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Is It Better to Treat a Night’s Drinking as a Sprint or as a Marathon?

Most people, by the time they’ve hit their early 20s, have figured out that the faster they drink from that bottle of tequila, the faster they’ll be making mariachi noises into the nearest vomit-receptacle. We all know that slow and steady wins the not-puking race, but are there any benefits to draining that bottle the way a Hummer drains its gas tank?

The majority of the available research suggests not: Just about every piece of advice aimed at helping you drink less recommends that you drink slowly, some going so far as to suggest that you should schedule your drinks a certain number of minutes or hours apart.

If there’s any benefit to drinking quickly — big emphasis on the word “if” — it’s simply a matter of (party) time management: If you only have a short amount of time to be out and social, you might as well get drunk quickly and make the most of it. Even then, though, science isn’t really on your side: On average, the liver can only metabolize 1 ounce of alcohol every hour. Since your body can absorb alcohol so much faster than it can metabolize it, if you drink quickly, the alcohol just builds up in your bloodstream. What this means in practical terms is that you can’t get drunk quickly and then sober up with equal speed: All that booze is still going to get processed eventually, and that means you’re staying drunk for the time being.

Drinking slowly, meanwhile has actual, tangible benefits (besides not being the first person to pass out). Because a healthy liver can process one standard drink (i.e., a 12-ounce can of beer) per hour, if you drink any faster than that, you overload your body’s ability to process alcohol.

One of the simplest yet often overlooked advantages of the marathon vs. the sprint is food. If you’re taking it easy, chances are you’ll get hungry at some point while drinking, which means you’re more likely to put something in your stomach (even if that something is a double chili cheeseburger with extra cheese). Along with drinking water, eating is the best thing you can do for your body when imbibing what is, to all intents and purposes, a form of poison.

So heed the same advice that the hall monitor, your mother and every other authoritative figure in your life (not counting your crossfit trainer) has suggested at one point or another: Don’t run, walk.