Curing Your Hangover: What Works, What Doesn’t
by Joanne Villaflor, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD
It’s the weekend or maybe a week night for the younger crowd and you revel in the esprit de corps surrounding you–including the drinks last night when sharing the “remember when” stories. You wake up knowing it’s summer in the South, meaning excessive heat and humidity, and formation is early morning. Why is that pounding headache not going away?
We all heard the remedies to cure the hangover–but what’s tried and true? While the research on this topic is limited and there’s no one solution to fix all the symptoms of a hangover, a few things can help alleviate specific problems:
Hair of the Dog? Even though more beer or liquor sounds appealing for breakfast, it’s the worst thing to do after a night of debauchery. Drinking more is just prolonging the inevitable and will likely make that headache worse. Give your body a break and start hydration with regular tap water (because Gatorade is no better than water, so save your money).
What you eat after drinking doesn’t matter—it’s what you eat before all those Jagerbombs that can help lessen the pain the next day. Food helps slow the absorption of alcohol, and the longer it takes the alcohol to reach your blood stream, the longer it is until you become intoxicated. While no food can halt the roller coaster in your stomach, carbs can help bring your blood sugar levels back up the morning after. Normally when blood sugar levels dip, your liver reacts by producing more glucose from stored carbs. But if you’ve been drinking too much, your liver is busy metabolizing the alcohol and can’t handle the extra work, so your blood sugar levels stay down, and you can feel irritable and tired.
Starbucks? A trip to grab a cup of joe can both treat AND cause headaches or migraines, so this is a personal preference. If you ingest a cup of coffee, drink water simultaneously since excessive caffeine causes dehydration, narrows blood vessels and boosts blood pressure.
Train or skip my workout? If you’ve been drinking heavily, you could be dehydrated, you could be metabolically behind on your nutrition, and exercise is going to require hydration and nutrition. Exercise is always the right thing to do, but I don’t think the morning you wake up with a hangover, exercise is what you need. What you really need is rest. “Sweating out” the alcohol by training or heading to the sauna after partying can cause dangerous blood vessel and blood flow changes. One drink—a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor—is metabolized by your body in about an hour, so the whole “sweat it out” theory is myth.
What DOES work? 1. Limit your drinks to about one every hour. Your body metabolizes each beer (or wine or shot) in about 60 to 75 minutes. 2. Take a multivitamin. 3. Down 16-20 oz water before going to bed. And finally, order a glass of water with every beer and alternate between the two to replace lost fluids.
Joanne Villaflor is the dietitian of the 75th Ranger Regiment. Here views expressed here are her own, and do not reflect an official endorsement from the Ranger Regiment, the US Army, or the Department of Defense. These are suggestions only and not to be construed as formal medical advice.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal August 1, 2015.