From Beer to the Bathroom: Understanding Why Alcohol Makes You Pee


Sep. 14 2023, Published 2:15 p.m. ET

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When you’re out with friends, you try not to “break the seal” and go to the bathroom because you know that once you do, you’ll be running to pee every 15 minutes.

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What is it about drinking alcohol that causes you to spend so much time in the bathroom? Why does alcohol make you pee? Let’s explore what the reasons are for your alcohol-induced frequent urination.

A woman sitting on a toilet.
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Does alcohol make you pee more?

Surprisingly, you’ll usually have to pee more when you’re drinking alcohol than if you are drinking water or other non-alcoholic beverages. The reason for this has to do with how your kidneys function.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the primary function of your kidneys as part of your urinary system is to filter the fluids in your body and remove waste through your urine. Per GoodRX, most people pee about 8 cups per day, but drinking alcohol can make you pee about 50 percent more than usual.

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Why does alcohol make you pee?

Your body contains a hormone called vasopressin, or antidiuretic hormone (ADH), that tells the kidneys to hold on to water, per Healthline. But certain things, like alcohol, block the ADH hormone from doing its job. So, instead of holding onto the liquid in your system, your kidneys actually release more water, which means you’ll be running to the bathroom more often.

People waiting in line to pee at porta potties.
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Not all alcohol has this effect on your kidneys and ADH. If you are drinking Miller Lite, which has an alcohol content of 4.2 percent, that isn’t a high enough alcohol content to block ADH hormones. It’s drinks that have a higher alcohol content, 13 percent or more, that block your body from releasing ADH, per GoodRX. Drinks with 13 percent or more alcohol content include wine and distilled spirits like vodka, gin, and whiskey.

However, even consuming lower-alcohol drinks like Miller Light can cause you to pee more frequently. This also has to do with your kidneys and their role in regulating the amount of fluids in your body. Per Healthline, your kidneys monitor the balance of particles and fluid in your blood. This is referred to as the osmolality of your blood.

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Alcohol has more liquid than particles, so your kidneys work to even the scale and send the excess liquid out in your pee, per Healthline.

Women waiting in line for the bathroom.
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Why is my pee clear when I drink alcohol?

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases the amount of water that your body discharges, according to Healthline. If your pee is clear when you are drinking alcohol, it’s an indication that you are drinking too much fluids and they are “running straight through” you rather than being absorbed by your kidneys. This is what can cause you to become dehydrated.

Ever wake up hungover or have a killer headache after a night of drinking? That’s because you’re dehydrated. When you drink a lot of alcohol, the liquid in that alcohol doesn’t get absorbed by your body, leaving you dehydrated the next day.

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