What to do before, during and the morning after a big night out to minimise the hangover.
From a splitting headache to dizziness and nausea, if you’ve ever consumed one too many drinks, you’ll be familiar with the aftermath of a heavy night on the tiles.
While the only guaranteed way to prevent a hangover is to drink in moderation (or not at all), it’s OK to let your hair down every once in a while. Here’s what to do before, during and after a big night out to limit the damage:
- Fuel up
It’s not just an old wives’ tale, eating a well-balanced meal before you start drinking (as opposed to a bag of crisps) reduces the amount of acetaldehyde in your system. Acetaldehyde is the chemical alcohol converts into once you’ve consumed it (and is largely responsible for the crushing hangover) so fuel up before you hit the town.
Snacking throughout the evening and tucking into a sensible breakfast the following morning will also keep a sore head at bay.
It’s easier said than done, but sipping water alongside your favourite tipple will pay dividends the following day. Your liver needs water to process alcohol, and when you drink too much, it actually diverts water away from essential organs such as your brain (hence the banging headache in the morning).
As the night wears on you get thirstier the more dehydrated you become, which is why you start to drink faster. Alternating alcoholic drinks with water will help control the amount of booze you consume, and the speed at which you drink.
Top tip: after a heavy night out, drink a pint of water with a pinch of sea salt before you go to bed to rehydrate and replace depleted minerals.
- Take a cat nap
Alcohol disturbs restorative sleep, which is why you’re more likely to wake up feeling groggy after a heavy night out. It also messes with your circadian rhythm and makes you need to pee more in the night.
The best way to beat the sleep thief is to allow yourself to have a lie-in, or go back to bed as soon as possible. If you have something important to do the following day, try and nap at lunchtime and get to bed early the following night.
- Pop a pill
If you wake up with a banging headache, avoid aspirin and ibuprofen; your liver has enough to process without throwing meds into the mix. If your stomach is churning, opt for soluble paracetamol, as it gets into your bloodstream quicker. Avoid taking paracetamol with tea or coffee: the combination of painkillers, caffeine and alcohol left in your system has the potential to damage your liver.
For a healthier alternative, try the herbal remedy milk thistle. The theory is it helps your liver process alcohol faster if you take it before you go out and again the following morning.
- Keep it light
The Royal Society of Chemistry advises sticking to light-coloured drinks such as gin or vodka, which are purified by distillation. When alcohol ferments it produces potentially toxic chemicals called congeners, which are more prevalent in dark drinks such as red wine and whiskey.
?Top tip: quantity is key. If you drink an entire bottle of white wine, you are still going to suffer the next day, so drink in moderation irrespective of your chosen tipple.
- Avoid fizzy drinks
We hate to be the fun police, but the bubbles found in carbonated alcohol such as champagne and prosecco can make you feel light-headed significantly quicker than still wine. A study in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine compared the effects of flat and fizzy champagne on the same group of people, and the fizz drinkers’ blood alcohol level rose significantly faster, as carbon dioxide speeds up the delivery of alcohol to your system.
- Side-step caffeine
Ordering a strong cup of coffee after a heavy night out sounds like an obvious solution, but while caffeine will provide a quick boost, it can also further dehydrate you and irritate your guts. This can lead to loose stools, feelings of nausea and a woolly head – all of which will intensify your hangover. Sip water or herbal tea instead and your weary body will thank you.
- Shake it off
Trembling hands after a night on the tiles are actually down to low blood sugar. A bacon sarnie will fix the shakes in the short term, but according to the Royal Society of Chemistry, brown toast with honey, (which replaces lost sodium, potassium and fructose) is a safer breakfast option.
Add a banana or coconut water for an extra potassium and fructose boost. A fruit juice or smoothie will also lift your blood sugar, plus the vitamin C will help your liver process alcohol. Avoid pastries, as a quick sugar fix is usually followed by an energy crash.
- Settle your stomach
Alcohol irritates your digestive system and increases acidity levels, which is often what makes you feel nauseous. If you feel sick in the morning, opt for plain foods such as dry toast or biscuits, but avoid cereal as the fatty content in milk can increase sickness.
Alka-Seltzer and Rennie antacids will ease acidity, while a cup of ginger or chamomile tea can reduce queasiness and settle your stomach.
- Side step the fry-up
When your body processes alcohol, it causes your blood sugar to drop, which is why you feel ravenously hungry the next day. Contrary to popular belief a fry-up is not a cure-all, as processing fat puts extra strain on your already stressed digestive system.
Start your day with a substantial breakfast such as scrambled eggs on sourdough toast with baked beans. The beans and bread will steady your blood sugar levels, while eggs contain cysteine, an amino acid thought to mop-up the toxins in your liver.
- Replace lost salts
Rehydration sachets, usually used for treating diarrhoea, can speed up your hangover recovery, as they contain electrolytes that replace lost fluids quicker than water alone. Isotonic sports drinks can also help replace nutrients lost after a heavy drinking session, as will Berocca tablets, which contain vitamins B, C, calcium and magnesium.
- Sweat it out
A brisk jog or cardio session is probably the last thing on your to-do list after a heavy night out, but it will be worth it. Oxygen increases the rate at which toxins from alcohol are broken down in the body, speeding up recovery. Be brave, hit the gym and you’ll soon feel as good as new.