How To Prevent a Hangover: Your Ultimate Hangover Prevention Formula
By James Petra
Updated on March 05, 2020

Looking for a hangover prevention formula that actually works? Look no further, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’re going to layout a fool-proof hangover prevention formula that works every time.

The search for an elusive hangover cure continues, and realistically, a real hangover cure will probably never exist. Therefore, hangover prevention is always your best bet.

Hangover tips are passed down from generation to generation and more often than not, include a lot of myths that don’t work.

Separating the facts from the fads can be difficult. That’s why, In this article, we’re going to give you the best hangover prevention tips based on science.

Causes of a hangover

To identify a hangover prevention formula that works, we first need to go over how alcohol affects your body in the first place.

1) Dehydration

Alcohol is a diuretic which means it makes you produce more urine. It does this by blocking a hormone in your brain called antidiuretic hormone (ADH). This hormone promotes the reabsorption of water. Therefore, blocking it makes you pee more. In fact, a glass of wine can make your kidneys flush out an extra 120ml of water.(1)

If you add this up over a course of a night out where you may have several glasses of wine, it can lead to dehydration. The signs and symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, thirst, feeling dizzy and fatigue.

2) Inflammation

Alcohol is a toxin that is metabolized (broken down) by your liver. This process produces toxic by-products which are harmful if left unchecked. Acetaldehyde is a well-known by-product that is quickly broken down into acetic acid in your liver. During periods of over-indulgence, the concentration of acetaldehyde builds up wreaking havoc on your insides.

This is because acetaldehyde is a highly unstable compound that breaks down to form free-radicals. Free-radicals are charged particles that react with your cells causing inflammation. Studies have shown a correlation between hangover severity and acetaldehyde levels.(2)

3) Poor sleep quality

An overlooked factor in any hangover prevention formula is sleep. It’s well-known that alcohol severely disrupts sleep quality. It does so by preventing your brain from entering the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. This means that sleeping 8 hours after drinking alcohol is completely different from sleeping 8 hours sober. You’ll always feel less rested if you’ve been drinking alcohol even if you think you’ve clocked enough hours of sleep.

4) Congeners

Congeners are the name given to by-products that are naturally produced during the fermentation and aging process of alcohol. It’s what gives certain types of alcohol such as wine and whiskey their rich flavor and aromas.

Examples of congeners include aldehydes, esters, histamine and tannins to mention a few. Studies have shown that congeners make hangovers a lot more severe.(3)

Similar to acetaldehyde, congeners are also “biologically active” which means they interact with your cells and can stimulate inflammation.

How to prevent a hangover: step-by-step prevention formula

Your ideal hangover prevention formula should do everything possible to counteract and mitigate the negative effects of drinking alcohol.

Before we start this section, it’s important for us to emphasize that hangovers are easily avoided by reducing your alcohol intake. Hangovers are a sign from your body that you’ve had too much alcohol for your body to handle.

With that said, let’s take a look at everything you can do to help prevent a hangover.

1) Stick to lighter colored drinks

congeners in alcohol

We mentioned earlier than darker colored drinks cause worse hangovers. Therefore, sticking to lighter colored drinks or spirits such as white wine instead of red or vodka instead of bourbon should help. The same goes for lighter colored beers.

For example, if you have 4 shots of vodka and 4 shots of bourbon, in theory, the bourbon will leave you worse off. That said, if you drink enough vodka, obviously you’re still going to get a terrible hangover.

2) Drink water between each drink

If everyone stuck to this tip in their hangover prevention formula, half the battle would be won. Having a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage is one of the simplest and most effective hangover prevention tactics.

Not only will drinking water rehydrate you, but it also significantly delays the time between each alcoholic drink. As a result, it’ll allow your liver to catch up with the backlog of alcohol in your bloodstream and continue working to break it down before more is added to the system.

3) Eat before going out

Your mum probably told you never to drink on an empty stomach. Well, she was right to.

Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach massively speeds up its absorption. This results in rapid spikes in your blood alcohol concentration. Peaks and troughs in your blood alcohol concentrations can leave you feeling rough. Having a meal before drinking alcohol reduces the peaks of blood alcohol concentration by up to 75%.(4)

4) Slow down

If you have 5 tequila shots in half an hour, you’re much more likely to wake up with a hangover than if you have 5 tequila shots in  5 hours. It all comes down to the peaks in blood alcohol concentration as mentioned above as well as giving your liver time to process alcohol and its by-products.

