Did you get hangovers in college? Because I sure didn’t. I hopped from bed after a night of blacking out on $6 rum, and on 3 hours of sleep, powered through the day like a goddamn hurricane. I hit the gym. I hit the books. Sometimes I even volunteered for things. Then after a day spent existing as a contributing member of society, I bought more rum and did it all again. It’s hard to be hungover when you’re busy being a fuckin champion.
But times have changed, my friends. Today, a night out is followed by a day in the fetal position, swearing to anyone who will listen how I’m never drinking again and pleading with my daughter to just go to sleep so daddy can sleep, and if only for a moment, escape this nauseating hell that he drank himself into. Daddy’s so sorry, sweetie. Oh lord, how daddy’s sorry.
It’s not fair. I’m not looking for some miracle hangover cure (there isn’t one) or even to go out every weekend. All I’m asking is to get drunk at a responsible frequency and to not spend the next day sprawled under the toilet. I wanna have my Cake Vodka and drink it too. Is this too much to ask? Like, what’s the big fuckin deal?
The BFD: Alcohol vs. The Human Body
When you drink, alcohol travels down your esophagus and into your stomach, where it’s absorbed and carried to your bloodstream. From there, it has access to your entire body — including your brain — which has some interesting effects.
So the BFD is that because alcohol’s impact is so expansive, affecting the circulatory, digestive, endocrine, and central nervous systems, researchers have struggled to develop any resemblance of a hangover ‘cure’. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t hope.
The Plan: Getting Hammered Without the Hangover
This guide is intended to be the only hangover literature you will ever need — a collection of honest-to-god actual scientific hangover research and practical tips to applying it.
Most importantly, what follows actually works. It has returned to me the pleasure of waking up in my birthday suit while still being able to function like a human being. And at the end of the day, isn’t that all anyone really wants?
Plan and Prepare: Before Your First Drink
Alcohol works quickly — a shot of booze can reach your brain in as little as a minute. Because alcohol has an almost immediate impact on your body, hangover prevention begins prior to your first drink.
Prepare to Pee
Alcohol makes you pee. Ethanol, the primary alcohol in booze, decreases the release of vasopressin, a hormone that helps the kidneys absorb water. So instead of going back into the body, water is expelled through urine. This is the biology behind the broken seal phenomenon where, after a few drinks, you take a whiz, seemingly ‘breaking the seal’ and opening the floodgates to non-stop urination.
The problem with all this piss is that with it goes water, nutrients, and electrolytes necessary for your body to do, well, everything. Every nerve, muscle, organ, every cell needs water to do its job. Without it, you become dehydrated and can experience headaches, dizziness, dry mouth, and muscle cramps — symptoms strikingly similar to those of a hangover. The key to preventing these nasty symptoms? Hydration — building up your water and electrolyte supply before your first drink.
Food Before Booze
Food provides energy for our cells, muscles, and organs to properly function. Normally, the liver monitors energy levels and if needed, can release more in the form of blood sugar. But drinking interferes with this process because your body considers alcohol a poison and directs all energy into expelling it, even at the expense of other bodily functions.
So with your liver busy metabolizing alcohol, there’s nothing to keep your blood sugar from plummeting. A hearty meal before your first drink can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels and prevent headaches, muscle aches, and fatigue due to your body working on an insufficient energy supply.
Help Your Liver With Emergen-C
Your poor liver is responsible for metabolizing 90% of the alcohol you consume (the remaining 10% is excreted via sweat, urine, and the breath). Metabolization begins when enzymes in the liver break down ethanol into acetaldehyde — a byproduct which unfortunately is 30 times more toxic than ethanol itself.
Typically, acetaldehyde is quickly metabolized into a less harmful compound. But when you drink a lot, this process gets bogged down, allowing toxic acetaldehyde to pile up in your system and having some pretty nasty effects on your body. Fortunately, the antioxidants and vitamins in Emergen-C can prevent some of this damage.¹
Maintain: The Pre-game
As the night wears on and your inhibitions wear down, it’s gonna get harder to make hangover healthy choices, especially if you’re going out. Here are a few pre-gaming tips before heading to the bar.
Drink Tito’s (Skip the Whiskey)
When it comes to hangovers, not all booze is created equal. Studies have shown that dark spirits produce more intense hangovers than clear spirits due to their increased levels of chemicals called congeners.
