Since childhood, we've been repeatedly warned of the cringe-worthy effects of alcohol on the body. (And as adults, most of us have become all too familiar with them firsthand). There's no denying that alcohol plays a major role in the life of most American adults. In fact, more than half of us report drinking alcohol on a monthly basis, and over a quarter report binge drinking in the past month. "Occasional drinking has been said to improve health, but frequent binging doesn't," says registered dietitian Jenny Champion.
Not to freak you out, but according to Barry Sears, PhD, biochemist and creator of the Zone Diet, alcohol's negative impact on the body can include everything from inflammatory effects on your organs to potential damage to your DNA. Drinking in excess can also put you at risk for certain cancers, diabetes, and liver disease, among other grim conditions. "Aside from the serious dangers of drinking too much, there are also a number of other not-so-pleasant effects," adds Champion, "including lousy moods, crazy sugar cravings, excess calories, liver fat, poor sleep habits, dry skin, and foggy concentration."
Huge bummer, we know. But here's a giant ray of hope: For most people, your body can actually bounce back from alcohol's negative effects at amazing speeds. In a matter of hours, in fact. Want to know exactly how long it takes for these benefits to kick in? With the help of Champion, we put together the following timeline of your body after that last glass of rosé. Read on to see the incredible things your body can do in the days, weeks, and months after you stop drinking.
Meet the Expert
- Barry Sears, PhD, is a biochemist specializing in dietary inflammation, and is the creator of the Zone Diet and author of The Zone.
- Jenny Champion, MS RD CPT is a registered dietitian, personal trainer and creator of the 7-Day Cleanse.
1 Hour After You Quit
This is when your body kicks into high gear to clear the alcohol from your bloodstream and prevent alcohol poisoning, says Champion. An hour after your last drink, your liver starts working overtime. Alcohol is also proven to trigger intense hunger and carb cravings, leading to overeating.
12-24 Hours After You Quit
Your blood sugar may finally normalize. "Also, because of the diuretic effect booze has on our bodies, you're going to be dehydrated," says Champion. So make sure to reach for a water bottle stat. Tip: A cute water bottle always makes the hydration process easier.
48 Hours After You Quit
At this stage, your body usually finishes its biggest detox hurdle. "Depending on how much you drank, grogginess, headaches, and tiredness might still be lingering," says Champion. But the worst is over.
72 Hours After You Quit
Any hangover side-effects are likely now officially out of your system and your carb cravings have probably subsided. Champion says 72 hours after quitting is when "you finally feel back to yourself physically and mentally."
1 Week After You Quit
You start sleeping more deeply, causing your physical and mental energy to increase. Your skin may begin to look dewier and more youthful as hydration restores. Skin conditions such as dandruff, eczema, and rosacea might begin to improve.
1 Month After You Quit
After just one month, your liver fat reduces, increasing its ability to filter toxins out of the body. You might also notice a weight reduction. In addition, Champion says that the most significant improvement in your skin occurs at this four-week mark.
1 Year After You Quit
A year after your last drink, you may lose a significant amount of belly fat. Your risk of throat, liver, and breast cancers also starts to reduce. "On the financial side of the coin," Champion adds, "if you spent $30 at each happy hour three times per week, at the one-year mark, you will have saved almost $5000."
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol use in the United States. Updated June, 2021.
Shield KD, Parry C, Rehm J. Chronic diseases and conditions related to alcohol use. Alcohol Res. 2013;35(2):155–173.
Cains S, Blomeley C, Kollo M, Rácz R, Burdakov D. Agrp neuron activity is required for alcohol-induced overeating. Nat Commun. 2017;8:14014. doi:10.1038/ncomms14014
Lydon DM, Ram N, Conroy DE, Pincus AL, Geier CF, Maggs JL. The within-person association between alcohol use and sleep duration and quality in situ: an experience sampling study. Addict Behav. 2016;61:68‐73. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2016.05.018
Mehta G, Macdonald S, Cronberg A, et al. Short-term abstinence from alcohol and changes in cardiovascular risk factors, liver function tests and cancer-related growth factors: a prospective observational study. BMJ Open. 2018;8(5):e020673. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-020673
Ahmad Kiadaliri A, Jarl J, Gavriilidis G, Gerdtham UG. Alcohol drinking cessation and the risk of laryngeal and pharyngeal cancers: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e58158. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058158