Knowing how to prevent a hangover could be the difference between enjoying a night out to its full and regretting the night before the morning after.
It's safe to say that hangovers are no fun thing - with headaches, tiredness and tummy troubles all common things we experience after an evening on the booze. Yet whilst the obvious solution may be to stop drinking alcohol (opens in new tab) full stop - some of us don't want to give up our social drinking habits or favourite tipple forever.
With this in mind we asked the experts on how to prevent a hangover from happening, in the hopes of saving us from never having to google either how to cure a hangover (opens in new tab) or the benefits of not drinking alcohol (opens in new tab) ever again.
How to prevent a hangover
As well as making you feel sick in the morning (opens in new tab), giving you a headache you can't get rid of (opens in new tab) and causing our stomachs to bloat (opens in new tab), a hangover also means you’re likely to feel tired all day (opens in new tab) and not really be able to get much done.
Although the best way to prevent a hangover would be to quit alcohol or at least try drinking less in one go, our experts agree, there are some things you can do to prevent some of the worst symptoms of drinking too much.
“It’s important to note that everyone will metabolise alcohol differently, this explains why some people can tolerate alcohol better than others.” Nutritionist Jenna Hope (opens in new tab) says. “Additionally, genetics can have an impact on how quickly alcohol is metabolised too. It’s not possible to completely prevent a hangover without moderating your alcohol consumption, yet some measures may help dampen down the impact of a hangover.”
Stick to one alcoholic drink per hour
As the liver metabolises about one standard drink of alcohol per hour (depending on a number of factors (opens in new tab)), drinking more than one drink in this time can lead to getting drunk very quickly.
Bio-Kult (opens in new tab) nutritional therapist Hannah Braye explains: “One of the easiest ways of reducing the risk of a hangover is to stick to one alcoholic drink an hour (opting for no or low alcoholic versions if drinking more).”
Choose your drinks carefully
While everyone’s body reacts differently to alcohol, there are some drinks which people tend to react to a little differently - and might give you a worse hangover.
“Spirits are stronger in alcohol by volume than other drinks such as wine or beer.” Nutritional therapist Sophie Wedlock-Smith from SW Nutrition (opens in new tab) says. “Red wine, whiskey, tequila are healthier options than beer and sugary alcoholic drinks.”
“You can avoid having a hangover by choosing a good quality organic, sulphite free wine and you may adapt this to a spritzer to help reduce the toxic and dehydrating affects the next day.”
Hydrate while you drink
By hydrating with water and other soft drinks while you’re drinking, you could lessen the effects of the alcohol the next day.
“An easy way to ensure some extra hydration during the evening is by using soda water and fresh lime as a mixer for spirits, to turn wine into a soda-spritzer or ask for a glass of water alongside your alcoholic drink.” Nutritionist Hannah says, “This will also reduce your sugar intake, helping to stabilise blood sugars.”
Eat before you drink
A good meal before a night out should help to prevent a hangover - but it needs to be rich in protein.
As nutritionist Jenna Hope says, “It’s common to think that carbohydrates should be consumed to ‘line the stomach’, those who are drinking are better off consuming a balanced meal which contains a source of protein. Protein can slow down the metabolism of alcohol which can help to slow down the effects of alcohol and hangover symptoms.”
Other high protein meals (opens in new tab) include a traditional bolognese with cheese on top, a chilli with lots of different types of beans or a meal with fish.
Eat before you sleep
And then before you go to sleep, another meal can also help prevent a hangover.
“Ever find yourself waking up really early the morning after you’ve been drinking, despite having gone to bed late? One theory is that this may be due to imbalanced blood sugars.” Nutritionist Hannah Braye explains, “Many alcoholic drinks are high in sugar, which our body has to process by taking out of the blood stream and putting into storage. To do this, the pancreas releases high amounts of insulin. However, insulin is very effective, so excessive release as a result of high sugar consumption can actually lead to low blood sugar crashes. This may be what wakes people up in the early hours.
“Having some food whilst drinking and before bed, could therefore theoretically help to slow alcohol absorption (reducing intoxication) and stabilise blood sugars, by reducing the speed of uptake of sugar into the blood stream.”
