After you have had one too many drinks, you might be looking for a way out. You’re probably starting to get worried about the aggressive hangover that’s bound to show up in the morning, so you need to sober up – and quick.
A lot of people believe that you can sweat out alcohol as a way to sober up quickly. But is this a real, viable option? Can you sober up faster after a night of drinking if sweating out the hangover in the morning?
Let’s discuss the ins and outs of sweating out alcohol, and why exercising to relieve too much drinking or drunkenness might not be the best idea.
Can Your Body Sweat Out Alcohol?
Many people believe that alcohol is removed from your system by your sweat. This is somewhat true, but consider this – it is very minute amounts, and the bulk of what you’re sweating is simply the byproduct of alcohol, not the alcohol itself. Only 10 percent of the alcohol consumed is eliminated in urine, breath, and sweat. This means that even if you sweat a lot, you won’t be getting rid of the alcohol in your system. The only real way to rid your body of alcohol is to wait as your liver goes to work breaking the alcohol down.
Alcohol is a diuretic, which results in water being pulled from your blood and brain. It can cause dehydration, which is why some people wake up with “cotton mouth,” a colloquial phrase for dry mouth. Dehydration can lead to feeling sluggish, nausea, and that inevitable pounding headache.
Let’s dive into how the body flushes alcohol out.
The first way is through urine, breath, and sweat. It might seem like sweating out alcohol is an efficient way to rid your body of the legal substance. However, that is incorrect. The second way the body rids itself of alcohol is a process known as oxidation in the liver.
Medical researchers believe more than 90 percent of alcohol is oxidized by the liver. Less than 10 percent is flushed out through water loss, such as breath, urine, and sweat.
Oxidation is a chemical process in the liver in which molecules of ethanol are broken down and converted into acetic acid, and later, carbon monoxide and water. Within this essential breaking down process, ethanol is converted into acetaldehyde, an organic compound that is toxic to the body.
When you drink in moderation, the equivalent to one drink per hour, the liver can process that one drink without the build-up of acetaldehyde in the blood at toxic levels. However, if you drink too much alcohol too fast, the concentration of acetaldehyde in your body triggers uncomfortable symptoms, including facial flushing, sweating, dry mouth, and nausea.
If you think some strenuous exercise is going to help you sweat out alcohol, you are incorrect. In fact, it could lead to severe dehydration, which could result in coma, organ failure, and death. Sweating out alcohol is not a smart idea.
Alcohol Detox and Sweating
Alcohol detox and withdrawal cause many symptoms that are unpleasant. The first six to eight hours after your last drink may produce fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and shakiness. The second day or perhaps in the middle of the night, you might experience sweating, slight fever, agitation, confusion, and heart arrhythmia.
Days two and three could bring on the above-mentioned symptoms, as well as hallucinations, extreme irritability, and seizures. Heavy drinking could potentially cause delirium tremens, which, if not immediately treated, might result in death. Sweating, and for some, heavy sweating is definite. It is best to stay as hydrated as possible if detoxing from alcohol.
Night Sweats and Alcohol
Night sweats can occur for some people after drinking alcohol because the substance can affect the central nervous system and how the body senses and regulates temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Alcohol intolerance and menopause can cause sweating, and alcohol can make sweating worse.
Alcohol affects the body in several ways. It affects the heart causing a heart rate that is too fast or causes its rhythm to become irregular. When you drink alcohol, the heart rate speeds up, and blood vessels in the skin widen (dilate), which is called vasodilatation. This results in a warm and flushed feeling of the skin, which then triggers sweating. Since most people drink in the evening or at night, it is common to have night sweats.
Can I Sweat Out Alcohol Using Other Methods?
Think that going for a jog after a night at the bar will help you to sober up? Sitting in a sauna? While you might feel more alert after taking a brisk run through the cold air, it doesn’t mean that your blood alcohol content has changed at all. To put it simply: No, you can’t sweat alcohol out of your system using exercise or other methods like a sauna.
In fact, if you notice that you’re sweating while drinking, this is just your body’s reaction to the toxins hitting your system. Some of the receptors in your brain are being affected by the alcohol toxins, and they don’t know how to process your body temperature correctly any longer. This is why you may start to notice the feeling of being hot or sweaty while drinking.
However, if you notice that you’re heavily sweating while drinking or after drinking (mostly when you’re sleeping, actually) it could be a sign that you’re drinking way too much. It could be an indicator that you’re overindulging, developing, or currently have an alcohol problem and your body is having quite some difficulty processing the alcohol and its contents.
