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Why Does Body Size Affect How Much Booze You Can Handle?

When it comes to staying on your feet while drinking, size is pretty much the only thing that matters. “The less you weigh, the more the water in your body will be affected by a given amount of alcohol,” explains Nachman Brautbar, a forensic toxicologist in L.A.

But wait — what does the water in your body have to do with it?

It works like this: The human body is made up of more water than anything else. This water is mostly stored in your blood, so the taller and heavier a person is, the more extensive their circulatory system is, and the more water they are carrying around. This is important because when alcohol enters the bloodstream, it gets diluted by the water there, lessening its impact. And the more water there is, the more the alcohol gets diluted. Which essentially means that the larger your body, the more watered down your drinks become.

This also explains why, generally speaking, men are better at holding their booze than women: Due to the differences in the amount of body water they carry, a man (60 percent) and a woman (55 percent) of equal body mass would still be an uneven contest. It’s why alcohol is known to hit women harder in the long run, too. “Women are more prone to liver toxicity and all other complications from alcohol than men,” says Brautbar. “Their bodies aren’t quite as equipped to absorb alcohol in the way that a man’s body is.”

Finally, the most important question of all: If we were to construct the ideal human drinking machine, what would he look like? “Big, tall and probably Russian,” laughs Brautbar.

We knew it.