Confused Why You’re Gaining Weight? Alcohol Might Be the Culprit

Share it:
Confused Why You’re Gaining Weight? Alcohol Might Be the Culprit


Self_2013_vectorWe’ve all experienced the drunken munchies before, right? The bad news: Booze can cause us to eat more, worse and store more calories as fat. The good news: No need to give up a great evening—we’ve got the plan to keep you drinking happily with your weight in check.

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?


SELF is the magazine that makes living healthy easy and fun. SELF’s motto: Being fit, strong and active means feeling great, being happy and looking your most beautiful. With trademark authority, SELF speaks to women about three key areas of her being: her body, her looks and her life. SELF makes it fun and fulfilling to be your happiest, healthiest, best self. Reaching a total audience of 12 million each month, SELF is the founder of the Pink Ribbon for breast cancer awareness and an ASME National Magazine Award winner for excellence in journalistic achievement in print and digital. SELF is published by Condé Nast, publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair, Bon Appétit, GQ, Glamour, The New Yorker, Wired and other celebrated media brands. Visit and follow @SELFmagazine on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Foodily and Google+.

Check out these other great articles from


About the Author

SELF is the ultimate wellness resource and community. We recognize that wellness is as much about self-expression and self-esteem as it is about exercise and nutrition; that it’s not an all-or-nothing lifestyle; and that every person’s individual goals for healthy living are different, and that’s OK. We’re here to celebrate, motivate, support, inform and entertain you—and make you laugh, too. Join the conversation and catch the latest SELF news, recipes, advice, laughs and more on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.



Never Miss a Post!

Turn on MyFitnessPal desktop notifications and stay up to date on the latest health and fitness advice.


Click the 'Allow' Button Above


You're all set.