A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Giving in to food cravings after hours? Drunchie calories add up

illustration of drinks and food

An evening out that includes more drinking than eating can find you craving a greasy, meat-lovers deluxe pizza with extra cheese or an order of deep-fried breadsticks.

Consuming too many alcoholic drinks can affect health and safety, and drinking too much too quickly also can give you a case of the drunchies – a craving for munchies or drunk food loaded with calories.

Why the cravings?

“When a person drinks, the liver’s primary function at that time is metabolizing the alcohol, so it cannot produce as much blood sugar as normal,” said Ashley Short, a Marshfield Clinic registered dietitian.

Blood sugar moves through the bloodstream to give energy to the entire body. Drinking heavily blocks the liver from releasing stored glucose, causing a person to feel excessively hungry.

Dehydration also leads to hunger

Alcohol is a diuretic, a substance that causes frequent urination.

As dehydration sets in, the body may crave salt to promote water retention, (just one reason you may opt for chips instead of an apple).

Impaired judgment

As with other decisions when consuming alcohol, perhaps you shouldn’t make food choices.

“When a person is intoxicated, it is difficult to truly recognize hunger and satiety cues,” Short said. “You may be full and not even realize it, and only then come to realize the next morning that it may not have been the best idea to eat that whole pizza or an entire bag of chips.”

Be safe, healthy and fit

Heavy drinking can compromise personal safety, and harms health and fitness goals.

“An extra 500 calories per day can result in one pound of weight gain per week,” Short said. “Alcohol already is full of empty calories. If you add in pizza, chips or cheese curds, you’re packing on a lot of extra calories in one night.”

Large amounts of alcohol cause fat to be stored instead of used as an energy source, so metabolism slows. Alcohol also reduces blood flow to muscles, making it more difficult to build lean muscle mass.

Avoid the drunchies

Stick to moderate amounts of alcohol consumption. Limit intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one per day for women. The recommendation is lower for women because of their smaller body size and slower breakdown of alcohol.

A drink of alcohol is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (hard liquor).

drunk food math chart

Related Shine365 stories about alcohol:

Absorbing the effects of alcohol

Man up: Are you drinking too much alcohol?

Is alcohol consumption good or bad for you?

Red or white wine? Consider this.

Sulfites: What are they and are they safe?

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