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Does coffee help hangovers? If you’ve landed on this page, chances are you’ve always heard that coffee helps hangovers but need some more convincing.
Well, you’re not wrong to think twice. Coffee can help and hinder hangovers at the same time. So, it’s something to think about when you’ve woken up with a hangover, before reaching for a coffee.
In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at whether coffee helps with hangovers. To do so, we’re going to examine how coffee affects your body and the positive and negative side effects that come with it.
So, with the introductions out the way, it’s time to start taking a closer look at whether coffee really helps hangovers.
Causes of a hangover
Before we get into whether coffee helps hangovers, we first need to go over the causes of a hangover. After all, without knowing the science of a hangover, it’s hard to know what truly helps.
Firstly, alcohol is a diuretic which means it makes you pee out more water. It does this by blocking a hormone called ADH in your brain.
Secondly, alcohol disrupts your sleep by blocking it from reaching the REM stage. This stage of sleep is where dreams happen and is essential for resting your mind and body.(1)
Finally, the process of alcohol metabolism produces toxic waste products. This includes acetaldehyde which is a highly volatile molecule that reacts with your cells causing inflammation.(2)
All in all, these result in hangover symptoms which include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dry mouth
- Lack of energy
- Inability to focus / concentrate
- Anxiety (aka “hangxiety”)
The bottom line: Alcohol causes hangovers via several different mechanisms. Dehydration, reduced sleep quality, and inflammation are just some of the ways that alcohol causes damage. However, it’s an area of research that is still ongoing.(3)
How does coffee affect the body
Next up, we’ll look at all the ways in which coffee affects the body. This way, we’ll be able to see whether coffee can negate some of the causes of a hangover in order to see if it’ll help reduce your symptoms.
We all know that the active ingredient in coffee is caffeine, and we also know that it makes you feel more alert and awake. But how does it do it?
Caffeine is an adenosine receptor antagonist. In simple terms, it opposes the action of adenosine. By doing so, it keeps your mind more alert. It also makes your heart pump more powerfully as well as stimulates your intestines.(4)
Did you know caffeine also makes your kidneys flush out more water? It does this by increasing the blood flow to your kidneys as well as allowing sodium loss which ultimately results in more water loss.
Now that we’ve got the basics out the way, let’s combine the causes of a hangover with the effects of caffeine on your body to see whether coffee helps hangovers.
Does coffee help hangovers?
So, now on to the all-important question. Does coffee help hangovers?
The simple answer is yes, it does, but it also has some negatives that come with it too.
Feeling tired, sleepy and generally lacking energy is one of the main symptoms of a hangover. Naturally, reaching for a cup of coffee to help these symptoms makes a lot of sense. Coffee is stimulant which means it’ll make you feel more alert and awake.
That said, it’s also a diuretic (like alcohol) which means it’ll make you pee more. As a result, it could potentially exacerbate dehydration.
In addition, the stimulant action of caffeine can make you feel more on edge, get your heart racing as well as worsen hangover shakes.
The bottom line: Deciding whether to drink coffee or not to help your hangover is a personal choice based on your goals. If you need to feel more energized and are happy to sacrifice the negatives that come with drinking coffee for a hangover, then that may be the right choice for you. On the other hand, if hangover anxiety and shakes are a problem for you, then you may want to avoid coffee.
Next up, we’ll look at whether coffee helps hangover nausea and headache.
Does coffee help hangover nausea?
Hangover nausea is arguably the worst symptoms of a hangover. Can coffee help with hangover nausea?
There aren’t any studies looking specifically into caffeine for hangover nausea, however, it has been studied for the treatment of postoperative nausea. Unfortunately, researchers found that caffeine is not effective for treating nausea.(5)
Furthermore, high doses of caffeine can actually make nausea worse. Studies have shown that doses of 500mg can cause nausea. That’s equivalent to 2.5 cups of strong coffee.(6)
Does coffee help hangover headache?
There are some studies that have shown caffeine alongside painkillers can enhance reduce headaches.(6)
However, caffeine is also a well-known trigger for migraines.(7)
On the other hand, if you’re someone who drinks several cups of coffee a day, you’re probably dependent on the effects of caffeine. Therefore, not drinking coffee can give caffeine withdrawal symptoms. The main symptom being a headache!
Whether coffee helps with hangover headaches depends on your own personal response to caffeine.
Does coffee speed up alcohol metabolism?
Lots of people drink coffee in an attempt to “speed-up” alcohol metabolism. If you’ve had a particularly big night, you may still be feeling the effects of alcohol in the morning.
It’s really important to appreciate that coffee does not speed up how fast alcohol is broken down, metabolized or cleared from your bloodstream.
If you’re still drunk from the night before, coffee will not help sober you up!
Food for thought
Hangovers are a sign from your body that you’ve had a few too many drinks at happy hour for your liver to handle. Trying to help improve your symptoms with coffee is the wrong approach.
When it comes to hangovers, prevention is key. Drinking plenty of water, eating before going out and most importantly, reducing your alcohol intake is all you need to do to prevent the worst hangovers.
If you normally get bad hangovers even from a small amount of alcohol, you may want to consider cutting out darker colored drinks. For example, red wine and whiskey contain higher concentrations of congeners. Congeners are by-products that are produced during the aging process certain types of alcohol go through and have been shown to make hangovers a lot worse.
Does coffee help hangovers – Final verdict
That brings us to the end of our look into whether coffee helps hangovers or not.
It all depends on your personal circumstances and goals. If you’ve had a few too many drinks midweek and need to be more alert at work, then coffee will help keep you more awake and energized.
On the other hand, if you’ve woken up on the weekend and have nothing much planned the whole day, then avoiding coffee is probably the best course of action. Netflix and chill all the way.
The important takeaway message is that coffee does not speed up how fast alcohol is cleared from your bloodstream.