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Drinking Habits

Does Bread Soak Up Alcohol?

April 4, 2024
15 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
April 4, 2024
15 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
April 4, 2024
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
April 4, 2024
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Reframe Content Team
April 4, 2024
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Alcohol and Bread

  • Bread is often touted as a hack to sober up quickly or even as a hangover cure. Unfortunately, the science doesn’t add up.
  • The only way to sober up is time. While waiting for the body to finish processing alcohol, we can support our recovery with water, rest, and nutrients.
  • The Reframe app can help you get control of your drinking habits so you can say goodbye to hangover cures and “sober up quickly” schemes.

Has a friend ever suggested you go grab a bagel and a coffee after a night out partying, claiming that “bread helps you sober up”? Sure, we’ve all heard of this supposed antidote to alcohol, but is it true? Does bread soak up alcohol?

In this article, we’ll investigate the interaction between bread and alcohol and discover how bread impacts alcohol absorption. First, we need to understand how alcohol impacts our system and dive into the science behind metabolism. Keep reading to find out how true these magical claims about bread really are!

Understanding How Food Interacts With Alcohol

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Alcohol impacts the body head to toe (and everything in between). When we drink, the signals in our nerve pathways slow down, and our heart rate can drastically change. Our mood and behavior also change when we drink, and our thinking starts to slow — these are the effects we may recognize as being “drunk” or “intoxicated.”

Gut health is an important component to consider when consuming alcoholic beverages. How is our gut microbiome altered by alcohol, and how should we care for our gut before and after drinking? The three major macronutrients — carbohydrates, protein, and fats — are the building blocks of all food (including alcohol), and they are all vital for recovery after a night out drinking.

Breaking Down the Macronutrients

How does our metabolism break down these culinary building blocks, and where does alcohol fit into the picture?

  • Carbohydrates or “carbs” are mainly sugars, fibers, and starches. Carbs give our body glucose, which gives our body the energy it needs to function throughout the day. Bread falls mostly into the carbohydrate category (although there’s more to the story!), but that can change depending on what we top it off with.

While alcohol itself is not a carbohydrate, we often consume lots of carbohydrates when we drink. For instance, most wine contains carbohydrates; beer is almost entirely carbohydrates, and any sugary drink mixer starts adding up as well. Eating bread or toast while drinking (or after) contributes to this carb overload. While this isn’t necessarily bad, it can be for some of us!

  • Proteins are made up of amino acids — the building blocks of our body. They power our muscles, blood flow, and oxygen levels. The National Academy of Medicine recommends we eat about 7 grams of protein per 20 pounds of body weight per day, but some of us may need more depending on our activity levels and lifestyles.

Alcohol is not a protein, and alcoholic drinks generally do not contain any protein. Alcohol depletes the body’s amino acids, so protein must be replenished for a full recovery. Bread contains a small amount of protein called gluten, although not enough to meet the body’s nutritional needs on its own.

  • Fats are often categorized into unsaturated fats, trans fats, and saturated fats. Unsaturated fats are the healthiest and can be found in substances like olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Saturated fats should be consumed in moderation; these fats can be found in foods like butter, coconut, and red meat. Trans fats are found in highly processed foods such as donuts, microwave popcorn, margarine, and fried foods. They are the least healthy type of fat and increase our risk for heart disease. They’re so dangerous, in fact, that many countries regulate or ban them as additives.

Alcohol generally doesn’t contain fat (except in drinks with added milk or cream). Healthy fats are important for joint health and blood sugar regulation, and should be consumed as we recover from a night of drinking. The important part is sticking with healthy unsaturated fats rather than loading up on processed comfort foods.

How Does Bread Interact With Alcohol?

Bread is a high-carbohydrate food that comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many of us have a favorite bread-based dish, from bagels, jelly and toast, sandwiches, warm buttermilk biscuits, or hearty deli sandwiches. Bread is a staple food because of its generally cheap ingredients and stomach-filling nature.

In fact, it’s so important to culinary anthropology that bread has historically been heavily regulated all the way back to the Roman Empire when laws determined a loaf’s contents, weight, size, and price. But does bread really have an impact on alcohol metabolism?

Mixing Alcohol and Bread

Alcohol enters the bloodstream through the gastrointestinal tract, where it travels throughout our body. Almost immediately, the liver sends out enzymes to begin breaking down ethanol — the pure form of alcohol responsible for intoxicating effects. As the liver breaks down alcohol, it produces a toxic compound called acetaldehyde, the gnarly chemical responsible for that icky-all-over unpleasant feeling during a hangover.

While bread does slow the rate of alcohol absorption in the bloodstream, it doesn’t make alcohol less potent. Bread also doesn’t decrease the amount of alcohol absorbed into the bloodstream — all the alcohol we drink still makes its way into our bodily systems. This change in absorption rate, however, can make alcohol feel a little weaker, and different breads can have different effects when it comes to slowing down alcohol absorption.

  • Whole grain or high-fiber bread. Foods high in fiber, like whole grain bread, slow the absorption of alcohol. Fiber demands more attention than other foods for digestion, which takes away from the focus on processing alcohol. As a result, alcohol hits us more slowly over a longer period of time, reducing “peak” intoxication and slowing down the aftereffects (like hangovers).
  • White or refined bread. White bread, which has less fiber compared to whole grain bread, is not as effective in slowing down the absorption of alcohol. Carbohydrates are digested rather quickly, which makes it inefficient at distracting the liver from alcohol metabolism.
  • Bread with fat content. Bread that contains or is eaten with fat (like doughnuts or buttered toast) can also slow the absorption of alcohol. Fat takes longer to digest, which delays metabolism slightly and slows the passage of food into the small intestine (where most alcohol is absorbed).
  • Bread with protein. Combining bread with a protein source (like cheese or meat) can further slow the absorption of alcohol. Protein, like fiber and fat, slows down digestion.

