Here's Why You Eat When You're Drunk

Scientists have discovered the one reason why drinking alcohol turns everyone into a bunch ravenous beasts.

You know how the story goes: You eat healthy all day to offset what promises to be a late night out and the resulting spike in alcohol-generated calories. But somewhere between your third and fourth craft beer, it hits you. You’re really hungry — and nothing but a large order of fries will satiate the greedy black hole that is your stomach.

When you wake up the next morning feeling as if your blood has turned to oil, you wonder why you ever allowed yourself to eat such a thing. Because, biologically speaking, consuming a boatload of calories — as is the case when you guzzle three margaritas in succession — should suppress your appetite.

Get this: According to a new study, alcohol actually fires up the same neurons that your brain activates when you’re starving.

Scientists have known for quite some time that people tend to overeat after they drink alcohol (called “the aperitif effect” — ooh la la), but they haven’t identified any biological reasons. Until now.

The authors of the new study from the Francis Crick Institute in London studied a group of drunken mice in what they called an “alcoholic weekend” experiment, Live Science reports. But instead of escaping to Miami Beach, the mice were injected with alcohol for three days. To get a baseline, the researches injected saline into the mice for three days leading up to the experiment and for three days after, according to FWx. They then studied the mice’s eating habits and observed their brains.

As expected, the mice ate more when injected with alcohol than when injected with saline. But the researchers also found that the critters’ Agrp brain cells (the “feed me” signals) went crazy when the mice were on alcohol, but stayed silent when they had saline. To push the point, the researchers artificially inhibited the Agrp neurons while the mice were drunk, and the mice stopped overeating. Um, hey scientists, can you please find a way to artificially inhibit our Agrp neurons when we drink?

Jokes aside, Live Science highlighted a few of the study’s limitations. First of all, mice are not people. Also, by injecting the mice with alcohol instead of allowing them to drink it voluntarily, the scientists may have overstressed the little guys, which could have affected the results.

“Stress can change the brain and behavior in powerful ways,” Jessica R. Barson, an assistant professor of neurobiology at Drexel University College of Medicine (who was not involved in the study), tells Live Science, including how much we eat.

So that’s the secret behind everyone’s major “drunchies.” But this doesn’t mean that you’re totally helpless when the hunger hits. Shape recommends packing a healthy snack, such as a banana or small bag of nuts, whenever you plan to take the town by storm. And do some research beforehand to identify all the healthy eateries near the designated watering hole in case your friends insist on grabbing a post-party bite.

What Do YOU Think?

Do you feel better knowing that there’s a biological reason that you want to eat everything after you drinking alcohol? How will this information affect your tipsy tendencies? What do you do to avoid drunken binge-eating? What’s your go-to snack after a night out? Let us know in the comments section!