Another reason why you might sweat from alcohol is while you’re withdrawing. This is one of the natural responses to alcohol detoxing and is commonly found in those who had an addiction to alcohol and are coming off of the substance.
Does Exercise Lower BAC?
It might seem like a good run or some type of exercise might lower your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). You may have even read that it could. However, there are different thoughts on this topic.
First, there are some factors that do affect your BAC. These are:
- The number of standard drinks you consume: The more you drink, the higher your BAC will be.
- How fast you drink: The faster you drink, the higher your BAC will be.
- Your gender: Women have less water in the body than men, so more alcohol remains in their systems than men.
- Body weight: The more you weigh, the more water in your body there is to dilute the alcohol, which lowers your BAC.
- Food in your stomach: Eating slows alcohol absorption contributing to a lower BAC.
- Body type: The more body fat you have, the higher your BAC will be. Alcohol is absorbed by muscle tissue and not fat.
- Fatigue: When you are tired, your liver is not as efficient in metabolizing alcohol, so your BAC will be higher.
- Hydration: When you are dehydrated, your BAC rises and for a longer time.
- Drink mixers: Water and juice mixed with alcohol slow absorption for a lower BAC. Carbonated beverages speed up absorption causing a higher BAC.
What doesn’t affect your BAC?
Tolerance to alcohol: The higher your tolerance is for alcohol, the harder it is to judge your BAC.
Type of drink: Alcohol is alcohol, and it doesn’t matter what you drink, just how much of it you drink.
Long-believed sober up techniques: Regardless of what you have heard or read, a cold shower, cup of coffee, or exercise to not affect your BAC.
Exercise may make you feel more aware, but your BAC may still be high if you drank a lot of alcohol in a short time. Time decreases your BAC.
To put it simply: exercising and sweating will not rid alcohol from your body. While you may sweat more while drinking, this is not how your body removes the substance from your bloodstream. The only way in which alcohol is removed from the body is by the liver and waiting it out. The liver can only process a small amount of alcohol in an hour, so you may have to wait quite a while before the alcohol is released from the bloodstream.
Does Sweating It Out Help Sober You Up?
Sweating it out does not expedite the process in which alcohol is removed from the bloodstream. In fact, there is actually no way to remove alcohol from your bloodstream once it has entered the body. There are a few ways to feel more alert after drinking, but these methods have virtually no impact on the blood alcohol concentration in your system:
How to Feel More Alert After Drinking
- Drinking plenty of water can help you feel better and stave off a hangover in the morning. Alcohol dehydrates the body, perhaps leaving you with that hangover headache in the morning. If you hydrate well, you may decrease or eliminate that hangover headache.
- Eating food can also help to absorb some of the alcohol in your system, although it won’t lower your BAC.
- Taking an ice-cold shower will likely make you more alert.
- Drinking black coffee is also another way to increase your alertness, although it will not affect the BAC in your system.
As you can see, the only real way to get alcohol out of the bloodstream is to wait for the liver to do its job. This could take anywhere from one hour to several hours, depending on how much you drink and your size and weight. Obviously, the more you drink, the longer it will take for you to sober up.
Is There Any Danger Related to This?
As mentioned earlier, alcohol dehydrates the body. This is why you wake up with such a dry mouth and a headache, and it feels like an ice-cold glass of water was sent straight from heaven. So, is sweating while drinking alcohol actually dangerous?
First and foremost, it’s not a good idea to lose even more water while drinking. This is because your body is already being dehydrated, so the further release of water from the system isn’t a great idea. Going for a run probably won’t cause any harm, but it won’t leave you feeling any better in the morning either. You should be more focused on relaxing and re-hydrating!
Secondly, sweating while drinking (in small amounts, that is) is technically normal and nothing to worry about. Your body gets hotter due to the brain, nervous system, and receptors being affected. All you need to do is drink more water while you consume alcohol. Last, but not least, some sweating could be a sign of more serious conditions.
“This is likely to be experienced as heavy night sweats after someone consumed far too much alcohol than recommended, or has alcohol addiction, or is withdrawing from alcohol. While medical professionals usually don’t need to intervene, it may become worrisome if the problem persists and you may need professional help. ”
While it’s a nice thought, the truth is that alcohol cannot be sweated out of the body through exercise or any other way. The only manner in which alcohol is removed from the bloodstream is through the liver, and there is virtually no other way to remove the alcohol. You can do several things to try and become more alert while drinking, but it won’t change the BAC. Time and patience are the only ways that affect your blood alcohol level.
As always, if you are going to drink, drink responsibly and know your limit. Avoiding that “one too many” can help you from feeling like you want to try to sweat it out. It’ll also save you from those awful morning hangovers.