutting back to once or twice a week? You'll feel better, and avoid that next-day hangover!