So we know that bread can reduce the effects of alcohol slightly, but can it actually reverse them? Does bread help us sober up?

Sobering Up With Bread

Bread as a sober-up-quick scheme is more of a myth than a reality. As we saw above, bread doesn’t contribute to a decrease in our blood alcohol content (BAC), so where did this myth come from?

Though bread doesn’t make us sober up faster, its slowdown effect on the metabolism process means that the toxic by-products of alcohol metabolism (like acetaldehyde) are produced more slowly, which flattens the spike in hangover symptoms and allows our body to have a more steady recovery period. Depending on the type of bread product consumed, it can also be rich in macronutrients, which are important to replenish after drinking.

Alcohol, Bread, and Blood Sugar Levels

Alcohol is a depressant, a “downer” on our nervous system, meaning it slows our brain function and body systems and causes drowsiness. Nervous system depressants are known to cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, and alcohol does just that.

Fiber — an important component of carbohydrates — can come in large numbers when we consume whole grain or sprouted grain bread. After drinking, eating these types of bread will help us restore our fiber and blood sugar levels as our body gets rid of the toxins. 

Healthy Food Options for Hangovers

Healthy Food Options for Hangovers

Bread can be an excellent choice when it comes to easing a hangover. No magic pill will fix a hangover immediately, but steps can be taken to minimize the symptoms and get back to our best self. Let’s look at the building blocks of a solid bread-based hangover meal that will check all the nutrient boxes: a sandwich.

  • Step 1: Start with whole grain or sprouted grain bread as these are the most nutrient-dense bread options. You can try toasting this or using it right out of the bread bag.

  • Step 2: Add healthy fats, such as olive oil and avocado, and avoid saturated fats like cheese and butter. Healthy fats help clear that hangover brain fog and reduce inflammation.

  • Step 3: Next step is protein, such as baked turkey, grilled chicken, or a poached egg. These are essential for replenishing our muscles and amino acids. This is a good final step before adding a second piece of bread or toast.

  • Step 4: Grab some water, sit down, and revive your system with some much-needed relaxation.

If you aren’t feeling up to a sandwich or don’t have the stomach for solid foods, there are plenty of other healthy food choices to aid hangover recovery.

  • Vegetables and fruits are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, and healthy carbohydrates. You can try a smoothie or just snack on some soft foods like bananas or oranges. Apple slices dipped in peanut butter is a great way to go; this meal hits every macronutrient.

  • Dairy products, in moderation, are a great source of both protein and fats as we give back to our nervous systems and musculoskeletal system. Fat is necessary for brain functioning and cardiovascular health. Start off with a piece of cheese or a glass of milk, then graduate to something with fiber as your stomach settles.

How To Sober Up Safely

While it might not be easy, the best way to sober up safely is to give yourself time to recover and get the alcohol out of your bloodstream. That being said, here are a few tips for sobering up safely:

  • Avoid additional alcohol. The best way to begin sobering up is avoiding further alcohol consumption with debunked strategies like “hair of the dog.”

  • Stay hydrated. Drink water and consider supplementing with electrolyte drinks. Both of these are depleted during intoxication and necessary for healthy recovery.

  • Restock your macronutrients. Opt for that healthy diet you always hear about: whole grain bread, fiber, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats to replenish your nutrients and balance your gut health.

  • Rest. Sleep and light activity are your best friends when it comes to sobering up.

  • Pain relievers and prescriptions. If you are taking a pain reliever for your symptoms, be sure to check the potential interactions between alcohol and the drug you are taking, as some can make symptoms worse or amplify alcohol’s toxic effects.

  • Get medical treatment if you or someone you know shows symptoms of alcohol poisoning. Symptoms include loss of consciousness or difficulty remaining conscious, seizures, vomiting, labored breathing, or a slowed heart rate.


Although no “cure-all” exists for the side effects of alcohol consumption (nor the dreaded hangover), bread can be a good recovery food after alcohol use by providing us with fiber and other nutrients depleted by alcohol. We can all benefit from knowing a few extra foods to help us restore our body to its healthy state!

Summary FAQs

1. Is bread good to eat after drinking alcohol?

Bread can be a good food to consume before, during, and after drinking alcohol. Whole grain and sprouted grain bread, in particular, are rich in fiber and other nutrients that can protect and repair our muscles, nervous system, and gut while using alcohol.

2. Does bread soak up alcohol?

While bread doesn’t soak up alcohol and get rid of it, bread does slow the absorption process of alcohol into the bloodstream. We may feel like bread is absorbing and consuming the alcohol because of this, but in reality, our blood alcohol level is just taking longer to rise because the bread is slowing the absorption of alcohol.

3. Does bread sober you up?

Time is the best asset when it comes to sobering up, but bread can replenish lost nutrients as our body recovers from our drinking alcohol. It’s also important to drink water and electrolytes while eating food and trying to sober up.

4. Does bread cure hangovers?

Bread is a good option to keep in mind when considering what to eat during a hangover, but be sure to add other ingredients like healthy fats and proteins to replenish all macronutrients. No “cure” for hangovers actually exists — all you need is time!

Ready To Say Goodbye to Hangovers for Good? Reframe Can Help!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet hundreds of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today! 

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