Sometimes building healthy habits into your daily routine can feel daunting. For example, deciding to quit drinking alcohol. This sounds easy enough for many individuals, I assume, but what happens when the absence of alcohol makes you crave sugar?
Have you ever tried to give up alcohol, only to find yourself craving sweets like a kid in a candy store? Replacing alcohol with sugar is obviously not ideal, so let’s talk about how to stop sugar cravings after quitting alcohol.
Table of Contents
Giving Up Alcohol
Let’s be honest.
Being consistent with a healthy lifestyle takes commitment. What’s “healthy” for one person may look different for another. It also changes as we age, encounter different phases of life, and when health issues arise.
Determining if alcohol is part of a healthy lifestyle for you is a personal choice. No judgement here! But let’s just assume including alcohol in your life is not right for you right now.
Perhaps you’ve already kicked alcohol to the curb or maybe you’re considering it. It’s possible that you have already experienced some unusual cravings, like sugar or sweets.
Keep reading to learn some of the benefits of giving up your boozy beverage and what you can do to stop sugar cravings after quitting alcohol.
Negative Health Effects of Drinking Alcohol
The list is quite lengthy when it comes to the negative effects of drinking alcohol regularly. While there are presumed benefits to drinking small amounts of red wine, the benefits of not drinking alcohol at all even outweigh those.
In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 do not recommend that individuals start consuming alcohol to receive potential health benefits.
Let’s start with the obvious, mental health. Alcohol is a depressant, and while we may drink it to enhance our mood, it actually does the opposite. Over time, alcohol disrupts the sleep cycle and can make us feel more anxious, fatigued, and depressed.
Addiction & Mortality
Hand in hand with mental health comes addiction. Alcohol can be addictive, leaving our bodies needing and wanting more to get the same effect. This spiral, along with other negative side effects, has been shown to increase the risk of mortality (death) in heavy drinkers.
Blood Sugar & Weight Gain
We will dive in to this more below, but if you are consuming alcohol daily and having a hard time with weight gain, the extra calories and sugar in your boozy beverage is the likely culprit.
Alcoholic beverages are a source of empty calories, meaning your body gets no benefits from the calories that are consumed via alcohol. These calories can add up over time and lead to weight gain.
Additionally, drinking alcohol regularly leads to instability in your blood sugar, which can in turn leave the extra sugar and calories to be stored as fat.
Sugar Cravings after Quitting Alcohol
Simply put, alcohol is addictive. Alcohol contains sugar, and sugar is equally addictive. Not surprisingly, when you eliminate something from your life that you are used to having (ie. addicted to), you crave it.
Pay close attention to this next part, because this is what can make cravings so challenging for you. When you give up the booze, you are not only giving up alcohol, but you are also likely eliminating a significant amount of sugar from your diet.
Similarly, both alcohol and sugar send pleasure signals to your brain. This reward pathway leaves your body craving more and more of these items that make it “feel good”. When these items are taken away, your body naturally sends stronger and stronger signals to your brain trying to get you to act in a way that brings that same pleasure back.
Knowledge is power, so now that you know that, try to find something healthy to replace those cravings with and you will be well on your way!
Grams of Sugar in Common Alcoholic Beverages
Check out how much sugar is in some common alcoholic beverages, keeping in mind that the recommend allowance for daily sugar is <25 grams per day for women and <35 grams per day for men.
Alcohol and Gut Health
You may be surprised to learn that routine alcohol consumption negatively affects gut health by causing dysbiosis, leaky gut, and inflammation. Dysbiosis is an imbalance of the good and bad bacteria that lives in the gut. In dysbiosis, the bad bacteria over-populates the good bacteria.
Interestingly, because of the gut brain connection, a healthy gut microbiome can reduce inflammation, improve feelings of mental wellness, and decrease alcohol cravings, among other benefits. A healthy gut will help you stop craving sugar after quitting alcohol.
Substitutes For Your Boozy Beverage
Whether you are ready to quit cold turkey or just cut back on the number of alcoholic beverages you consume, here are some practical alternatives to try. As a side note, if you struggle with a serious addiction, the information below may not be suitable for you.
If you’re the type of person that likes to mingle with friends and have a nice beverage in hand, mocktails can be a great way to enjoy socializing without consuming alcohol. Mocktails have a similar taste and feel to your favorite concoctions, but they don’t contain alcohol.
Starting with your liquid base of choice (ie. cranberry juice, club soda, carbonated water, diet soda, etc) and try one or more of the following:
- Top with fresh herbs, such as mint or basil
- Add a squeeze of fresh lemon lime juice
- Muddle fresh fruit and herbs in your glass before adding your liquid
- Use sparkling grape juice instead of champagne
- Use custom ice cubes for a fancy touch
- Order your favorite drink “virgin”
As the sober curious movement has grown, so too have the options to choose from! Thankfully, these items are easy to find at your local grocery or liquor store.
- Ginger Beer
- Alcohol-Free Wine
- Alcohol-Free Spirits / Liquor
Kombucha is my go-to beverage when I want a refreshing, alcohol-free drink! As a bonus, kombucha has many other health benefits to boot! You may find this bubbly beverage helpful in stopping sugar cravings after quitting alcohol.
Click the highlighted text to read more about my 6 favorite Kombucha brands.
*Items marked with an asterisk are affiliate links. If you purchase through this link, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
If you find yourself routinely drinking alcohol to “take the edge off” or to reduce anxiety, you may benefit from taking supplements to help improve feelings of well-being once you don’t have the alcohol to turn to.
A high-quality multivitamin and a supplement to naturally help reduce feelings of anxiousness may be just what you need. There are many great brands on the market, however you may wish to consult your provider before starting a new regimen.
Sugar cravings after quitting alcohol can be concerning, however you now have practical ways to curb the cravings. Cheers to a successful alcohol-free journey! If you find any of these tips particularly useful for you, please feel free to share with other readers in the comment!
The purpose of this information is to inform and empower the reader to make positive lifestyle changes. The intent is not to replace medical advice or instructions given by your doctor or healthcare provider.
Angela Lago is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and holds a Master’s of Science in Nutrition. She is passionate about researching the connection between gut health and mental wellness. Learn more about Angela’s journey from being depressed, anxious, and sleep deprived to being happy, healthy, and thriving!