5) Supplements

vitamin b for hangover

Dihydromyricetin, red ginseng, and prickly pear extract are examples of herbal extracts that have been shown to increase alcohol metabolism and reduce hangover severity.(5)(6)(7)

Taking these herbal extracts could be the key to your hangover prevention formula and are easy to add to your hangover kit. That said, it’s important for us to mention that the studies into these supplements are preliminary at best and require a lot more research to prove whether they truly work.

Nevertheless, you’ll find these ingredients in most of the top hangover pills on the market right now. You can follow the link below to find out more.

RELATED: The Five Best Hangover Pills On The Market

6) Choose non-carbonated mixers

Carbonated (fizzy) mixers have been shown in some studies to speed up the absorption of alcohol. So you may want to stick to plain mixers like orange or cranberry juice instead of fizzy lemonade.(8)

7) Rehydrate

 

You may have forgotten to have your glass of water between every drink in your hangover prevention formula. Now you need a quick way to rehydrate. The best way is to invest in some rehydration salts and mix it with water. This has the added benefit of facilitating the reabsorption of water as well as replacing lost mineral.

8) Eat fruit

Fructose is the main sugar found in fruit and it’s been shown to increase alcohol metabolism. Believe it or not, some studies have shown that fructose increases alcohol metabolism by 80%.(9)

Instead of opting for a greasy meal at the end of your night out, eating fruit may be the answer instead. All fruits contain fructose but dried fruit, in particular, has high concentrations. Obviously, the downside is that the sugar content is high so eating lots of dried fruit isn’t necessarily “healthy”. But, it’s probably better than a kebab, chips and a can of coke.

9) Stay up

Finally, you’ve reached home and are you’re still feeling drunk. What next?

Most people would go straight to bed. Alternatively, you could stay up a little longer and do the things mentioned above. Drink plenty of water, take your supplements and nibble on some dried fruit to help your body in every way possible. Taking all precautionary steps in your hangover formula will increase your chances of waking up feeling OK.

Things to avoid

When it comes to hangover prevention, there are a few things you’ll want to avoid that could make matters a lot worse.

1) Caffeinated mixers

The classic Vodka and red bull mixer. It’s the perfect storm and guaranteed to give you the mother of all hangovers. Caffeine is a stimulant and studies have shown it masks the sedating effect of alcohol. As a result, people tend to drink more as they subjectively less drunk.(10)

Furthermore, caffeine significantly disrupts your sleep quality, keeping your mind firing away even if you manage to fall asleep. Combined with alcohol, it’s a double whammy when it comes to having a poor night’s sleep.

2) Throwing up

Making yourself throw up at the end of the night to prevent your hangover will not work. Not only will it not work, but it’ll almost definitely give you a worse hangover the next day.

Alcohol is rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream. In fact, your blood alcohol concentrations start to rise within 90 seconds of drinking an alcoholic beverage.

By the end of the night, you may have consumed several drinks and the alcohol will be flowing through your blood vessels. Throwing up will have absolutely zero effect on your blood alcohol concentration as the alcohol has already been absorbed!

To make things work, vomiting will mean you lose huge amounts of water as well as essential electrolytes which you can’t afford to lose. Therefore, throwing up is arguably one of the worst things you can do in your hangover prevention formula.

Anything else to consider?

We mentioned earlier than hangovers are a sign from your body that you’ve had a few too many for your liver to handle. Hangovers are not an inevitable part of drinking and can be avoided easily by sticking to your limits.

As we always like to remind our readers, hangover prevention requires a multi-pronged approach, including getting enough quality sleep, eating before going out, sticking to lighter colored drinks and most importantly, drinking less!

Hangover prevention formula – final words

That brings us to the end of our look into how you can prevent hangovers.

We’ve walked you through the basic things that you need to know about how alcohol affects your body as well as all the steps you can take in a hangover prevention formula that works.

Ultimately, nothing will ever cure your hangover. However, there are certain important things you can do to give your body the best chance at recovering from your night out.

If you’re interested in natural hangover remedies, check out our article on the best vitamins and amino acids for a hangover.

Best hangover pills
Check out our pick of the top five leading hangover prevention supplements available to you right now.

James Petra

James is a beer-loving Biochemist and natural health enthusiast from Hull, which is in Yorkshire, England.

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