By Rennie Aranda, Skinny Gene Nutritionist
Don’t mix your liquors, drink whiskey before beer, more alcohol cures a hangover — you’ve heard it before. But knowing a little more than the conventional wisdom when it comes to alcohol and hangovers may help you hold your liquor a little better and make the next day after a night of drinking a little less horrendous. There’s no one solution to fix all the symptoms of a hangover, but here are 12 hangover myths and facts to keep in mind to help alleviate or prevent the aftermath of last night’s escapades.
1.) MYTH: Hangovers are no big deal
FACT: Heavy drinking affects the central nervous system and tampers with brain chemicals, which leads to headaches, dizziness, nausea, and dehydration (from frequent bathroom breaks). These symptoms follow you to the morning after with a headache, fatigue, cotton mouth, queasy stomach, and a weakened immune system. It is best to drink responsibly. Try to limit your drinks to about one every hour since this is about how long it takes to metabolize each drink for most people. Drinking in moderation is a good way to help prevent the nasty symptoms of hangovers. Moderate drinking is defined as one drink a day on average for women and two drinks a day for men.
2.) MYTH: Hangovers are gender-blind
FACT: Beware of free drinks on Ladies’ Night. A woman is more likely to feel the effects of alcohol in comparison with a man who drinks the same amount. This is because men have a higher percentage of water in their body than women, which helps dilute the alcohol they drink. When women drink the same amount, more alcohol builds up in the bloodstream. So ladies, best bet is to add some fat into your meals beforehand to slow down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. This doesn’t necessarily mean to aim for the cheeseburger and fries. Healthy fats can do the trick! So try having salmon and sautéed vegetables or a turkey sandwich with avocado as your pre-party meal.
3.) MYTH: Only bingers get hangovers
FACT: Just a couple of drinks can trigger hangover symptoms for some people. Of course, glasses the size of fish bowls, generous refills, and libations that taste like desserts can all put anyone on a path to pain the next morning (not to mention weight gain from all the extra calories), but your best bet to preventing a hangover is to drink water or a non-alcoholic beverage between cocktails to help keep you hydrated, cut down the total amount of alcohol you drink, and help decrease hangover symptoms.
4.) MYTH: Wine is the gentlest choice
FACT: Red wine contains tannins – compounds that are known to trigger headaches in some people. Malt liquors, such as whiskey, also tend to cause severe hangovers. The gentlest choices are beer and clear liquors, such as vodka and gin. Try ordering the drinks “on the rocks” (with ice) and sip slowly. As the ice melts, the drink is diluted. Drinks like Manhattans and Cosmopolitans are strained, so they stay just as potent as time goes by. Alcohol is absorbed more quickly than it is metabolized. Taking your time with a drink will increase your time between refills and decrease your odds of a hangover.
5.) MYTH: Diet cocktails are a safe bet
FACT: Diet drinks help if you’re counting calories, but won’t necessarily decrease your chances of experiencing a hangover. In fact, research suggests that mixing your booze with diet versus regular soda leads to an extra 18% increase in your blood alcohol content. Without sugar and calories in your stomach, alcohol is absorbed more quickly into your bloodstream. Having fruits, fruit juices, or other sugar-containing liquids can aid in a less intense hangover, but pick your drinks wisely if you are watching calories.
6.) MYTH: Liquor before beer
FACT: The amount of alcohol you drink is what matters most, not the order of your drinks. Don’t be fooled by the size of your drink – a 12-ounce glass of beer, a 5-oz glass of wine, or a 1.5-oz shot of distilled spirits are all considered as one drink and contain about the same amount of alcohol. Try to stay away from “tall” 22oz beer mugs or the fishbowl sized drinks to better monitor your alcohol consumption.
7.) MYTH: Eat pasta before bed
FACT: Eating at bedtime is no help. Food in your stomach before happy hour has more of an impact than eating after you’re already drunk. Although any food can slow down alcohol absorption into your bloodstream, fat does it best. Healthy fats are the way to go as mentioned previously. It is also best to drink water throughout the night to fight dehydration and soften the blow of the morning-after hangover.
8.) MYTH: Take pain relievers before bed
FACT: Over-the-counter painkillers peak in about four hours, so a bedtime dose won’t help by the time you wake up. It is better to take the pills when you first wake up. Beware of acetaminophen (Tylenol) after a night of drinking because the combination of the two could hurt your liver. If you are inclined to take pain relievers, stick to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
9.) MYTH: Alcohol helps you sleep well
FACT: Alcohol does just the opposite. Alcohol may help you doze off more quickly, but it undermines the quality of your sleep. You tend to wake up too soon and not spend as much time in important REM cycles of sleep. Disruptions in REM sleep may cause daytime drowsiness and poor concentration. If you’ve been drinking heavily, a hangover might strike in the last part of the night, leaving you too uncomfortable to get back to sleep. In fact, the more you drink before bed, the more pronounced these effects. The best tips to get good quality sleep at night include getting regular exercise (but not too close to bedtime), reserving the bed for sleep only, keeping your bedroom at a cool temperature, setting regular wake and bed times, and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine in the evening. It may be best to limit your drinks or get your drinks on early in the evening instead of when the night is coming to a close so that it doesn’t interfere with your much needed sleep. One to two standard drinks seem to have minimal effects on sleep for most people.
10.) MYTH: “Hair of the dog” (more alcohol)
FACT: More alcohol in the morning does nothing but postpone a hangover. The worst symptoms hit when blood-alcohol levels drop to zero. Even if you have a screwdriver or mimosa in the morning at breakfast, the hangover will just come later in the day. If you feel you can’t function without a wake-up cocktail, you should talk with your doctor about getting help for alcohol addiction. Experts agree that if you use this method, the risk of abuse increases and may lead to alcohol dependency.
11.) MYTH: Coffee is the cure
FACT: A lot of coffee may lead to more hydration and could make your hangover worse. After a night of drinking, it’s best to avoid anything with caffeine. It is best to sip water and sport drinks (minimally) to counter dehydration and replace lost electrolytes, especially if you threw up. Or try adding a small amount of orange or fruit juice to water. Otherwise, the only proven cure for a hangover is time.
12.) MYTH: Herbal remedies can help
FACT: Hangover pills, such as yeast and artichoke extract have been studied by British researchers. They found no compelling evidence that supported these suggested remedies. Another British team found a supplement from prickly pear cactus that may reduce some symptoms, such as nausea and dry mouth, but not headaches. Metabolizing alcohol requires nutrients. The more you drink, the more nutrients your body has to call up from the bloodstream to replenish your liver’s tapped resources. Include whole, natural ingredients such as fresh produce, whole grains and lean protein in your daily meals and snacks. It is especially important to try to eat a well-balanced meal before alcohol consumption. Never drink on an empty stomach as this may lead to binge eating or poor food choices.
Want to learn more about Skinny Libations? First, check out the first article in our series and learn how to avoid alcohol-related weight gain. Then, sign up for our free Skinny Libations Series so you can have your cocktail, and drink it too!
Cheers to happy hour and healthy drinking!
Please always remember to drink responsibly!