We’ve all been there. Well, most of us have anyway - the morning after an office Christmas party, night out on the town, or beers with the boys. Some of you may have had enough mornings-after that you even have your own little hangover remedy or ritual to help you make it through the day. But do those remedies – whether pre or post drinking binge - actually work?
We asked the experts to give us the low-down and are here to put some of the most popular hangover myths to rest.
Myth #1: An alcohol breakfast will help ease the pain
Well, maybe for an hour or two. But soon your liquid breakfast will start to wear off and you’ll feel the effects of the hangover you’ve only delayed. A hangover starts to show its ugly face when your blood-alcohol levels begin to fall, and the worst part of a hangover is when those levels reach zero. A better bet is to start the day with a sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade, which will help replace lost electrolytes (which act as your body’s chemical messengers) and load up on water throughout the day to combat dehydration.
Myth #2: Take two Tylenol and call me in the morning
Yikes. This remedy is disagreeable in two ways –the choice of painkiller and the timing. First of all, when you take acetaminophen in a sober state most of it is converted into harmless compounds by the liver. But when you’ve been drinking, the liver is too busy taking care of the alcohol in your body that it processes the acetaminophen in a way that can cause the compounds to become toxic. This causes liver inflammation and eventually can result in permanent damage.
Ibuprofen is a safer and more effective option when it comes to an aching head. But don’t take it the night before. Since ibuprofen’s effectiveness reaches its peak in about four hours, you won’t reap any of the benefits by morning. The best approach is to wake at least an hour before you need to be functional and take up to 800 milligrams. In that hour’s time you should be on your way to feeling much better.
Myth #3: Diet drinks aren’t as potent
Well, that would be nice now, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately it’s not the case. In fact, you may get more drunk – and quicker if you’re ordering diet cocktails. The fewer calories in a drink, the faster it empties from your stomach. Blood initially passes through the liver where some of the alcohol is filtered out, but with faster emptying the liver can’t keep up so more alcohol ultimately makes it into your bloodstream.
Myth #4: Food will reverse the effects
Not so much. Maybe if you’d eaten something before hammering down all those drinks, but saving your appetite for post-party will most likely only make you more nauseous in the end. Try to eat something substantial, like a steak, (a few crackers won’t do) before you start imbibing. With more food in your stomach, your body will have to work harder to digest anything you consume and the alcohol will be delivered to your bloodstream more slowly.
Myth #5: Wine is the healthiest choice
Not necessarily. Wine – in moderation - has been shown to be beneficial to overall health. But recent studies have also revealed some health benefits of drinking beer (again, in moderation people). These benefits include a lower risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis. And, beer is actually a better choice if you’re going to have one too many and expect to be functional the next day. Wine contains compounds like tannins that can trigger headaches in some individuals, and will only add to your hangover.
Myth #6: Sucking through a straw will get you drunk faster
This old standard is simply not true. Actually, the size of the glass has more to do with how fast you get drunk than whether you sip or suck. A recent study done by Cornell University revealed that bartenders consistently pour 20 to 30 percent more alcohol into short tumblers than into skinny highball glasses. Even experienced bartenders focus on the height of what they are pouring regardless of the width of the glass.
Myth #7: You can keep up with your guy if you both weigh the same
First of all ladies, I’m sure most of us hope that we don’t weigh the same as our husbands, boyfriends, brothers, etc. Second of all, the truth behind this myth comes down to gender differences – not weight. Even if you’ve built up a tolerance over the years (attended one too many frat parties, perhaps?), if you’re a woman you will always get more intoxicated on a smaller amount of alcohol than a man. Men have a couple things working in their favor. First, they have a higher percentage of water in their bodies so alcohol becomes more diluted. Second, men have higher levels of an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which allows them to metabolize alcohol better.
Myth #8: Free booze = free (as in zero) calories!
We wish! This, of course, is a myth that probably none of us believe, ranking somewhere up there with the “calories don’t count if I’m standing up” fable, but there is something about free drinks that causes us to down more. Before you order up another one at that cute guy in the corner’s expense, take a minute to really calculate the liquid calories you’re ingesting. Four regular beers equal the same amount of calories in two McDonald’s cheeseburgers and three Cosmopolitans add an extra 750 calories to your daily intake.
Myth #9: Something about “beer before liquor "...
You won’t avoid a hangover by drinking various types of alcohol in a particular order, nor will you get a worse hangover if you mix certain drinks together. Alcohol is alcohol and it will have an effect on you, no matter if you stay consistent with your choice of poison or switch it up halfway through the night. The differences exist only in the percentage of alcohol content – if you stick with beer it’ll take longer to get drunk because its alcohol content is lower than liquor. But if you hit the hard stuff you’ll get drunk at a much quicker rate.
Ok, so now you know the real story behind all those helpful hangover tips your college roommate was kind enough to pass along. Hopefully you’ll be better prepared for your next wild and crazy night out.
Just remember - while it’s ok to overindulge once in a while, too many happy hours can create a significant health risk and may do irreversible damage to your body. If you do imbibe from time to time, please do so safely and in moderation.