CHICAGO, December 31, 2014 — New Year’s Eve is fast approaching. Now is the time to make your pre-New Year’s resolution, the one where you swear you are not going to wake up New Year’s Day with a hangover.
Of course, the best way to accomplish hangover-avoidance is to avoid overindulgence. But we’re skipping right over that because it’s no fun. We’ve all been good this year, or mostly good, so we should be able to celebrate.
The next best way to avoid the throbbing head and spinning stomach requires a bit of discipline, but that’s kind of what resolutions are about anyway, right? That’s also why so many of them don’t work. Resolutions require discipline, discipline requires resolve, so the first step is to decide how badly you really want to avoid that hangover.
Are you really going to have to function on January 1? Then start by eating. Yeah, this is the easy part. Fats and carbs will slow alcohol absorption, prevent low blood sugar and help steady your stomach.
Alcohol really does hit you harder if it hits an empty stomach first, so chow down before you bottoms-up.
Now comes the discipline. Hangovers are all about hydration. Every woman on the planet, or at least in this writer’s circle, has wondered why it seems like so much more liquid is coming out in the bathroom than went after a round at the bar.
Men may wonder, too, but they don’t talk about it as much.
The reason that the 12 ounces that went in seems like 20 coming out is that it is. The numbers are off, but the point is that even though you are taking liquid into your body, rather than replenishing you, alcohol does the opposite.
Think of it this way: the alcohol really, really wants to stay with you, so it latches onto the water molecules your body holds so dear, but the current is too strong and they both get swept away, and more liquid leaves than entered.
If only we could find a way to make this work with fat cells. I think a few people have done it with brain cells, but that’s ok. They go into politics.
To avoid the dehydration and resulting hangover, alternate every alcoholic beverage with a glass of water.
Afraid of looking un-cool? Put the water in the same glass, or bottle, or even can.
Or better yet, don’t worry about looking cool. The people around you are either doing the same thing and are, therefore, impressed with your intelligence, or they are not, in which case, they probably won’t be noticing much of anything soon.
Truly, if anyone notices you’re alternating water and alcohol, they really need to focus a little less on your beverage and a little more on the party around them. This, of course, assumes it’s not your mother. She can do both. And she will.
Alcohol. Water. Alcohol. Water. It’s not hard, but it takes some thought. And eventually, thinking may be a bit difficult. So what do you do if the resolve wanes and the discipline falters, leaving you bushy-eyed and bright-tailed in the morning instead of the other way around?
Time heals all hangovers. As long as you skip that whole “hair-of-the-dog” thing. It’s not withdrawal, people; it’s dehydration.
So hydrate! Water works, but only if your stomach agrees. Better options include the ever-popular Gatorade (electrolytes are key), ginger ale (flat, if the bubbles would work against you), Pedialyte (some swear by it, but somehow it just seems inappropriate) and the trendy coconut water which has recently found its way to grocery shelves across the country. Not coconut milk, mind you. Coconut water is the liquid found inside unripened coconuts and it’s full of nutrients and potassium.
Now that we’re talking about nutrients, and we’ve established that the stomach is being cooperative, let’s have breakfast!
We know that with time the toxins will work their way out of our system and we’ll be, for better or worse, back to our old selves again. But is there anything we can do to speed the process along? Bananas, fruit juice, and (easy there, tummy…) eggs.
Bananas, like coconut water, are full of potassium, which your brain and muscles need to function properly, or at least to the best of their ability. Bananas will help clear your fuzzy head and ease the aches.
Fruit juice provides vitamins and fructose, which is the sugar that naturally forms in fruit. It helps your body clear out the toxins and will give you an energy boost.
Stay away from juice with added sugar, though. You got more than enough empty calories last night, don’t you think?
And now, there they are. Warm, slimy, looking back at you if they’re sunny-side up. Why eggs? Because eggs contain cysteine, which your body needs to break down alcohol. Have some toast with them if it’ll help them go down easier.
So you’re hydrated, fed and still feeling like crap? If you decide to pop a pill to go with last night’s alcohol, stay away from acetaminophen. Acetaminophen, the pain-killing ingredient in Tylenol and many others, is very hard on your liver.
The alcohol is already doing a number on your liver. You only have one liver, and you need it. Stick with plain, old aspirin. Aspirin inhibits prostaglandin, which contributes to hangovers. Best to take it before bed, actually, but let’s just be glad we actually made it to bed.
And to the New Year! Yes, we made it. We may feel like we had to scratch and claw our way through the old one, but there’s another one here to greet us as soon as we can fully open our eyes.
May it bring you much joy!