The holiday season sets in full swing and whether you’re psyched for your annual office party or are dreading an awkward family dinner, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and tip back one too many cocktails. Which of course means experiencing a pounding headache or upset stomach the next day as the most common, and much too familiar symptoms of a hangover. A bad hangover. While we feel you should live in the moment, it’s also important to think ahead to avoid the onset of a brutal hangover.
It happens to everyone. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention1, one in six adults in the US over-drinks about four times a month. So, if you’re looking to enjoy your drinks this holiday season (and beyond) without the burden of a hangover, here are some simple tips to keep in mind while having fun.
#1. HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE
Splitting headaches, sickness, dizziness, dehydration: anyone who's ever drunk too much knows the consequences. Excess alcohol consumption can cause dehydration in a variety of ways.
Most importantly, alcohol decreases the body's production of the antidiuretic hormone called vasopressin, which is used by the body to reabsorb water. With less antidiuretic hormone available, your body loses more fluid than normal through increased urination. In other words, with each cocktail, we prevent vasopressin from doing its job to successfully prevent a hangover.
The bottom line here is that water is your best friend when it comes to heavy alcohol consumption. Liquor is a diuretic, causing you to urinate more frequently, and therefore dehydrates you the more you drink. The more dehydrated you become, the worse your hangover will be the following morning. Adding in at least 1 full glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you have is vital to avoiding hangovers. If you’re out drinking, order a pitcher of water for the table. Or with every alcoholic beverage you order, be sure to order a glass of water with it. In the case that you still wake up with a slight hangover after taking the necessary precautions, gulp down a glass of coconut water to help speed up recovery. Many people are unaware of the benefits of coconut water and its ability to cure a hangover.
#2. EAT BEFORE YOU DRINK
Delaying the absorption of alcohol is a good first step toward hangover prevention.
In other words, the key here is to consume enough food before you drink—before any alcohol has been absorbed into your bloodstream. Eating before consuming alcohol allows the contents of the beverage to be assimilated more slowly into your system.
For best results, make sure you eat a balanced meal containing carbs, protein, and fat before you take your first sip of alcohol. It is better if that meal contains red meat, which has an especially high concentration of amino acids and B vitamins that help process the nasty byproducts of alcohol. Certain vitamins and minerals like such can help your body handle these toxins.
#3. AVOID LIQUOR HIGH IN CONGENERS
What are congeners, you ask? They’re byproducts like methanol and acetone that are formed when grains are fermented and then aged to create alcohol like tequila, whiskey, and rum. Liquors with high amounts of congeners, like cognac, tequila, and whiskey — especially Bourbon — have been shown to cause more intense hangovers3. Clear drinks like vodka, gin, and rum, however, contain lower levels of congeners4 and may cut down your chances of feeling crummy. Of course, the study notes that no matter which drinks you choose, the amount you drink has the biggest effect on hangovers.
#4. SKIP THE BUBBLES
Of course, it feels more fun and festive to ring in the New Year — or any occasion — with a glass of bubbly, but it turns out that sparkling drinks and mixers can actually make your hangover worse. Researchers in the UK found the gas bubbles in carbonated beverages cause the stomach to expand and increase the rate of alcohol absorption in the blood5. Researchers tested this out by having subjects drink flat and fizzy versions of the very same wine. The subjects who drank bubbly got drunk more quickly and the effects lasted longer.
So, if you’re trying to stave off symptoms associated with the “Holidays Hangover”, skip the champagne and opt for wine instead.
#5. SPACE OUT YOUR DRINKS (& HYDRATE IN BETWEEN)
The only surefire way to avoid a hangover is to not drink at all. Plan B? Drink in moderation, and pace yourself.
The best thing you can do is space out your drinks. The average person can process roughly one normal drink—like, a single shot of whiskey, or a beer—in about an hour. Spreading out drinks accordingly helps stop those congeners from building up for processing. It'll also make you thirsty, which is even further effective in counteracting some of the dehydration alcohol causes.
Recent studies point to supplements which may alleviate the effects of the “Holidays Hangover” – one of which is Dihydromyricetin (DHM). DHM has been shown to lower the blood alcohol concentration and alleviate the symptoms of a hangover such as a pounding headache.6
In addition, taking a B vitamin supplement before and after drinking alcohol can also help – it will replenish the amount of B vitamins in your body and allow it to function and recover properly from a night of over-indulgence7.
Often touted for its cold-fighting powers, vitamin C may also guard against symptoms and serve as a hangover cure.
But remember, supplements are an extra layer of safety. Taking them doesn’t give you permission to drink a ton.Prevention Holiday Party Hangovers
Sometimes, the easiest way to cure a hangover is to prevent one in the first place. If you're prepared for a night of drinking at your holiday party and have a hangover prevention plan, you can avoid feeling sick the next day.