Alcohol triggers cravings—mainly for junk food… Your first drink starts a rush of feel-good endorphins in your brain, says a study in Science Translational Medicine. At the same time, it can also spark disco-fry cravings. “The neurocircuitry for the pleasure you get from alcohol and food overlaps,” says study author Jennifer Mitchell, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology at the University of California at San Francisco.
Then it makes you impulsive… So you’re battling disco-fry cravings, but now, shortly after that first sip, the alcohol in your brain slows activity in your rational prefrontal cortex. Your logic and willpower plummet, and you can’t say no to snacks. Worse, if you sip more than one drink per hour, your liver can’t metabolize the alcohol fast enough to keep up, leaving more booze—and junk food cravings—to wallop your brain.
And leads you to misread your body’s signals… Just when you’re too irrational to resist those apps, your body starts telling you it’s hungry. Truth: It probably isn’t. Alcohol lowers the level of hormones that help you retain water, making you dehydrated. “The thirst you feel can actually register as hunger,” says Sharon Akabas, Ph.D., associate director of Columbia University’s Institute of Human Nutrition.
Meanwhile, you burn off food more slowly… Odds are good you cave in and order the fries. Double trouble: The extra calories are one thing, but you’re also more likely to store them as fat. “Metabolizing alcohol takes precedence over digesting food, so you burn alcohol faster than the food-based calories,” says Jennifer A. Reinhold, Pharm.D., assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.
And you end up hungry again As your night of fun winds down, the weighty side effects keep adding up. “Drinking causes a spike in blood sugar that prompts your pancreas to pump out extra insulin,” says Reinhold. “And insulin makes you store more fat.” The insulin lowers your blood-sugar levels, causing more hunger (and maybe a hankering for a big hangover brunch the next day). It’s no wonder you feel bloated.
Do you get mega cravings during happy hour? What are your tricks for avoiding alcohol-induced munchies?
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