Recently I was chatting with a gentleman who works in sales and we got on the topic of entertaining potential clients. It’s pretty common practice to take these prospects out for dinner and drinks, which can sometimes result in a night of heavy drinking for the sales representative. I also learned that each has their own tricks for surviving these nights of heavy boozing and schmoozing. Unfortunately, when many of us, lay people, decide to have a night out with friends we may not have the same level of strategy and restraint. This often leads to the nasty hangover we experience the next day.
Surprisingly, the cause of hangover symptoms is still relatively unknown. There have been a number of identified contributing factors, and it’s likely the interplay of many, or all, of these variables that lead to the physical symptoms many people experience. Some of these potential causes include: dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, gastrointestinal distress, sleep disturbances, and low blood sugar. [1,2]
Among friends I’m known to be the one miraculously up early after late nights, with workout completed, while my friends are left stuck in bed regretting the previous night’s antics. I’m able to do this because I’ve gotten my process down for hangover prevention.
Fortunately, my process isn’t much of a secret. I’m going to share with you how to master your nights of socializing and drinking so you can have your fun without paying for it the next day.
Step 1: Prepare For The Night
One of the primary causes of your hangover symptoms is dehydration. This occurs because the alcohol acts as a diuretic, increasing urine production and preventing the production of a hormone that helps the body conserve water. Both of which can easily put you in a dehydrated state.
Luckily, this is also one of the easiest variables to combat. Most people go into their night already mildly dehydrated, and once alcohol is introduced this exacerbates their dehydration. You can prevent this by purposefully hydrating yourself the day of your social plans. During the day before you begin drinking, make sure to drink more water than usual. The more hydrated you are before you start drinking, the further you have to fall before dehydration sets in.
It’s also a good idea to continue regularly consuming water throughout the night in between your alcoholic beverages.
Step 2: Before You Sleep
Depending on how much drinking you participate in, the pre-hydration strategy may now be running its course. Yet, there still may be alcohol in your body that needs to be processed. Gorging yourself with pizza or other greasy food, then jumping straight into bed, may sound like the best idea ever, but it surely won’t help you in the morning.
As soon as you return home, consume more liquids with electrolytes. You’ll need more than water here; I suggest either Pedialyte (yes, you read that right) or coconut water. These added electrolytes are going to allow you to battle the potential electrolyte imbalance you may have caused from your drinking. I recommend about 4oz per alcoholic beverage you consumed, up to one bottle (about 1L; these amounts are purely anecdotal).
Additionally, I suggest refraining from most drunken snacks. Of course, you should always eat a good meal before your begin your night, but the heavy grease that usually accompanies these late night meals can contribute to nausea and stomach discomfort the next day. Skipping this food will also save you calories, a suggestion I make to all of my weight loss clients.
Step 3: Starting Strong
If you followed the previous steps then you should be off to a good start in the morning. To round out your plan, I encourage starting your morning with what I call, “The Three Cs:” Cold, Caffeine, and Cardio.
Start with a cold, caffeinated beverage. Iced coffee works well, but I often just crush a caffeine pill (100mg) and mix in ice cold water or more Pedialyte. (Why not just take the pill? I don’t know, I’m weird and I feel like it works better–another totally anecdotal process that I don’t recommend.) This combination of cold and caffeine can help alleviate headache symptoms, and the caffeine can help take the edge off of sleepiness until you can crash for a restful night of sleep the next evening.
Following this cold beverage, I make sure perform some cardiovascular-focused exercise: a light bike ride, walk, or jog. Any exercise to get the blood flowing and help get a good sweat on. This may sound like the last thing you want to be doing after a late night of drinking. Trust me, it will help you feel brand new and kick any lingering symptoms you may be experiencing.
Anyone who has suffered a nasty hangover knows how unpleasant and debilitating it can be. I’ve used this three step strategy many times over with the same result: a reduction or elimination of symptoms and the ability to function the day after heavy “socializing.” You too can practice these strategies in an effort to save yourself from a day of physical discomfort and regret.
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Always consult your physician before taking any supplements. The best hangover prevention plan is to drink responsibly. The information shared in this article is not meant to treat or diagnose any medical condition and is meant for education purposes only.