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One Major Side Effect of Drinking Alcohol on an Empty Stomach, Dietitian Says

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If you read this headline and cringed just a tiny bit inside, you might be like a lot of us, recalling your younger years when skipping dinner before heading out to a party seemed like a brilliant way to save on calories. But, in the long run, drinking alcohol on an empty stomach can come with consequences to your health (and, yes, your weight loss goals). To help you understand the exact reasons this isn’t a great idea, a dietitian is calling out the cautions.

Read up on the reminders for why you shouldn’t drink when you haven’t eaten (!), and don’t miss This Is the Exact Amount of Alcohol That Derails Weight Loss, New Study Says.

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True: In some cases, catching a little buzz is the goal. (And hey, that’s an individual’s business—one recent study actually suggested that taking the edge off with a drink may relieve your heart from some effects of stress). But if you drink alcohol on an empty stomach, it’s likely that drunk feeling will hit fast… and that can lead to what comes next.

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Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, is a registered dietitian-nutritionist who recently pointed out to Insider how “drinking on an empty stomach . . . could lead to a dangerous drop in blood sugar.”

On the other hand, drinking without having eaten could instead cause blood sugar to spike, whereas a small snack may help to stabilize the effect. As Jessica Hoffman, LADC, a Licensed Alcohol, and Drug Counselor at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation (the nation’s largest nonprofit treatment center), recently told Eat This, Not That!: “A lot of the times we don’t always realize the amount of sugar that we metabolize when we drink alcohol.” When your sugar level rises to an unhealthy zone (“normal” blood sugar is less than 140 milligrams per deciliter), that can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular issues. (Read more on this in Surprising Side Effects of Not Drinking Alcohol, Say Experts.)

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Taub-Dix said that if your plan is to bypass calories by skipping a meal and heading straight for drinks, that could totally end up backfiring. “A lot of people, before they drink, they may say, ‘OK, tonight I’m not having the bread on the table,'” Taub-Dix said. “Then they go to a restaurant and they have a drink or two, and before you know it, the bread starts to look good.”

Anyone who’s ever gotten home from a night out and dialed for delivery might agree that the sudden lack of discipline doesn’t stop at bread. Late-night pizza, fast food, or ice cream are also guilty go-tos that may be common when you drank without having anything to eat.

RELATED: This Is the #1 Worst Nighttime Snack for Your Waistline, Says an Expert

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You know this: The headache, the hangover, the loss in judgment, the next-day “hangxiety”: Having a snack or a small meal as a base can help you avoid these unpleasant effects from drinking. For more inspiration to practice good self-care when it comes to alcohol, read Here’s What Happens To Your Body If You Drink Alcohol Every Day.

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