Ever wake up after a booze-fueled evening and feel ravenous?
Headache, nausea, and an overall crappy feeling are the most common bodily responses to drinking too much. But sometimes, you might just wake up really, really hungry.
It’s not your imagination. Morning-after alcohol hunger is a real thing, and the science behind why it happens is actually pretty simple.
“The metabolism of alcohol can alter blood sugar balance by depleting your storage of glycogen, or carbohydrates,” says gastroenterologist and weight management physician Nitin Kumar, M.D.
Glycogen is your body’s preferred source of energy.
So after you’ve used up most of your available glycogen stores to metabolize all that booze, you need more. As a result, you start to feel hungry.
Since glycogen comes from carbs, you might find yourself with a particular craving for things like bread and sugar. You might want more salty stuff, too, thanks to alcohol’s dehydrating effects.
“Dehydration can cause salt cravings,” Dr. Kumar says.
Add it all up, and that urge to devour a stack of pancakes and a pile of crispy bacon suddenly doesn’t seem so strange.
You don’t have to drink all that much to wake up feeling hungry. One study published in the journal Alcohol & Alcoholism found that just three drinks was enough to lower levels of the satiety hormone leptin by around 30 percent.
But in real life, everyone deals with alcohol a little differently. If you’re a lightweight, one stiff drink might be enough to leave your stomach rumbling in the morning.
If you have a pretty high tolerance, it might take more than three drinks to notice a difference in your next-day hunger level.
Either way, after an indulgent evening, gorging on more calories probably isn’t the best idea. So how can you keep that alcohol-fueled hunger under control?
Obviously, drinking less is a great place to start. The less alcohol you consume, the less likely you are to end up with low blood sugar-induced hunger.
Sipping water and non-alcoholic drinks can help, too—both in between drinks and the following morning, says registered dietician Isabel Smith.
It will help stave off the dehydration that makes you crave salt.
And try to eat foods with some protein and healthy fat.
“Protein and fat help balance blood sugar and promote better satiety,” says Smith says.