It’s Friday night, and you’ve had one too many at your office happy hour.
You’re supposed to meet up with friends for dinner and go out later, but you’re already feeling a drink, or two, past buzzed.
You get an idea.
If you head to the gym for 45 minutes and work up a good sweat, that should sober you up, right?
Can you sweat out alcohol and make it to dinner in one coherent piece?
Can you sweat out alcohol after drinking?
No, you can’t sweat out alcohol after drinking. Despite popular belief, you cannot expel any meaningful amount of toxins from your body, including alcohol, via sweat. That’s because your skin can’t do what your liver and kidneys do!
Even if you aren’t asking if alcohol can escape your body via the pores, the idea that exercising or working up a sweat can mitigate the effects of alcohol has also been debunked.
That being said, it is literally possible for a tiny percentage of the alcohol you consume to escape your body via sweat. Still, it is an insignificant amount, and that’s not what we’re really talking about, is it?
Can you burn off alcohol with exercise?
Again, no. Though many have tried! The liver metabolizes 90% of the alcohol you ingest, which takes time.
Even when you binge drink and your liver struggles to keep up, maybe 10% of that alcohol will exit the body via urine, sweat, and breath.
Exercising after drinking is risky:
Exercising to burn off alcohol is not only ineffective, but it’s also dangerous.
Alcohol dehydrates you and rids your body of electrolytes. Exercising and producing sweat will only dehydrate you further, especially if you haven’t drank enough fluids or replenished your electrolytes.
Exercising while dehydrated leads to dizziness, fatigue, and cramping. On top of that, alcohol negatively impacts your decision-making and fine motor skills, which further contributes to your risk of injury.
TL;DR: Exercising after drinking is both risky and pointless.
Can you sweat out toxins?
Despite what health influencers and sauna companies would have you believe, you cannot.
The two organs most responsible for removing toxins from the body are the liver and the kidneys, not the skin.
Sweat is 99% water with a tiny bit of salt, proteins, carbohydrates, and urea. Common toxins like heavy metals, drugs, BPA, and pesticides do not leave the body via sweat in any significant amount.
More>> Do Alcoholics Sweat More?
How The Liver Rids The Body Of Toxins
The liver is a beast of an organ. It chemically modifies very toxic metabolic waste products like ammonia and helps convert them to less toxic things like urea.
In the case of alcohol (a toxin), our livers break it down via an enzyme in our liver cells called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH).
ADH breaks alcohol down into acetaldehyde. A second enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), breaks the acetaldehyde into acetate.
The Liver and Alcohol:
Acetaldehyde is toxic and responsible for alcohol-related facial flushing, headaches, nausea, and increased heart rate. The toxic effects of acetaldehyde contribute in part to our terrible hangovers.
Under normal circumstances, our livers can metabolize ethanol and acetaldehyde well. However, it can’t keep up when we drink heavily, increasing the acetaldehyde concentration in our bodies.
Over time, a significant build-up of acetaldehyde can lead to stomach and intestinal cancers.
Fortunately, our body can get rid of acetaldehyde via the second metabolism when the enzyme ALDH converts it to acetate. Acetic acid is then converted in the liver cells to carbon dioxide and water, where it is ready to get flushed out via urine.
For more on why you can’t actually sweat out toxins, I highly recommend this short video:
Can sweating cure a hangover?
The answer is mostly no. Again, it goes back to the way drinking alcohol dehydrates the body. Trying to complete a heavy workout in the hopes of sweating out your hangover can lead to more dehydration, worsening your symptoms.
There are exceptions. Sometimes people combine exercise with fluid and electrolyte replacement and feel better.
If your mood is in the gutter or you’re experiencing hangxiety, the endorphins, norepinephrine, and other neurotransmitters released during exercise might make you feel better.
That’s not the same thing as curing your hangover, though.
If you’d like to see a semi-scientific exploration into exercise and alcohol, check out this video from GQ’s Hangover Lab:
Can you sweat out alcohol? No, and you shouldn’t try. There are too many risks to exercising in an inebriated and dehydrated state. You’re just going to have to ride it out, au natural.
If you’re starting to question your drinking, here are some additional resources that might interest you:
- Do Alcoholics Drink Every Day?
- Why You Don’t Have To Be An Alcoholic To Have A Drinking Problem
- What Is Gray Area Drinking?
- 7 Types of Drunks: How People React Differently To Alcohol
FAQs On Sweating Out Alcohol
Does drinking water with alcohol help the liver?
Yes and no. Drinking a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage may help stave off dehydration and dilute your blood alcohol levels (BAC), which are inherently helpful to your liver.
Drinking water and eating food in between drinks can help your liver metabolize the alcohol more efficiently.
However, there comes the point in the evening where your water intake can be offset by too much alcohol. This strategy works if you drink moderately but not so much if you binge drink.
How long does it take the liver to burn off alcohol?
It takes the liver approximately one hour to metabolize a 12-ounce beer or 5 ounces of wine. If you drink more than that in the same period, your liver will struggle to keep up.
Can I sweat out the smell of alcohol?
Your sweat can definitely smell like alcohol. If you drink faster than your liver can metabolize, about 10% of that alcohol will leave the body via your breath, sweat, and urine. This is why some people smell like pure ethanol the day after drinking.