What is BAC?
BAC stands for "blood alcohol concentration." This is the measure of the amount of alcohol in someone's bloodstream. Blood alcohol concentration is expressed as a percentage – for instance .08%. The higher the number, the more alcohol there is in a person's bloodstream.
So...How Does Eating Effect BAC?
Eating before, or during the course of drinking, slows the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into a person's body. This decrease in absorption means less alcohol enters the bloodstream, as compared to the situation when no food is eaten. Less alcohol entering the bloodstream results in a lower blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”).
BAC Is All About Absorption
When a person drinks an alcoholic beverage, the alcohol immediately begins to get absorbed into the party's bloodstream. Approximately 20% is absorbed through the stomach and 80% is absorbed through the small intestine.
Eating food, either before or while drinking, essentially slows absorption rates. Slower rates mean that less alcohol enters a person's bloodstream (when compared to a drinker that does not eat). This reduction of alcohol in the blood translates into reduced levels of blood alcohol concentration.
In fact, some studies have shown that a non-eating drinker's BAC can be as much as three times higher than a similar drinker who has eaten prior to consuming alcohol. Eating food prior to drinking, especially food high in protein, has been shown to stop people from getting too drunk too fast.
What Other Effects Can Eating Have On BAC?
Because eating can lead to slower absorption, this can cause a slower rise of your BAC before it peaks thus extending the amount of time you are impaired. Think of it this way: If you drink on an empty stomach your BAC is likely to shoot up quickly, peak at a higher level, but also fall more rapidly as you body flushes the alcohol out of your system. On a full stomach your BAC is likely to rise slowly but it will continue to rise over a longer period of time and at a slower rate as the alcohol is being absorbed more slowly. You might not get as impaired because your system is slowly filtering out the alcohol as it is absorbed, but you may be impaired over a longer timeline due to your body continuing to absorb alcohol long after you consumed it.
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