There are few things worse than being the sober one at the party. Everyone around you is either having a great time or puking their guts out — and you’re the self-appointed driver or caretaker. If you have a great alcohol tolerance, you’ll often find yourself significantly soberer than the people in your company.
Not only is it less fun, but it can also be more expensive! You might have to drink twice as much as your lightweight friends in order to keep up. Those two-beer lightweights definitely leave with a heavier wallet than you on weekend nights.
You might use your high tolerance as a bragging point — nothing can affect you or bring you to your knees! But does having a high tolerance mean that you’re healthier than your friends? Or are you more at risk for kidney-related diseases?
Apart from wanting to party better, it’s also valuable to look into the science behind what makes good tolerance. In this article, we’re going to understand the six main reasons why your alcohol tolerance is higher than your friends’. Surprise, surprise: it has to do with more than just your body weight.
Reason #1: You Metabolize Alcohol Quickly
Metabolizing alcohol doesn’t have much to do with your height or weight, but is more connected to the enzymes that are present in your body. Metabolizing alcohol is also different from having a ‘high metabolism’ which refers to how quickly you can digest your food and convert it to energy.
There’s a particular enzyme that’s responsible for metabolizing alcohol in the body — and it’s called acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. This enzyme has the power to break down alcohol quickly, leaving it for much less time in the bloodstream. There are established connections to acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and ethnicity. Some ethnicities, such as Asians have a higher chance of mutations with this enzyme, thus having lower tolerance.
However, it has less to do with tolerance and more to do with the symptoms of alcohol intoxication. Just because your body is able to metabolize the alcohol and suppress your symptoms, doesn’t mean you’ve gotten rid of it. Your organs are still at risk, and while you might be speaking and thinking clearly, your emotional boundaries and reaction time might have taken a hit.
Reason #2: You’ve Been Drinking for a Longer time
The enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase can also get ‘trained’ with exposure to alcohol. Your body gradually gets better at dealing with the toxic substance that alcohol is, and tries to help you out by processing it quicker and reducing your overall ‘drunk’ experience. And while you may not be particularly grateful to your body for doing this for you, having an extremely high tolerance might be an indication that you need to take a break.
Drinking continuously over a long period of time will train the body to respond promptly. If you feel like drinking only gets you sleepy instead of pumped up and excited, you’ve gotten too used to the effects of alcohol. A break of as little as two months can get you feeling like you’re taking your first sip of beer all over again.
Reason #3: You’ve Practiced Controlling Symptoms
This may sound strange to you, because you may not have consciously been practicing how to act less drunk. However, ‘learned alcohol tolerance’ is a real thing! After enough drunk weekends, human beings learn how to suppress the obvious signs of alcohol intoxication, like slurring speech and falling all over the place. This doesn’t mean that you’re not drunk, it just means that you don’t realize how drunk you are!
Taking a break from alcohol for a month or two is a great way to unlearn and get back at having fun.
Reason #4: You Have More Body Mass
Finally, body mass does play a role. It’s important to note that being heavier has a bigger role to play than simply being taller. If you’re heavier than your friends, you likely have much more plasma in the body, which equals more blood. With more plasma, you need more alcohol to achieve the same level of alcohol concentration.
Weight does play a role in how good your tolerance is, and some studies show that bone density can also play a role in alcohol tolerance.
Reason #5: You’re a Man
Gender also plays an important role in alcohol tolerance. Part of the reason is that men tend to have more body mass on average than women, but there are also links to body composition and hormones that play a factor in less tolerance.
However, it’s unclear if men really have better alcohol tolerance, or just don’t show symptoms of alcohol intoxication as much as women do. Not showing symptoms can be dangerous since you don’t know when to stop drinking.
Reason #6: You Eat Before Drinking
This is the age-old trick that works. Eating greasy food before you drink can help you metabolize alcohol quicker and keeps the hangovers away the next day. We don’t suggest skimping on your meals to get drunk! Protect that stomach lining.
These were a couple of reasons why your alcohol tolerance is higher than everyone else’s. Have any funny stories about your friends getting drunk? Let us know in the comments below.