First things first: You know the best way to survive a hangover is to avoid one in the first place (cue my really annoying healthcare advice to stick to one drink for women, two for men). Okay, now that that’s out of the way, here are pointers for navigating the holiday booze scene and bouncing back from a hangover as quickly and painlessly as possible.
THE NIGHT OF…
Eat and drink along the way.
Though your night may begin with a sit down meal or lots of apps, as the night goes on, you may need to refuel. If you’re a few drinks in and the night is long, it’s time to eat again. Find the party platter and have a snack, such as some crackers with cheese. And don’t forget to drink water along the way. You know the drill: One glass of water for each alcoholic drink. This serves the dual purpose of keeping you hydrated and curtailing how much you drink by giving you a buffer between boozy beverages.
Be picky with your drinks. Realistically, alcohol is a toxin, but some drinks make you a little worse for the wear. Bourbon, for instance, has an additive that makes hangovers more intense. Dark beers are another culprit. Also, certain spirits and wines have a higher alcohol percentage, so you can expect a heightened hangover if you’re partaking in those. And then there are the sugary cocktails. Because they go down so easily, you may be more likely to suck down more than you intended, and the sugar itself will heighten the impact of your hangover. Stick with simple cocktails (vodka and seltzer, for instance) over sugary ones, or have beer or wine. Sparkling wine is fine, but if you have a long night ahead, switch to still. The bubbles speed up the absorption of alcohol in your blood stream so you feel the effects more quickly.
Avoid caffeinated cocktails. Studies suggest that when the caffeine kicks in, you don’t feel as intoxicated, which may lead you to drink more. This is not a good scene!
THE DAY AFTER…
Go easy on the coffee. Alcohol irritates your GI system and caffeine is another GI irritant. Green tea has less caffeine than coffee so it’s a better way to ease back into the swing of things.
Consider coconut water. One of the best things you can do to get over the hurdle of a hangover is to replenish the fluids and electrolytes that were depleted. You don’t need a special electrolyte beverage—water and a light snack will do the job—but many people find it’s easier to come to life a bit before eating, and in this case, coconut water can help revive you. It’s more natural than Gatorade or Pedialyte, though both of these will also work. If you’re in hangover hell, consider Pedialyte, which supplies the proper balance of electrolytes your body needs. This would be a good choice if vomiting or diarrhea is involved.
Have a light meal. You’re probably not in the mood for a heavy meal, anyway, but when you’re able, it’s a good idea to start giving your body the raw materials it needs to bounce back. A few ideas: A fruit and Greek yogurt smoothie; a slice of whole grain toast spread with nut butter and served with mashed berries or sliced bananas on top; or scrambled eggs served with a slice of whole grain-avocado toast. Take it step by step. If you do well with a light meal, you can enjoy a bigger meal later on, but keep it healthy! A greasy meal digests more slowly and this can trigger heartburn.
Take a nap. A boozy night might help you fall asleep more quickly, but the qualify of your sleep suffers, which can leave you feeling drained. You don’t want to sleep the day away, and napping will never replace a solid night’s sleep, but it can help you feel human again. A 20- or 30-minute snooze can do wonders!
Medicate appropriately.Tylenol’s main ingredient—acetaminophen—does not mix with alcohol. In fact, mixing the two can lead to serious liver damage. Don’t risk it. Advil (or the main ingredient, ibuprofen) is a safer bet.
Fun fact: One study found that about 23% of the population is immune to the effects of alcohol. Say whaaaat? These lucky folks don’t experience hangovers at all! But for the rest of us, these tips for surviving a holiday hangover should help revive you if you were a little too jolly last night.
Have a happy holidays, my friends, and stay safe!