Drinking as you get older is like a game of hangover roulette. Sometimes you have a big night out and feel fresh the next morning and other times you drink a few glasses of wine with dinner and wake up with a debilitating headache. By 30, the effects of a bad hangover can last for days, disrupting your sleep schedule and throwing you off your game.
But drinking doesn’t have to be a gamble with your tomorrow. Preventing a hangover is a matter of preparation and discipline. Follow our science-backed, twenty-four hour timeline to take luck out of the equation.
8 a.m. Rehydrate Before You Dehydrate
Alcohol dehydrates you as you pee more and reabsorb less water. There are some scientific reasons for this, but all you need to know is water is your lifeblood when you drink. Give yourself a head start by drinking slightly more than the recommended two and a half liters per day in the run-up to your night out.
9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Eat “Alcohol Buffers”
Don’t try to diet before you load up on calories from drinking. This is no time to be a hero. Drinking on an empty stomach is never a good idea, so double down on your indulgence and eat first.
The day you’re going out, nourish yourself with high-fat foods, carbs, and proteins. The body digests fatty foods slowly, which helps slow the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream. Eating a high-fat meal can lower blood alcohol concentration (BAC) by 50% compared to drinking on an empty stomach, according to Duke University’s Alcohol Pharmacology Education Partnership. Carbs and proteins also delay alcohol absorption — and give you a leg up on the dance floor.
No, this doesn’t mean you should chow down on Shake Shack as a pregame. You want to eat good fats and healthy carbs to avoid feeling even worse the next day. Feast on a falafel pita, turkey sandwich, or one of these hangover superfoods instead.
5 p.m. Take Your Vitamins
There’s less hard science behind this one, but it can’t hurt, and many people swear by it. Vitamin C and B vitamins are the most popular pre-booze supplements. The idea here is that alcohol depletes vitamins in your body, so front-loading will reduce the symptoms of a hangover. Antioxidants also help, so kill a few birds with one stone by taking a multivitamin that contains all three.
7 p.m. Line Your Stomach
It’s crucial that you eat a full meal shortly before you imbibe. This rule is doctor tested, drinker approved. Like lunch, load up on good fats, proteins, and carbs. Other sound pregame choices include avocado toast, salmon filet, and chicken breast.
8 p.m. Water, Moderation, and Science
It’s one of the most commonly given and consistently ignored pieces of advice: Drink water while you drink alcohol. The rule of thumb is one glass of water per drink. Not only does water rehydrate, it helps you moderate how much you drink, which is the number one way to prevent a hangover. For extra intake, order your spirits on the rocks.
Some Rules to Drink By:
- Avoid brown liquors like whisky and rum. They’re higher in congeners, which are linked to hangovers.
- Mix spirits, not sodas. ‘Beer before liquor, never been sicker’ is a myth, but too many sugary mixers can give you a headache the next day.
- Avoid bubbles. Carbonation increases alcohol absorption.
- No shots. See: Moderation. Break any of the rules above before taking shots.
11 p.m. Skip the Last Drink
Night caps are a gratuitous addition to your hangover. You should also curb your water intake towards the end of the evening. Bathroom runs can interrupt your deep sleep, which is the replenishing stage of sleep you need to have a chance at staving off a hangover. Spend the end of the night coasting on your glorious buzz.
11:30 p.m. Prep for the Morning
By this point, you should’ve had plenty of water, so there’s no need to chug a gallon more before bed. Instead, drink one final cup, and then do your future self a favor and put a large glass by your bedside for the morning.
Pro tip: put a couple ibuprofen out, as well, in case you wake up with a pounding headache. This way you won’t have to lift your head to get to the medicine cabinet.
12 a.m. to 8 a.m. Sleep it Off
If possible, turn off your alarm. A good night’s sleep can be the difference between a wasted day and a productive one. Climate control is key here. Profuse sweating will only dehydrate you further. Close your shades or block out the light with a mask and set the temperature so your bedroom’s cool. Temperature-controlled pillows will keep you from waking up to flip your pillow in the middle of the night.
If you have to be at work earlier than eight, adjust your timeline accordingly to secure a full night’s rest before you get on your feet.
8 a.m. Eat Them Here, Eat Them There
Great news: Your ‘gut’s’ feeling has been right all these years. It turns out bacon, egg, and cheese bagels are good for remedying hangovers. At least the eggs are anyways. It’s science. They contain cysteine, which helps break a down a toxin called acetaldehyde, a byproduct of alcohol. Honorable mentions to bananas and apricots, which replenish your diminished potassium.
Wash it down with Gatorade, Pedialyte, or something high in electrolytes. Natural coconut water is the healthiest choice, plus it also contains potassium.
As tempting as it is to reach for the coffee, caffeine is a diuretic, like alcohol, so it’ll only dehydrate you further. If you need a pick-me-up, try one of these caffeine alternatives instead. Sweating out your hangover in the gym or sauna might sound logical, but that will also dehydrate you more.
Follow our guide and you might just prevent a hangover. As for your moral hangover, you’re on your own.