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AWARE|University Counseling Center

The Relationship Between Weight and Gender with BAC

Differences between Men and Women

Did you know that a 120 pound woman who has 5 drinks over 3 hours will be twice as intoxicated as a 160-pound man who drinks the same amount.?*

There are 4 main reasons why men and women differ in the amount that they drink.

  1. On average the total amount of water in a woman's body is lower than in a man, thus the alcohol becomes more concentrated in the woman's body.
  2. Men have more of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme that processes alcohol.
  3. Women's hormonal concentration fluctuates as a function of their monthly cycle. Alcohol reacts with certain hormones, such as estrogen, to produce increased intoxication.
  4. Differences in body fat concentration between men and women produces a differential effect. Due to biology and the ability to carry a child, women have a higher percentage of body fat than men of the same size and weight.
*(ETR Associates, 2000)


It is not necessarily the amount that someone weighs, but rather the percentage of body fat that influences BAC. Thus two people of the same gender and the same weight can have different BAC levels due to differences in muscle to fat ratio. For example, if two individuals both weight 160 pounds and they both drink the same number of drinks in the same amount of time, but one is a couch potato and the other is a track star, the couch potato's BAC will be higher.

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