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Alcohol and Health

Hangover 101: What To Eat and Drink for Quick Recovery

November 29, 2023
14 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
November 29, 2023
14 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
November 29, 2023
14 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
November 29, 2023
14 min read
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Reframe Content Team
November 29, 2023
14 min read

You wake up on a Sunday morning, head pounding and stomach churning, remnants of last night's party echoing in your mind. The once-enjoyable evening now seems like a distant memory as you grapple with the dreaded aftermath: a hangover. It's a familiar scenario for many, and while we often joke about our "wine flu" or "beer blunders," the science behind hangovers is quite serious.

Keep reading to learn what’s behind your hangover and how to cure it quickly.

The Science of Hangovers

A hangover is a collection of unpleasant physiological and psychological effects that can occur after consuming too much alcohol. The severity and symptoms can vary from person to person, but common symptoms include headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, stomach discomfort, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it encourages the body to lose more water than it takes in. This leads to dehydration, which can cause symptoms like thirst, dizziness, and lightheadedness. Dehydration is also partly responsible for the dry mouth and headache associated with hangovers.

How Alcohol Affects the Body

Along with water, you also lose electrolytes when you urinate more frequently after drinking. Electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium, are essential for many bodily functions, and their imbalance can contribute to hangover symptoms like weakness, shakiness, and mood disturbances. Aside from this, alcohol can irritate the lining of your stomach and increase acid production, leading to nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain.

While alcohol can make you feel sleepy and might help you fall asleep more quickly, it actually reduces the quality of your sleep. It disrupts the sleep cycle, mainly by reducing the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which can leave you feeling groggy and tired the next day.

When you drink, your liver breaks down alcohol into acetaldehyde, a toxic substance that's eventually converted into harmless acetate. However, consuming a lot of alcohol in a short time can cause a buildup of acetaldehyde, which can lead to nausea and vomiting.

Congeners are substances produced during alcohol fermentation and are present in different amounts in different alcoholic beverages. They are thought to contribute to the severity of hangovers, with darker liquors like whiskey and red wine generally containing more congeners than lighter ones like vodka or white wine.

Food and Drinks for Hangover Relief

When facing the challenge of a hangover, the right choice of foods and drinks can be your best ally in seeking relief. These selections are not just about satisfying cravings; they have been scientifically shown to alleviate common hangover symptoms like dehydration, nausea, and low blood sugar. 

  • Water and electrolytes. Rehydrating is key. Water, coconut water, or sports drinks replenish lost fluids and electrolytes.
  • Toast and bananas. Simple, bland foods like toast and bananas are easy on your stomach and restore nutrients like potassium.
  • Eggs. Eggs contain cysteine, which helps break down acetaldehyde, easing hangover symptoms.
  • Fruits and smoothies. Fruits, especially oranges and berries, provide vitamins. Smoothies can be a gentle way to introduce these nutrients. Just avoid added sugars!

Hangover Prevention Foods

Let’s explore some smart, delicious food options that work wonders in preventing the uncomfortable aftermath of a night of drinking. From nutrient-dense meals to snacks, these hangover prevention foods will ensure you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day. 

Balanced and Nutrient-Dense Pre-Party Meals 

Planning ahead with hangover-prevention foods can significantly mitigate the effects of alcohol. Consuming a balanced, nutrient-dense meal rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and fats before indulging in alcoholic beverages can help in slowing down the absorption of alcohol and prevent hangover symptoms

  • Whole grain pasta with grilled chicken. A dish of whole-grain pasta served with grilled chicken breast and a side of steamed vegetables offers a balanced mix of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and fiber.
  • Quinoa salad with avocado and black beans. Quinoa is a great source of protein and carbohydrates, while avocado provides healthy fats. Adding black beans increases the protein content, making it a nutrient-dense meal.
  • Salmon with sweet potato and broccoli. Baked or grilled salmon provides healthy fats and protein. Pair it with a baked sweet potato and steamed broccoli for a meal rich in carbohydrates and essential nutrients.

Smart Snacking

Additionally, smart snacking choices, like opting for nuts and cheese during a drinking session, not only provide sustained energy but also slow the impact of alcohol on the body.

  • Mixed nuts and cheese platter. A selection of mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews) alongside slices of cheese such as cheddar, gouda, or brie. This combination offers protein, healthy fats, and sustained energy.
  • Greek yogurt with almonds and honey. Greek yogurt is a good source of protein and can be paired with almonds for healthy fats and honey for a touch of sweetness.
  • Apple slices with peanut butter and cheese cubes. The crispness of apple slices combined with the creaminess of peanut butter and the richness of cheese cubes like Swiss or mozzarella provide a satisfying and energy-boosting snack.

Practical Ways To Avoid a Hangover

Implementing these steps will allow you to enjoy your social life while also taking care of your body, leading to more enjoyable mornings after nights out.

