Hangover Cures That Really Work (and the Ones That Don't)
For when wine Wednesday turns into wine(s) Wednesday...
It's an all-too-familiar scenario: You plan to meet up with friends for a happy hour drink after work, and one drink turns into four. If you swear by a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel or a five-mile run to ease your hangover woes in the morning, you're not alone. But here's the not-so-good news…
"There are a lot of myths about hangover cures," says Ruth C. Engs, R.N., a professor at Indiana University who has done extensive research on the effects of drinking. "Essentially there is no hangover 'cure' other than consuming water and liquids like juice in the morning."
The reason? Hangover symptoms are a product of dehydration, hypoglycemia, and the poisonous side effects from toxins in our drinks (sounds great, right?). Water will not only help hydrate your muscles and organs, but will also aid in flushing out the toxins. Juices such as orange juice accomplish both while replenishing your body with missing sugars. (Check out eight super healthy drinks—and eight to skip.)
Here, Engs breaks down the most common hangover myths that don’t really help you recover from that bonus bubbly—plus hangover cures that actually work. (Did you hear? Post-work workouts are the new happy hour.)
Hangover Hoax: Eat Greasy Food
If you feel like heading to the diner for a greasy plate of brunch food is the answer to any hangover, it's sadly probably just in your head. What can help is eating the right foods the night before. "Eating a high-protein meal before drinking can help slow the absorption of ethanol into the circulatory system," Engs says. So while you think chips and salsa might sound like the perfect appetizer to accompany those pitchers of sangria you just ordered, you're better off choosing nuts, cheese, or lean meats instead. (Related: Easy Apps Featuring Ingredients You Already Have in Your Fridge)
How to Cure a Hangover: Sleep It Off
If you're lucky enough to catch extra zzzs after a night of boozing, do it. Alcohol is metabolized at the rate of .015 of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), or roughly one drink every hour, meaning those extra brews can quickly add up. But just like a broken heart, time can heal all. Sleeping through your body metabolizing last night's happy hour will likely make you feel better. (If you're having trouble sleeping, it's not in your head. Here's the science behind you wake up early after drinking.) Just remember this how-to-cure-a-hangover tip, too: Keep hydrated once your peepers finally open.
Hangover Hoax: Sweat It Out with Exercise
A common go-to hangover cure is a workout to 'sweat out the bad stuff.' Many feel it helps them to feel better faster and shake off any grogginess. What you're probably experiencing though is the endorphin rush that typically comes along with a workout, which is why exercise on its own isn't an effective hangover sure, Engs says. In fact, if you exercise and aren't properly hydrating, your symptoms could actually worsen. If you're looking to metabolize the alcohol through your body faster, sorry—the gym is not the answer.
How to Cure a Hangover: OTC Pain Relievers
It's true that after one too many glasses of wine a pain reliever can ease your aches and pains. Just note that pain relievers work differently for different people. Plus, frequent drinkers (aka those who consume more than one drink several nights a week) should sidestep Tylenol, which can contribute to extra damage to your liver, and aspirin and ibuprofen (like Advil and Motrin), which can irritate the stomach lining or even cause bleeding. (Related: Women May Have a Higher Risk for Painkiller Addiction)
Hangover Hoax: Hair of the Dog
No, Bloody Marys do not exist solely to cater to the morning-after crowd. If you think drinking more alcohol is the best hangover cure, think again. "The body is going through withdrawal symptoms from overindulging, and drinking more just prevents more withdrawal symptoms," Engs says. That unlimited mimosa brunch isn't a fix; instead, you're giving your body more toxins to deal with, delaying a future (and probably worse) hangover.
How to Cure a Hangover: Drink Electrolytes
The dreaded hangover headache: Experienced by many, friend of none. Why does it feel like there is a tiny elf inside your head pounding at your skull with a hammer? Because your brain is dehydrated. While water does the trick to hydrate, sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade contain electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and chloride) that help replenish and restore your system levels and the sugar in the drinks gives you carbohydrates for energy. (Bonus: These Healthy Mocktails Are So Good You Won’t Miss the Alcohol)
If you'd prefer to go the natural route, try sipping on coconut water, which is stacked with electrolytes. Bonus: It's low-calorie, nonfat, has less sugar than sports drinks and juices, and has been shown in some studies to be less irritating to your stomach.
Hangover Hoax: Coffee
Despite with your friend says, that iced coffee is far from a hangover cure. The temporary jolt from the caffeine might cause a burst of energy, much like eating a candy bar for your 3 p.m. snack, but it won't offset the sugar crash later. Keep in mind, once your sugar rush dies down, you'll be dealing with a caffeine withdrawal headache on top of a dehydration headache...not a way you want to spend your morning. Your best bet? Save the Starbucks trip until after you've had some time to recoup with water.
How to Cure a Hangover...Maybe: Preventative Pills and Drinks
If you've seen the slew of hangover prevention products on the market, from supplements to drinks, you're probably curious of the end result. All of them boast a mix of vitamins, herbs, and/or chemicals, and claim that ingestion before drinking will radically reduce the chance of having a hangover in the morning. (Related: Pedialyte Just Created the Answer to Your Hangover Prayers)
According to Bianca Peyvan, R.D., vitamins and nutrients help these preventatives work. "Studies have shown that vitamin C, along with B vitamins can combine with certain amino acids and glucose and help your body generate glutathione, a powerful antioxidant and cellular tripeptide that helps the body rid itself of alcohol's toxins, which is lowered when you drink," she explains.
But (!!) buyers beware. There is little medical research on preventative hangover products and some docs say they don't live up to the hype. Similar to OTC products, what works for some may not work for others. When thinking preventatively, you're better off with this surefire hangover cure: Pace yourself with fewer drinks. Engs advises no more than one per hour.