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Does Alcohol Warm You Up?

A group of people drink beer outdoors during cold weather.

While drinking alcohol, a warm sensation begins to run through your body, prompting you to remove your sweater. Or, if you’re at a chilly tailgate or outdoor event, it might even seem to make you a bit cozier.

There’s a long-standing myth that drinking alcohol warms you up. Based on personal experience, it might seem true. As it turns out, drinking alcohol doesn’t make you warmer—it does the opposite.

When you drink alcohol, your blood vessels dilate, stimulating the warm sensation you get. But when this happens, it’s harder for your body to constrict those vessels. Constricted blood vessels are essential in minimizing blood flow near your skin and keeping your body warm. So, if you are unable to constrict them, what’s happening? Your core body temperature decreases.

Because alcohol also impairs your ability to shiver, and the warm feeling makes you sweat, your body temperature begins to cool down even more.

So even though you may feel warm, your core temperature, in fact, is decreasing, which could make drinking alcohol in cold weather a bit dangerous. You likely won’t realize your body temperature is going down, and if you’re significantly impaired due to the alcohol, that could also make things worse.

Nevertheless, we wouldn’t try to stop you cold-weather fans from enjoying a hot toddy or some mulled wine outdoors. Just throw on a fuzzy fleece and heated gloves before you do!

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