  1. Hydration station setup. Before heading out for the evening, prepare a dedicated area in your home with essentials for rehydration. This "hydration station" should include bottles of water, electrolyte-replenishing drinks like sports beverages or coconut water, and perhaps a small snack such as crackers or a banana. This setup ensures that when you return, everything you need to begin the rehydration process is readily available, helping you to counter the dehydrating effects of alcohol immediately.

  2. The morning-after meal prep. Plan and prepare a simple, nutrient-rich breakfast for the following morning. This could include a dish like soft-boiled eggs with whole-grain toast that provides protein and complex carbohydrates and a side of fruit such as berries or an orange for a vitamin boost. Having this meal ready to go reduces the effort needed in the morning, making it easier for you to nourish your body when you might be feeling less than your best.

  3. Portable snack packs. Create and carry small snack packs consisting of mixed nuts (like almonds, walnuts, or cashews) and some whole-grain crackers. These are perfect for munching on during your night out. The protein and healthy fats from the nuts along with the carbohydrates from the crackers will provide sustained energy and help slow down the absorption of alcohol.
  4. Mindful drinking reminder. Use your phone to set periodic reminders or alarms that prompt you to check in with yourself, encouraging you to drink a glass of water between drinks and to monitor your alcohol intake. This mindful drinking approach can help you moderate alcohol consumption and stay hydrated.

  5. Sleep sanctuary. Optimize your sleeping environment to enhance the quality of your rest. Ensure your bedroom is dark, cool, and quiet. Consider using blackout curtains, earplugs, or a white noise machine if necessary. Even if you get fewer hours of sleep after a night out, making sure the sleep you do get is of high quality can significantly affect how you feel the next day.

By understanding the science behind a hangover and taking proactive steps, you can mitigate the effects and even prevent them. Remember, your body is a complex system that reacts to what you consume and how you treat it. Taking these small, actionable steps can ease your post-party woes and contribute to healthier drinking habits. Here's to brighter mornings and healthier choices!

Smart Drinking Choices Keep the Hangover Away

At their core, hangovers are a complex response involving dehydration, toxic substances, and disrupted bodily functions due to alcohol consumption. Remember that drinking in moderation, staying hydrated, eating well before indulging, and choosing your drinks wisely can significantly reduce hangover effects. 

If you want to cut back on your alcohol consumption but don’t know where to start, consider trying Reframe. We’re a neuroscience-backed app that has helped millions of people reduce their alcohol consumption and develop healthier lifestyle habits. 

Summary FAQs

1. Why does alcohol consumption lead to dehydration and how does it affect hangover symptoms?

Alcohol acts as a diuretic, prompting the body to lose more water than it absorbs, leading to dehydration. This dehydration causes hangover symptoms such as thirst, dizziness, dry mouth, and headaches.

2. How do congeners in alcoholic beverages influence the severity of a hangover?

Congeners are byproducts of alcohol fermentation found in varying amounts in different drinks. Beverages with higher congener content, like whiskey and red wine, tend to cause more severe hangovers compared to those with fewer congeners, like vodka or white wine.

3. What are the best foods and drinks for hangover relief and why?

Hydrating with water, coconut water, or a sports drink is crucial to replenish fluids and electrolytes for hangover relief. Eating simple foods like toast and bananas can soothe the stomach and restore nutrients, while eggs, rich in cysteine, aid in breaking down acetaldehyde. Fruits and smoothies, especially those with oranges and berries, offer essential vitamins and a natural sugar boost, aiding in recovery.

4. How do balanced, nutrient-dense pre-party meals help in hangover prevention?

Consuming meals rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats before drinking slows the absorption of alcohol, reducing the likelihood and severity of hangovers. Options like whole-grain pasta with grilled chicken, quinoa salad, or salmon with sweet potatoes are ideal for this purpose.

5. What are some smart snacking options during drinking and how do they aid in hangover prevention?

Opting for snacks like mixed nuts and cheese, Greek yogurt with almonds, or apple slices with peanut butter during drinking provides sustained energy and slows down the impact of alcohol. These snacks help in maintaining energy levels and reducing hangover severity.

6. How does setting up a hydration station help in hangover prevention?

Establishing a hydration station at home with water and electrolyte drinks ensures immediate access to rehydration upon returning from a night out. This helps counteract the dehydrating effects of alcohol, reducing the severity of hangovers.

7. What role do mindful drinking and a sleep-friendly environment play in avoiding hangovers?

Using reminders for mindful drinking helps in moderating alcohol intake and staying hydrated, which can prevent hangovers. Additionally, creating a sleep sanctuary with a dark, cool, and quiet environment improves sleep quality, further aiding in hangover prevention and recovery.

Take Control of Your Drinking With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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