Why Does Alcohol Make Us Hungry?


drunkblog1re.jpgAfter reading what our fellow classmate Hayley Geller had to say in her blog about the dreaded freshman 15 that results primarily from drinking paired with munchie eating, I became curious as to why drinking triggers an appetite.  More importantly, why does drinking trigger such an unhealthy appetite? I don't see any drunk college students searching for an apple or some carrots to snack on in the wee hours of the morning.

In one article I read, the explanation involved alcohols attachment to the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in our brains: GABA.  When alcohol is consumed and attached to this neurotransmitter, it slows things down and reduces stress and anxiety levels.  Because it lessens our sense of inhibition, we feel much less guilty than we normally would about wolfing down a greasy slice of pizza or some fries.  This reasoning simply suggests that the health-conscious part of our brain turns off when alcohol is consumed.

Sure this initial explanation helped, but I found it to be too obvious.  I decided to do more research about what it is exactly that makes our stomachs feel empty and truly hungry when we drink.

The second online article I read, I found more of the physiological explanation I was looking for.  This reading explained that alcohol stimulates the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that regulates things such as body temperature, circadian rhythms, and most importantly for this case: HUNGER.  This triggering of the hypothalamus causes us to feel hungry at a time when we may not normally feel hungry - and in particular, for unhealthy foods!


Another article suggested that the reason for the dreaded drunk munchies has to do with alcohol's effect on our blood sugar (glucose).  Because our bodydrunkblog3re.jpg recognizes alcohol as a poison, many bodily mechanisms are triggered to excrete it.  The effort our body is making ceases its ability to maintain healthy glucose levels.  The article states that this drop in blood pressure may result in a sudden and strong carb craving - which would explain why we not only get hungry when we drink, but why we crave those unhealthy, carb-abundant foods.

These three explanations for the "drunk munchies" most likely collaborate to explain this unfortunate phenomenon.  Between our inhibitory factor being turned off, our hypothalamus being triggered, and a drop in blood sugar - alcohol seems to be a dead-set diet destroyer (not to mention the empty calories that alcohol itself).

If you can't completely avoid the drunk munchies, try your best (and I KNOW it's hard) to make healthier choices than an R U Hungry Fat sandwich or a slice of Canyon Pizza.  In my searching, I came across this blog that makes some great suggestions for munchie snacks that will satisfy your late night cravings for under 250 calories!  I noticed that many of the blogger's suggestions still contain a sufficient amount of carbs to satisfy that dreaded carb craving, but are much healthier than the greasy alternatives one would usually choose.

All of my researched explanations for "drunk munchie" cravings seem legitimate, but what do you believe to be the true explanation for our bad late-night habits?

Do you think our lowered inhibitions and carefree attitudes under the influence of alcohol are what allows us to think it's okay to pig out? Or do you think it's more physiological, and that our body needs the food, due to things like lowered blood sugar?


I never would've thought of researching this, but it's so true! When someone devours a slice of Canyon Pizza at 2AM they show no signs of remorse. The psychological connection seems to make more sense to me. The brain causes you to think you're hungry when you're really not. I also think many people assume the late night snacks after drinking help them to "sober up" before bed. I researched the real ways to sober up before going to sleep, and eating is one of them. Although, I don't think it is suggested to eat an R U Hungry sandwich, but rather a healthier alternative.


I would like to think that the drunk munchies are due to something physiological and out of our control because then I would feel a little better about HAVING to eat my weight in pokey sticks. But, unfortunately, I think it has more to do with our lowered inhibitions and simply not acting in our best interest. Before I go out I always tell myself I'm not eating tonight, but more often than not I give in to my cravings. I read your "healthy" alternatives that are under 250 calories. I was relieved to see grilled cheese and EZ mac. These are my "go to's" almost every weekend. The question I have is why do we always feel so guilty about eating DP Dough the night before but not consuming hundreds if not thousands of calories in alcohol?

I actually think that it's more physiological. Our body needs and wants carb rich foods when we're drunk to soak up the alcohol. A lot of people choose to eat carb rich foods or something heavy before drinking so that they won't get as drunk or vomit. I guess we do the same thing after we drink to make our stomachs feel better.

If you scroll down to the section that says food, they talk about how our bodies absorb alcohol 3 times slower if we eat foods with fat, protein, and carbohydrates. So, eating foods like that after drinking probably speeds up the sobering process since it's slowing down the effect of alcohol in our body.

I think that, unfortunately, "drunk munching" is not physiological, and definitely a choice. Personally, it's usually a self-fulfilling prophecy. I tell myself that it's normal for people to drunk eat, think about it before I go out at night, and then by the end of the night I convince myself that it is acceptable to stop at McDonalds for a big mac - clearly that's never true. The reason I think it's definitely by choice is becomes oftentimes, I'm not even really drunk by the end of the night. However, I still tell myself that since I'm out and not thinking totally clearly, ridiculous drunk eating is okay. Obviously, it's not. So, after putting more thought into it I started to change some things in order to aid my drunk munch problem. I started by looking up examples of healthy but still satisfying things to eat (like presented in this articleE. I then also started to buy healthy snacks that I would have in my room for when I got back. Now when I go out I tel myself, "Okay, you can eat, but just wait for when you get back to your room. There's some Special K and leftover salad for you." The problem isn't totally cured, however I definitely think it's a step in the right direction.
I also found some other hints from anotherarticle on ways to help me with this problem:
Eat Before You Drink- Eating before you start drinking will help your body process the alcohol and will prevent you from feeling nauseous later. It may even help you consume less calories during drunk munching!
Stay In The Clear- Vodka, gin and lighter beers are easier to process than dark alcohols like whiskey, bourbon and even red wine!
Take Your Vitamins- Alcohol robs your body of essential nutrients so make sure you’re eating a balanced diet and supplementing where needed.
Drink Water- Hydrate with water before, during and after drinking. Alcohol dehydrates your body and makes all body processes more difficult-including digestion!
Hopefully this helps some peopl

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