There’s nothing like a night with friends. Whether you’re going out on the town to enjoy fine dining and dance the night away or staying in to watch movies and eat at home, more than likely, there’s one item on the menu that’s bound to keep the energy going. As adults, it’s common to be in situations that involve alcohol. It’s available at every restaurant, party, and social event. And where there’s alcohol, there is the risk of hangovers.
Even if you’re the type who typically knows how to hold your liquor and limit your drinking, every once in a while, the spirits are so high that you let your hair down. You find yourself having one drink, then another, then another… until, well, you’re drunk. And that’s okay… until you wake up in the morning wishing it all never happened.
You know what I’m talking about: the dreaded hangover. Your stomach aches, your head feels like a little kid is tap dancing on it, your mouth is dry, any light is too bright, any smell is repulsive, you don’t feel like socializing, and you wish you could stay in bed all day. I’ve been there — plenty of times. It gets to the point where your whole day stops.
For some, this is nothing, and they have the privilege of ignoring their responsibilities for a day. But this isn’t everyone’s reality. You may have a job to get to, little ones to take care of, or appointments and social events you’ve already committed to. So what are you going to do? I’ll tell you what you’re not going to do, and that’s panic. We’ve curated the ultimate guide on preventing a hangover. Here are tips for before you start drinking, while you’re drinking, and before you go to bed.
Before You Begin Drinking
Eat a full meal.
Here’s the thing. It’s never a good idea to drink on an empty stomach. We all know by now that it’ll get you feeling the liquor faster. And while it may be the intended effect, it’ll almost certainly have your stomach doing numbers, too. Can you hear the hangover calling?
Alcohol hits you faster when you’re drinking on an empty stomach because there’s no food to absorb it. Instead, it goes through your intestines and straight to your bloodstream, resulting in a higher blood alcohol content.
Before you raise your glass to your lips, be sure to eat a good and savory meal. According to Real Simple, fatty and high-fiber foods are what you want to aim for. Avocados, cheese, nuts, fatty fish, beans, broccoli, apples, and whole grains are just a few of your options.
You also want to eat a meal that will keep you full through the night. You don’t want to be a few drinks in feeling your stomach start to ache and wishing you had eaten more before — that is, if you’re sober enough to notice.
Get in touch with yourself.
Sometimes we drink to have fun with friends, and sometimes we drink to celebrate a joyous occasion. But on the unhealthy side of that spectrum is when we drink to cope with negative thoughts, feelings, and situations. Before you find yourself drowning your emotions in liquor, try being honest with yourself about how you’re feeling. There may be something off-balance.
Are you drinking to have fun or to run away from reality? Talk to someone you trust about whatever’s coming up, or write and draw about it in your journal. Allow yourself to emote and get it all out. You could even dance around your room, go to the gym, or sing to your heart’s content. You may find yourself not even wanting to drink as much, but at the very least, you’re going into it with awareness. You’ll be doing your mind a favor.
While You’re Drinking
I learned two drinking rules in college that followed me well into adulthood, and they both have the same bottom line: don’t mix! And no, I don’t mean mixed drinks. Have you ever heard the line, “liquor before beer, you’re in the clear. Beer before liquor, you’re never sicker?” As it turns out, there isn’t much truth to the myth. Doctors say it doesn’t matter the order you drink because it’ll all end up in your bloodstream just the same.
There may be something to the second rule, though: not mixing clear and dark alcohol. Some doctors say it’s best to avoid dark alcohol altogether, and that’s because of congeners. Congeners are by-products of the fermentation or distillation process. Researchers found that while your body tries to break down the alcohol in your system, it’s also competing to break down congeners. This makes alcohol stay in your body longer, which may cause those hangovers. Dark liquors like whiskey and rum have more congeners than clear liquors like vodka and gin.
I’ll never forget the night I was drinking with one particular friend. For every alcoholic beverage he drank, he followed it with a full glass of water. I remember thinking, “wow, how responsible!” As it turns out, he was on the up and up and knew he didn’t want a hangover!
Current research says it takes one hour for women to process one standard alcoholic beverage. You’ll probably find yourself dehydrated if you’re drinking more than that. It’s best practice to mix hydration into your night of drinking. To keep you going for longer, intake water, Pedialyte, Gatorade, or even mocktails.
As mentioned before, one drink can quickly turn into several when you’re not staying cognizant. But with a bit of focus, you can prevent yourself from going too far and feeling like crap the next day.
When you’re with friends, it’s easy to be impatient and want to get the party going as quickly as possible. Usually, this means shots! (*Cue the popular LMFAO! party track*)!
Remember what I said about one drink per hour? How realistic is it for you to have one shot and then wait around for 60 minutes for your next one? Instead, skip the shots altogether and opt for something to slip on, like a glass of wine, beer, or mixed drink.
If you’re sitting around with a drink in your hand while chatting with friends, it’s easy to lean your head to your glass and sip away. On the other hand, if you’re staying busy with cooking a meal or playing a game, you’re more distracted from your drink.
Try to stay involved in activities that keep your mind and body busy. You don’t necessarily need to put your drink down if you’re in a public space and don’t feel safe. But after finishing one drink, stop and enjoy your company before heading to the bar to get another.
We all have that friend who only smokes when they’re drinking. “It’s part of the vibe.” This next one may be harder for smokers to digest, but smoking may worsen your hangovers. According to a Brown University study, women who smoked during a night of heavy drinking reported worse hangovers than those who didn’t.
According to Cosmopolitan, “It might have something to do with the chemical acetaldehyde. It’s one of the ingredients in cigarettes that also forms in our cells when we’re drinking alcohol—so the added concentration could cause problems.”
Before Going to Bed
Optimize Your Hydration.
You know the feeling of winding down after a rowdy night, feeling good off your buzz, and suddenly realizing you’re starving? Despite what’s said about eating super late at night, you should always listen to your body. If you’re hungry, eat.
To help your body stay as hydrated as possible, reach for foods high in water density. This could mean anything like fruits and vegetables or even juices and smoothies. You don’t want to eat foods that’ll leave your stomach heavy and unsettled—foods that make it harder to stay asleep.
But Don’t Overdo It.
Because it’s important to actually sleep away the drunkenness, you also don’t want to find yourself needing to run to the restroom in the middle of the night. Because of this, don’t drink too much water. Drink a glass or two to satisfy your thirst, and then leave a glass of water at your bedside to help you with that dry mouth you’re bound to wake up with.
Get the Best Sleep Possible.
And I’ll reiterate that it’s imperative you get the sleep you need, or else you’ll feel worse in the morning. Whether you get your sleep at night or the next day, your lethargy will catch up to you some time. If you’re feeling restless and not ready for bed, try to mimic your nighttime routine or go above and beyond. Wipe your makeup off, pull down the blinds so the sunlight won’t wake you, and spray your pillow with lavender mist.