7 evidence-based ways to prevent a hangover

Hangovers happen. Sometimes the party stretches into the wee hours, your best friend’s wedding reception calls, or maybe your Friday night just got a little more, uh, cathartic than you’d intended.

For every alcohol overindulgence, it seems there’s some purported trick to treat or prevent the headaches, fatigue, and malaise that result the next morning, with devotees for each one swearing it’s the silver bullet that has somehow eluded tipplers lo these many years.

With the biomedical research community not exactly in a rush to prioritize hangovers above other conditions, evidence of hangover prevention tools is limited and, yes, often anecdotal. At least for the most part. As it turns out, there are some prevention and treatment strategies that do appear to be rooted in scientific evidence. Here are the seven that stand the best chance of easing your next hangover.

Hair of the dog?

This may be the oldest purported hangover prevention trick in the book. Plenty of people over the decades (centuries?) have sworn that drinking some alcohol the day after a binge has a soothing effect on the body.

While this remedy may seem far-fetched, it is backed by some evidence that suggests that a boozy morning-after eye-opener can indeed smooth your hangover glide path. It turns out that a little bit of alcohol — emphasis on little — can change how the body breaks down alcohol, temporarily inhibiting the creation of formaldehyde, a toxin that contributes to the classic hangover symptoms.

Keep in mind, however, that this is ultimately a short-term fix, one that buys time and simply delays the inevitable.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

There’s no better way to treat or prevent a hangover, at least not in the eyes of science. Downing a glass of water between rounds at the bar can head off your hangover at the pass.

But water is also useful after the proverbial damage has been done. (If you’d rather reach for your favorite sports drink, go for it.) Alcohol is a notorious dehydrator, which in and of itself can cause headache, fatigue, and dry mouth. The more water you take in, the faster you’ll return to normal.

Sleep

If at all possible, try to clear your schedule the morning after a boozy night. Alcohol interferes with your body’s ability to enter REM sleep, a critical part of the nightly sleep cycle. It also disrupts sleep in other ways, leading to insomnia down the road.

That’s why you’re still tired even after sleeping all night — and why you can benefit from a few extra hours of shut-eye to get rid of the fatigue and grogginess commonly associated with the morning after a night of drinking.

Beware the congener

Congeners are toxic chemicals that are found in small amounts in certain kinds of alcohol, and appear to make hangovers worse. One of the most common congeners is methanol, which breaks down into the aforementioned formaldehyde.

Booze with darker colors often contains congeners. Examples include:

  • Whiskey (especially bourbon)
  • Red wine
  • Dark beer
  • Cognac
  • Tequila
  • Brandy

If you regularly imbibe any of these spirits and you’ve noticed that your hangovers are particularly wicked, reach for lighter-colored drinks like vodka, light beer, or white wine.

Eat a good breakfast the morning after

The “greasy breakfast” is a time-honored hangover tradition in campus dining halls and beyond.

The notion that bacon and eggs “soak up” remaining alcohol, as the urban legend goes, is obviously a little silly. What’s not silly is the fact that alcohol can cause your blood sugar to dip, which can in turn exacerbate hangover symptoms.

A good breakfast also gives you energy and fuels your metabolism, helping you return more quickly to the land of the living.

Exercise

It may feel like the last thing you want to do, but exercising helps you sweat out the toxins you put in the previous evening. It need not be anything elaborate. Low-to-moderate exercise like brisk walking, jogging, or swimming will get the job done.

Just remember to hydrate before, during, and after the workout to replace lost fluids with fluids that are actually going to make you feel good.

Abstain

Not to get preachy, but you wouldn’t be putting your body through all this if you simply abstained from drinking alcohol, or at least drinking so much alcohol that you’re hungover the next day.

It’s a solution as effective as it is simple as it is a (literal) buzzkill. Just think about it. It could be the true magic bullet you’ve been hoping for.

In all likelihood, you’ll need to combine several of these strategies in order to best head off your hangover. But with a full toolbox, you’ll have plenty of things to try.

In a perfect world, however, you’ll have fewer opportunities to try them. The only one-size-fits-all strategy for avoiding that piercing headache in the morning is not to let the headache form at all by abstaining or cutting back your alcohol consumption.

BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.

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