Burning alcohol and its removal from the body

Your body mainly burns alcohol in the liver.

95% of the alcohol you drink will be removed from your body by being burnt in the liver. Only about 5% will evaporate through your breath, urine and sweat.

How quickly will your body burn alcohol?

The rate at which your body burns alcohol is a personal trait that varies greatly between individuals. Everyone has a standard rate at which their body burns alcohol, and this cannot be accelerated by drinking coffee, exercising or having a sauna.

The most commonly used estimate is that alcohol burns at a rate of 1 gram per hour per 10 kilos of bodyweight. For example, an adult weighing 80 kilos would burn 8 grams of alcohol per hour, while an adult weighing 50 kilos would burn 5 grams of alcohol per hour. One serving of alcohol contains about 12 grams of alcohol.

Examples of alcohol burning rates for a 50 kg and 80 kg adult: 

Alcoholic beverage and volume Alcohol servings Estimated burning time, 80 kg adult Estimated burning time, 50 kg adult
Beer class I, 0.33 l 0.5 < 1 h 11.5 h
Medium strength beer, cider, Long Drink max. 4,7%, 0.33 l 1 1.5 h 22.5 h
Medium strength beer, cider, Long Drink max. 4,7%, 0.5 l 1.5 2−2.5 h 3.54 h
Medium strength beer, cider, Long Drink 5-7%, 0.33 l 2 3 h 4.55 h
Wine 10-15%, 12 cl 1 1.5 h 22,5 h
Wine 10-15%, 24 cl 2 3 h 4.55 h
Wine 10-15%, 0,75 l 6 9 h 1414.5 h
Strong alcohol 35-40% 0.35 l 9 13.5 h 21.522 h

Estimate or test your blood alcohol content

Even though you may no longer feel drunk, there may still be alcohol in your blood. If you are jumping behind the wheel of a car and want a reliable indicator of whether you are in a suitable condition to drive, it is worth to take an alcohol test.

It is also worth noting that, even though you may have a blood alcohol content of zero, tiredness also has a negative impact on concentration and driving ability. Read more about the effects of alcohol on driving ability.

Article sources:
Duodecim Current Care Guidelines
Finnish Student Health Service