But stay away from the kebab shop on the way home, advises Hannah. “Eating refined carbohydrates such as chips, crisps and toast made from white bread may exacerbate blood sugar balances further, as these foods are quickly broken down into sugar by the body. Opting for protein and fibre rich options is likely to be more beneficial. If a late-night kebab is your thing, opt for a sheesh kebab (made with real chunks of meat, rather than doner), with a middle-eastern salad on the side.”
She says, “Otherwise a couple of boiled eggs, some plain yoghurt and fruit, baked beans on toast (made with wholemeal bread and low-sugar beans) or some oatcakes with nut butter on top when you get home are easy quick protein/fibre rich options.”
Have a pint of water before bed
This is one of the most famous, tried and tested and largely most successful ways of preventing a hangover.
“One of the main culprits for hangover symptoms is dehydration.” Hannah Braye says, “Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it makes us urinate more than usual.
“This, along-with activities such as dancing that often accompany drinking, can lead to dehydration. Research shows that even mild dehydration (e.g. a reduction of 1-2% of body weight through water loss) can have a significant impact on cognition, mood, energy, digestive function and sports performance.”
“Drinking a pint of water just before going to bed will hopefully save you from waking up in the morning with a mouth like the Sahara, and may help with detoxification processes overnight.” She says, “Making sure you rehydrate the next day is also likely to help ease commonly reported hangover symptoms such as thirst and headache.”
Make sure you get enough sleep
If you’ve ever gone to bed late after drinking and woken up in the early hours, you’ll already know that alcohol has a major impact on your sleep.
It has been proven (opens in new tab) to impair the quality of sleep and the amount of time your body sleeps. Frequent alcohol consumption can even disrupt your entire sleep schedule (opens in new tab) in the long-term.
To prevent a hangover, sleep can be essential. Although a lack of sleep doesn’t tend to directly contribute to many symptoms of a hangover, it can definitely make you more tired and irritable the next day. So after drinking, make sure you can snooze for at least eight hours the following morning.
Naturally, the best way to prevent a hangover from ruining your morning is to not drink so much the night before.
There actually aren’t too many scientifically proven ways to prevent a hangover apart from this, explains City Dieticians (opens in new tab) founder Sophie Medlin. “Because we can’t get people drunk in the name of science, we haven’t had many opportunities to study this.” She says, “The key message is to not drink so much that you get hungover in the first place.”
But she adds, “Having alcohol with food slows the rate at which it enters your blood stream, giving your liver more time to process it and alternating drinks with water helps to prevent dehydration. Some people swear by an electrolyte solution before bed but there isn’t any strong evidence that this will help.”
Are there any drinks that are less likely to give you a hangover?
There aren’t any specific types of alcohol that are better or worse for your health, Hannah says. “Rather it is the volume that alcohol is drunk in that is the issue, and other variable factors such as how much sleep you get, whether you have eaten, and even your genetics.”
Many alcohol drinks - and especially the mixers they’re served with - tend to be high in sugar and other stimulants which cause issues with blood glucose balance. This effect of the alcohol (opens in new tab) can lead to energy crashes, interrupted sleep and disrupt the microbial balance in the gut, which may exacerbate hangover symptoms.
Hannah suggests staying away from the following if you want to avoid a hangover:
- Fortified wines
- Spirits with sugary mixers
“A pint of cider can contain as many as five teaspoons of sugar – almost as much as the World Health Organisation recommends that you do not exceed per day. Carbonated fizzy drinks often consumed with spirits are also often very high in sugar.”
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And in terms of avoiding a funny tummy the morning after, stay away from gin as it “appears to be one of the least beneficial for the microbial community living in our guts.”
Grace Walsh is a Features Writer for Goodto.com, covering breaking news health stories during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as lifestyle and entertainment topics. She has worked in media since graduating from the University of Warwick in 2019 with a degree in Classical Civilisation and a year spent abroad in Italy. It was here that Grace caught the bug for journalism, after becoming involved in the university’s student newspaper and radio station.
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