Tag Archives: New Years Eve

How To Avoid a Hangover

Originally published at Breaking Modern:

 The future is so bright you may want to wear shades — and, if the latest economic data is any indication, you may be able to afford some swagaroo designer ones as what might just be a real recovery heats up in the coming year.

All that crazy optimism, however, might leave you with one hell of a hangover the morning after celebrating New Year’s Eve 2015. That’s no way to start out a promising year! Which is why, as a veteran of more all-nighters than I care to (or can) remember, I’m sharing my hangover avoidance and mitigation tips. Even if you absorb just one of these tips on how to avoid a hangover, you’ll be a happier post-partier…or a slightly less miserable one, anyway.

What IS a hangover, exactly?

 Let’s turn to the friendly folks at Medical News Today for a solid definition of that crap I’ll-never-drink-again feeling when you wake up:

 A hangover is a collection of signs and symptoms linked to a recent bout of heavy drinking. The sufferer typically has a headache, feels sick, dizzy, sleepy, confused and thirsty. Hangovers can occur at any time of day, but are usually more common the morning after a night of heavy drinking. As well as physical symptoms, the person may also experience elevated levels of anxiety, regret, shame, embarrassment, as well as depression.

The severity of a hangover is closely linked to how much alcohol was consumed, and whether the sufferer had enough sleep. The less sleep the worse the hangover. It is impossible really to say how much alcohol can be safely consumed to avoid a hangover – it depends on the individual, his/her circumstances that day, how tired they were before their drinking started, whether they were already dehydrated before the drinking began, whether they drank plenty of water during their drinking session, how much sleep they got afterwards, etc.

How to avoid a hangover

The only surefire way to avoid a hangover is, to echo Nancy Reagan, Just Say No, i.e., don’t drink alcohol. For certain people — alcoholics in or not yet in recovery, obviously, drug abusers, people who are allergic to booze — that should be their daily reality. If you’ve read this far, however, you’ve probably already decided that abstinence is not for you.

If you know in advance that you’re going to drink a lot, plan ahead. That starts with what you eat, beginning with breakfast the day of the big event. Pickles, hummus, asparagus, eggs and milk are among the foods that mitigate the negative effects of alcohol consumption — but only if downed beforehand. Others suggest mashed potatoes. From personal experience, I vote for carbohydrates. A generous serving of pasta in your stomach at least two hours before your first glass will probably take the edge off.

Even if they’re the same weight as you, if you’re female and/or of East Asian descent, don’t try keeping up with your drinking mates. Women have less body fat by weight than men do; Asians have low levels of the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, which breaks down acetaldehyde. Women and East Asians get drunk faster and suffer more the next day.

Avoid carbonated drinks — the CO2 speeds the absorption of alcohol into your system. “A study at the University of Surrey in 2001 found volunteers given two glasses of fizzy champagne had an average of 0.54 milligrams of alcohol per milliliter of blood after five minutes, while those given the same amount of flat champagne had 0.39 milligrams,” reports The Daily Mail of the UK, where they know something about drinking.

Conventional wisdom dictates that a principal cause of hangovers is dehydration, but that has become controversial in recent years.

Adam Rogers, author of Proof: The Science of Boozetold NPR.

“Everyone will tell you, “Oh, it’s because alcohol dehydrates you and that’s what’s causing the hangover.”… [So you’re told to] alternate [between water and alcohol], or have a big glass of water before you go to bed, and some of that comes from the fact that you do get dehydrated. But, in fact, the dehydration does not seem to be what’s causing the hangover. You can fix the dehydration — and you’re still hung over.”

Anthony Giglio, a NYC wine expert and author of Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide, disagrees: “I drink at least eight ounces [of water] with no ice to make sure I pace myself and don’t overindulge.”

I side with Giglio.

If you drink one full glass of water (no ice, unless you make it two glasses) for every alcoholic beverage, you’ll won’t feel like dying when the hangover hits — and you might stave it off entirely. Whether this is due to the hydration factor or the fact that during the time you’re drinking water you could be drinking booze instead — not to mention the tendency to get thirsty in a hot bar — is for scientists to debate. All I know is, alternating between drinks and drinks of water works.

Light makes right. Lighter-colored alcohol like vodka has fewer congeners — chemicals that determine the color, smell and taste of the drink — than darker drinks like bourbon. Studies have found that lighter beverages with fewer congeners leave you feeling better after drinking.

Go to the top shelf. It’s not just labeling: more expensive bottles have fewer congeners. Tomorrow morning, you’ll be happy you sprung for Bulleit over Night Train. Your credit card bill, on the other hand, may not agree.

Hangover Mitigation

Now you’ve done it. How can you take the edge off the hangover you already have?

Traditional remedies include drinking lots of water, greasy food and even sex, but the truth is, there’s no scientific proof any of those will actually speed the alleviation of your headache or other symptoms. Still, your body will likely crave the water and certainly the food, so go with it.

Aspirin works. So does sleeping it off, so you might want to call in sick.

Alcoholism experts disapprove of people talking about this, but it turns out that the “hair of the dog” remedy — having a Bloody Mary or other alcoholic beverage over breakfast ­— actually reduces the effects of a hangover.

Here’s Rogers again:

“The idea [is] that a hangover is caused by methanol toxicity. So, methanol is another the kind of alcohol right, alcohols as a class or a class of molecules in organic chemistry, ethanol is the one that we drink to feel like we’ve been drinking. But in any preparation of fermenting and especially distilling you’ll get a little bit of methanol too. And if there’s too much, that’s that, it’s the stuff that makes you go blind in bad moonshine right? But there’s a notion that in small amounts it might be what’s causing symptoms of a hangover too. And when you’re treating methanol toxicity in a hospital – you show up in an ER with methanol toxicity. They’ll give you a big dose of ethanol because it displaces the methanol off that enzyme. It keeps the enzyme from breaking it down into toxic stuff. So the idea is, well maybe the hair of the dog is like that. Maybe the hair of the dog is you’re giving yourself ethanol and that’s displacing the methanol and so you feel better.”

Seriously, though, at some point — at least by the afternoon after the morning after the night before — it’s time to start detoxing.