A Neuroscientist Explains How to Avoid Binge Eating After Drinking Alcohol

binge eating when drunk
Ditch the Post-Pub Binge with These Top Tipschickaz - Getty Images

At Men’s Health, we like to credit our readers with some intelligence. So we’ll assume that the obvious solution – ‘drink less’ – has already occurred to you.

First, a science lesson. Denis Burdakov, a neuroscientist at the university ETH Zürich, calls this drunken increase in appetite the ‘aperitif effect’ – a strange phenomenon in which alcohol, despite being a source of calories itself, sends feedback to the brain that heightens rather than dampens our desire to eat. Our brain slides into ‘evolutionary hunger mode’: a state in which we crave excessive amounts of calorie- dense foods as if experiencing a period of scarcity.

Maintaining a state of semi-sobriety by switching between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks (including water) will help, of course. But it’s tricky when booze is ubiquitous – not to mention delicious, calorie-dense winter stodge. ‘We’re working against evolution here,’ Professor Burdakov says.

All is not lost. Professor Burdakov advises fitting in a sweaty workout ahead of your big night out. The temporary increase in metabolism can help your body process alcohol a little faster, leaving those molecules less time to mess with your appetite.

After training, he suggests lining your stomach with a high-fat snack – avocado, nuts, salmon, cheese… or a pickled egg if you’re already at the pub – which takes a while to digest and will slow the rate at which alcohol affects you. (Competitors in drinking contests sometimes chug oil before participating for that reason, says Professor Burdakov – although don’t try that at the office social.)

Finally, if you’re mid-house party, prioritise high-fibre foods such as crudites, hummus, crackers and popcorn. They’ll fill you up faster and for longer, somewhat tempering your desire to scoff a large bag of crisps later. Just don’t be too hard on yourself.

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