You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I'm gonna tell you why: Because the drinking season is upon us people. Prepare yourself for endless opportunities to over-indulge in holiday cheer--or at least over-indulge in spiked eggnog and mulled wine. Hear those bells a jingling? They're not Santa's sleighbells ring-ring-ringing, it's the bell at your favorite watering hole ringing in last call. Here's hoping you've done everything necessary to avoid a mind-numbing hangover tomorrow morning.
An eight-ounce glass of prevention equals a pound of cure.
Hangovers are the gift that keep on giving. Just when you think you have a tried and true method to avoid feeling like death warmed over the morning after, you wake-up with a mouth full of cotton and a throbbing head. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure. I've polled fellow boozehounds, my mailman, lawyers, and colleagues. Everyone seems to have an opinion about how to avoid the dreaded hangover. Follow the prevention tips below and if all else fails, you can always refer to this earlier piece about hangover remedies.Before You Start Drinking
Fatigue, stress and depression all affect how your body will react to alcohol. The holidays are hectic enough, so get your beauty rest, try to exercise to combat depression and stay organized, so you aren't stressed out by holiday obligations. I'm not a medical professional, but know from experience that the last thing you need to have this time of year is a crippling hangover.
First, a PSA: The most important thing you can do prior to a night of imbibing is plan your transportation. If you are planning to drive, that should easily help you avoid a hangover because you won't be drinking much anyways. Right? Right. Alcohol quickly makes you feel invincible, so if you've had more than two drinks, reconsider getting behind the wheel. $10-20 for a cab ride is much cheaper than $1000-2000 battling DUI charges.
Before you start drinking, get something in your stomach. I recently started off a night of drinking with a "Jucy Lucy" burger at Buckley's in Belltown. The half-pound patty is stuffed with hot, melty American cheese and served with your choice of french fries, tater tots or coleslaw. I had two beers with dinner and one cocktail after dinner. The next day? I was a little bloated from all the sodium, but generally felt pretty fucking good.
As the night goes on, make sure you continue to snack. Consuming food along with alcohol causes it to be absorbed more slowly, since a valve at the base of the stomach closes to allow for digestion before sending it along. Without this stop, the alcohol travels to the small intestine and into the liver faster.
Experts agree that what you eat along with the alcohol doesn't matter very much. You could have a fatty cheeseburger or a salad. The difference in alcohol absorption is negligible. I've read everything from eating a pat of butter, to downing a glass of milk before a night of drinking, but either or both are probably fine. Consider eating something high in fiber though, so you keep food and booze moving through your digestive tract quickly and efficiently. One friend swears by beans, saying, "They're magical for a reason."
What You Drink,
As a whiskey-lovin' woman....I hate to say this: Drinking whiskey can give you a pretty wicked hangover. Trust me, this hurts me more than it hurts you. Whiskey, and other dark liquors (brandy, tequila, red wine) have a high concentration of congeners--a byproduct of the fermentation process. These impurities give whiskey a lot of flavor and character, but unfortunately can cause a bad hangover. Clear liquors like vodka and gin--some filtered so much that they have little flavor--conversely have less congeners.
I've always thought that sugary drinks cause the worst hangovers. In my research though, I couldn't find any solid information to back this up. Sweet or caffeinated drinks aren't absorbed any faster by the body, but it can seem that way since these kinds of drinks are often consumed much faster.
The carbonation found in drinks like beer and bubbly however, do speed up the rate at which your body absorbs alcohol. Remember that saying, "Beer before liquor, never sicker." This is partly why. Your body is absorbing alcohol more quickly, thanks to beer's bubbles, and then you start sipping on a shot of Jameson, and BOOM! You're drunk. And....you'll likely be hungover tomorrow. Don't say I didn't warn you.
While You Drink
While you are drinking, pace yourself, the liver can only break down alcohol at the rate of about one drink an hour. Many people I polled agree that drinking a glass of water for every drink you have definitely helps avoid the dreaded hangover. Alcohol is a diuretic and will reduce the amount of water in your body, so it's vital to replace that water at an equal pace.
Know when to stop. My friend Stevi--who blogs about cocktails and other boozy adventures at Two at the Most--offered up probably the best drinking rule I've ever heard: "Stop when you think you could have one more, but not two." Mind. Blown. It's a great tip, right? There is often that point in the night when you think, "Ah, I can have one more..." But if you ask yourself if you could have two more and the answer is no, then you are probably doing yourself a favor. And hopefully avoiding a hangover.
Before You Go To Bed
Don't put your head on the pillow until you've done two things: Downed a huge glass of water and taken a B complex vitamin, sometimes referred to as B12. This vitamin includes folic acid, biotin, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, and cyanocobalamin. These vitamins are all found in food and will help restore your body's energy while you sleep. Some people swear by orange juice, vitamin C or Emergen-C, but nothing gives you a concentrated dose of vitamins like a B complex. For hydration, you can drink a Gatorade or other electrolyte-rich drink, but water is free and doesn't contain the sugar found in many of these drinks.
Taking a painkiller like Advil before bed doesn't do as much good as we'd like to think. You are better off taking a painkiller if you were unable to prevent a hangover with the tips above and begin experiencing symptoms, like a headache. Avoid acetaminophen--found in painkillers like Tylenol--since your liver is already working overtime to process all that alcohol and may not be able to process acetaminophen as well. Ibuprofen--found in Advil--can also be problematic. If your body is already dehydrated, you risk overworking your kidneys by taking ibuprofen.
There is no magic pill to prevent a hangover, but if you start a night out on a full stomach, pace yourself, drink plenty of water, and take a B complex before bed...you may be able to minimize the effects of a night of drinking. Have other hangover prevention tips to share? Let us know in the comments section.