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A Retched Regurgitation of the Science Behind the Boot and Rally

When you drink so much you puke so that you can continue to drink so much that you puke so you can continue to drink so much that you...

There are many ways of puking from drinking. Sometimes a single mouthful of booze arriving on top of a stomachful of previously consumed booze is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Sometimes you spend 10 minutes swallowing increasingly large mouthfuls of saliva and doing weird belch-hiccup things that stink before burbling “I need to go now” and redecorating a bathroom stall. Sometimes you make it to the next morning, put on a suit, get on a bus, suddenly feel terrible and upchuck all over your legs.

And sometimes, you force yourself to puke so none of the other aforementioned sometimes happen — and you can keep drinking the night away. 

This technique goes by a few names. According to Reddit, in France it’s known as vomi tactique, and in Italy it’s vomitino tattico, both of which translate as “tactical vomit.” In the U.K., you’ll occasionally hear it referred to as a “tactical chunder,” apparently abbreviated in some military circles to “a taccy.” In the U.S., it goes by “puke and rally,” “boot and rally” and “pulling trig.” But how does it work?

“Say you’re on a bit of a day-into-night drinking sesh,” says Simon, a British man in his 30s with extensive boot-and-rally experience. “By early evening, you’ve drunk a lot of beer. You’re drunk, but you’re also full. Bloated, sweaty, sluggish. Your stomach’s like an overfilled water balloon, and you feel like you couldn’t possibly drink another drop, but it’s 7:30 p.m. and you’ve got big plans. So you escape to the toilet and stick your fingers down your throat. Whoosh, it all comes out and you’ve got plenty more room for more beer. Your eyes are watering, but there’s a new spring in your step.”

By definition, it can be either voluntary or involuntary. Simon, however, reasons that if you feel like you might throw up anyway, at least with the voluntary approach you’re taking control of your fate. “Sometimes you’re at the point where every sip of beer feels like it might make you barf, and it just seems to make sense to take yourself away and deal with it, rather than running the risk of taking a sip and blowing chunks all over the place.”

It should go without saying that filling your body with booze, making yourself throw up and then filling it with booze again isn’t a good idea. When you stick your fingers down your throat, you’re triggering your gag reflex. On a sober stomach, this will lead to a bit of retching and eventually some vomit, while on a drunken stomach bulging with frothy-ass beer, it can immediately bring a deluge. If your body is primed enough to vomit that it only needs the tiniest of uvula-tickles to spray upchuck everywhere you’re not treating it in an ideal manner anyway, but booting and rallying has effects not dissimilar to eating disorders.

According to Cornell Health’s guide to the risks of self-induced vomiting, pulling trig really puts your body through the wringer. Risks include dehydration, esophageal lacerations, tooth decay, vocal cord damage, constipation and potentially fatal electrolyte abnormalities. Not to mention, aspiration of vomit into the lungs can lead to pneumonia. Your gastroesophageal sphincter is also weakened by excessive vomiting, which in turn leads to… more frequent vomiting. 

But something a taccy isn’t doing is sobering you up. Emptying your stomach will prevent any more alcohol from being absorbed into your bloodstream, but it won’t reduce the amount already in there. In the moment, however, it might feel that way — one paper in the International Journal of Psychiatric Medicine posits that vomiting triggers an endorphin rush in some people, something that may well translate within the body of a drunken barfer to suddenly feeling clearheaded and ready for anything. 

This combined with gallons of spew dropping out of you can work together to create a kind of confirmation bias — especially if feel like you dodged a bullet by not unexpectedly retched in your friends’ faces. But again, habitually booting and rallying doesn’t do anything other than put your body through a greatest-hits collection of the most unhealthy physical aspects of alcoholism and bulimia

Your alternatives? Well, as with so many issues surrounding drinking, the real answer is the deeply unsatisfying “drink less,” but there are other things that may help a bit, too. Staying hydrated slows the absorption of booze into your body, so drink plenty of water — you’ll end up peeing more, but it’ll be worth it. Moreover, don’t go out and get hammered on an empty stomach — carbs are especially good at staggering how quickly the alcohol gets into your system. And non-carbonated drinks may make you feel less bloated than beer. 

Ultimately, though, it all comes down to not drinking stupid-ass amounts. After all, we probably shouldn’t think of making ourselves barf on nights out as normal, you know?