It is going to hit a lot of people tomorrow: the result of ringing in the New Year with more than just the toast at midnight. One of the many traditions of the New Year is often drinking to excess. Not everyone starts the night anticipating the hangover; it just happens after you realize a bit too late that you have had too much to drink. You can take steps to prevent the hangover or the steps to cure it.
The only sure way to prevent a hangover is to abstain. Drinking nothing will obviously prevent all hints of a hangover. But you probably aren’t reading this if you are an abstainer.
Other ways to prevent hangovers isn’t proven, but everyone seems to have their favorites.
- Tomato juice: a friend of mine and probably someone you know too suggests this. He swears that when he alternates a glass of tomato juice with every drink, he doesn’t have a hangover. I’ve seen him “double fist” it at the bar/club with a beer on one hand, and a pint of tomato juice in the other. I’ve never done this, I’m too cheap to spend money on alcohol and tomato juice, but I have seen when he did this and when he didn’t, and the time he didn’t do it wasn’t pretty. One cup of tomato juice = 40 calories, one pint = 80 calories.
- Honey: a tablespoon or two of honey before you go out, or start drinking may reduce chance of hangover. I don’t remember where I heard this one, or the mechanism, but supposedly it works. One tablespoon of honey = 65 calories.
- Eat protein and fat: the suggestion is to eat a meal of mostly protein and fat, instead of mostly carbs, and this will slow absorption of alcohol because it takes longer to digest fat and protein than carbs. Also, have food in your stomach before you start drinking, otherwise it doesn’t work.
- Drink light-colored or clear alcohol: as mentioned yesterday, the higher the congeners in the alcohol, the higher chance of hangover.
- Drink non-alcoholic fluids: before going to bed, drink plenty of fluids. Some swear water is fine, while others will say to drink juice or Gatorade. This makes sense, since alcohol is very dehydrating. If you have been there, you know how you feel when you wake up through the night. And the electrolytes of sodium and potassium in the juice and sports drink help replace the electrolytes you muscles need and reduce muscle soreness.
If you hadn’t planned on or didn’t realize that you drank too much yesterday/last night, then you didn’t know to do any of the preventive steps. So, what can you do to “cure” your hangover? The only thing you can do to cure it is time. Wait and wait and wait. How long you have to wait depends on how much you drank, body size, and gender.
- Drink non-alcoholic fluids: again water, juice or Gatorade works. Coffee and more alcohol don’t help.
- Aspirin or other pain-killers: try to stick with aspirin, which can ease the pain, but may also upset your stomach. It is best to avoid acetaminophen if you are a chronic drinker because of potential liver issues.
- Eat: as much as you may not feel like eating, it is good to have some eggs and fruit. The eggs allegedly help with absorbing the extra toxins from the alcohol, and won’t hurt you if they don’t. Fruit provides vitamins and minerals as well as fluid – try a banana for a soothing, low acid fruit that is high in potassium.
- Exercise: if you can handle it, go for it, but it really doesn’t cure the hangover. I just want to get people to exercise more…
- Rest: like time, this is one of the better remedies. Eat your breakfast, or lunch, grab your water or Gatorade and find your favorite movie or football game and rest it out.
That’s what I have for you. Most of this is not based on research, but many anecdotal preventions and cures I’ve heard and learned over the years. As mentioned, the best prevention is to abstain or consume alcohol in moderation, and the best cure is time.