Congeners are byproducts of the fermentation process and give dark spirits like red wine and whiskey their rich and delicious flavors. The problem is most congeners are toxic and our bodies struggle to process them. Bourbon and other barrel aged spirits have an especially high congener content, estimated at 37 times that of vodka.
So if you’re drinking for effect, it’s probably best to something clear like Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which is distilled 6 times (further removing congeners and impurities) and made right here in America. Fuck yeah.
Continue to Snack and Hydrate
Adding appetizers and water to your pre-gaming routine will help maintain blood sugar and electrolyte levels.
Bend Don’t Break: The Bar
I’ve discovered an unmistakable correlation between hangover severity and the number of poor choices I make at the bar.
Inhibitions burned from pregaming, I’m easy prey for the blonde in short shorts selling neon shots in plastic test tubes. I’ll take 5.
And no, dude I don’t need another shot of tequila but…you’re goddamn right I’ll do one because this is the best night ever and I love you, man and everything is just so great.
If you’re not careful, a few hours at the pub can derail all the good work you’ve done up to this point.
Stay Out of the Well
You might have heard that cheap booze makes you sick. It turns out, there is some truth to this. Since lower quality hooch is produced using lower quality ingredients and processes, a relatively larger amount of impurities, toxins, and congeners end up in the final product, meaning there is also some truth to ‘you get what you pay for.’
Cigarettes are filled with toxins, including acetaldehyde. So smoking when you drink only adds to the pile of crap your body has to process.
Switch to Water
You’ve done some good work getting drunk tonight. Now, do yourself a favor and ride that buzz through bar close.
Replacing those last few cocktails with water will not only help replenish lost fluids but also save you a couple hours of misery in the morning.
Because unlike the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream, which varies based on several factors — height, weight, sex, food in the stomach — the rate at which your body metabolizes alcohol is fairly consistent (averaging about 1 drink per hour, regardless of body type).
So for every late night cocktail you forego, you will save your liver one hour of work, and it will be one hour sooner you get to return to normalcy.
Rest and Recovery: The After Party
Nothing good happens after 2AM. And while blasting bro country and partying-on seems like a bullet proof idea at the time, it is instead one you will almost certainly regret.
While you sleep, your body will be working overtime to process alcohol and its byproducts. The best thing you can do is stock up on some key ingredients and get to sleep to start the recovery process.
Eat, Hydrate, and Take Another Dose of Emergen-C
Food will prevent your blood sugar from crashing overnight, and Gatorade or Emergen-C will start replenishing lost nutrients and electrolytes.
Take Ibuprofen (But Not Tylenol)
Ibuprofen might be one of the most effective ingredients of hangover prevention. Studies have shown that drinking induces an inflammatory response, likely due to cell and tissue damage caused by acetaldehyde and other toxins. Therefore, a simple pain killer like Motrin or Advil can help to relieve those nasty migraines and body aches.
But don’t take Tylenol because the active ingredient, acetaminophen can cause liver damage when combined with alcohol.
Take a Multivitamin (Ideally One With Selenium)
Drinking is associated with low levels of selenium, and selenium deficiency is associated with mood changes, anxiety, and depression. This might explain my curious urge to crawl into a storm sewer and die anytime I’m hungover and Sunday evening rolls around.
Alcohol’s interference with brain activity can deregulate your sleep cycle, which can prevent you from reaching stages of restful and restorative sleep. While there’s not much you can do about that at this point, you can at least control your external environment.
Sleeping in a bed would be a good start. So if you can, cab home. If not, find somewhere dark and quiet like a downstairs bedroom. But know that passing out in your jeans underneath a buddy’s pool table is gonna put you at a terrible disadvantage tomorrow morning.
¹The Benefits of Emergen-C
Antioxidants for Oxidative Stress
The metabolism of alcohol creates free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules that can damage cells like proteins, fats, and DNA. Even worse, alcohol consumption reduces the level of antioxidants, micronutrients that help prevent and stop damage from free radicals. This imbalance — the increased production of free radicals and the inability to remove them and repair damage — is referred to as oxidative stress and can kill cells. Supplementing antioxidants, however, can defend the body against oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals before they can cause damage. Emergen-C contains the antioxidants zinc, manganese and vitamin C.
B Vitamins for Metabolism
B vitamins are important for metabolism. Emergen-C contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 and B12.
Electrolytes for Dehydration
Emergen-C also contains electrolytes and other nutrients that will inevitably be lost during your upcoming binge.