A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Drunchies: The munchies after drinking

An evening out that includes more drinking than eating can lead to a case of the drunchies – a craving for munchies or drunk food loaded with calories.

“When a person drinks alcohol, their liver is busy metabolizing the alcohol, so it stops releasing glucose. As a result, blood sugar levels can drop quickly, putting you at risk for low blood sugar (hypoglycemia),” said Ashley Short, a Marshfield Clinic Health System registered dietitian. “Low blood sugar levels can lead to increased hunger and food cravings.”

Alcohol also acts as a diuretic, which causes frequent urination.  This may lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, which may lead to craving more salt (just one reason you may opt for chips instead of an apple).

Impaired judgment leads to the drunchies

Poor decisions are often made when under the influence of alcohol and this can also include your 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 decision to eat that whole pizza or an entire bag of chips.”

Heavy drinking can compromise personal safety and also makes it more difficult to achieve health and fitness goals.

RELATED ARTICLE: Have a drinking problem? Alcoholism and binge drinking

“An extra 500 calories per day may result in one pound of weight gain per week,” Short said. “Alcohol is already a source of empty calories, and with it’s ability to increase hunger and cravings, this leads to additional intake of empty calories from foods.”

Alcohol may also slow metabolism.  While your body is busy breaking down alcohol, the chemical reactions in the body responsible for breaking down or “burning” fat take a back seat. This leads to more fat being stored versus used for energy. Heavy drinking may also reduce blood flow to muscles, making it more difficult to build and maintain lean muscle mass.

RELATED ARTICLE: Metabolizing alcohol: The effects on the body

Avoid the drunchies

To avoid the drunchies, stick to moderate amounts of alcohol consumption.  It is also important to not drink on an empty stomach, which further increases risk of low blood sugar and increased cravings.

“Limit intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one per day for women,” Short said. “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).

Download the Real Math on Drunk Food Graphics


2 pina coladas could lead to the drunchies for a beefy 5-layer burrito 3 glasses of white wine could lead to the drunchies for a double hamburger with fries 4 beers could lead to the drunchies for two slices of pizza

Talk to your primary care provider if you think you have a drinking problem.

Schedule an appointment Message your provider

Related Shine365 stories about alcohol:

Metabolizing alcohol: The effects on the body

Have a drinking problem? Alcoholism and binge drinking

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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