Day-drinking hacks: Would like to avoid 1) passing out at 5, or 2) feeling suicidal the next day. Tell me what I haven't thought of...
November 9, 2012 11:41 AM   Subscribe

I know how to treat a hangover but am trying to do one better--how do you PREVENT a hangover (when you get them really easily and know that a day of fun might make it inevitable)?

I am getting together with some old friends this weekend--we are meeting up in the morning and there will inevitably be drinking and merriment throughout the day. We are friends from college so when we get a rare reunion we often fall back into old habits as far as imbibing, but were now in our late 20's and definitely can't handle our booze like we used to. SO, while we plan on doing our best to keep the drinking to an absolute minimum, knowing that enthusiasm and friendly peer pressure might take over at some point I am looking for any strategies, tips, or strange I-never-would-have-thought-of-that tricks you might have discovered at some point in your life to avoid 1) passing out by 5 o'clock, and/or 2) feeling suicidal the next day in this scenario.

We plan on starting with brunch, which will likely include mimosas and/or bloody marys. For the rest of the day we're going to various events around the city and probably bar-hopping in between (so alternately walking around and sitting for long periods).

The only two I can really think of are drinking water in between drinks and 'don't mix', but I'm also looking for stuff along the lines of (totally making these up here) "Eat bacon at brunch instead of something carby" or "Eat some toast with peanut butter and bananas before drinking" or "Have a bloody mary instead of mimosas, it will be easier to move to liquor later in the day" or "Try to sit for a while after you finish a drink instead of getting up and walking around, you won't get drunk as fast" or "Drink room temperature water in between instead of ice water" or "Avoid coffee" "Avoid spicy food" or "Drink a quart of pineapple juice and do 30 jumping-jacks halfway through the day" or "Keep your body warm" OR "Keep your body cool"....haha, I'm not sure, I may be asking the impossible here but at least I'm thinking ahead, right?

I'm not looking for answers to the tune of "Don't drink at all". This is a special occasion and that would be totally unreasonable. We're all healthy, intelligent, responsible adults and are by no means lushes--it's just a rare occasion where you get to spend the whole day with old friends and cut loose a bit, so I'd like to make the most of it but am really trying to minimize damage, you know? I'd like to somehow outsmart that little goblin that seems to take up residence in everyone's livers around their 25th birthday and henceforth causes them to get hangovers after 2 beers (which is basically what happens to me at this point). :/ Many thanks in advance.
posted by lovableiago to Health & Fitness (45 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Water's good, but drink a bottle of Gatorade or similar during or right after drinking, and another right before going to bed. It'll help you avoid a headache and shakiness the next day.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:44 AM on November 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

There really is no special secret trick beyond drinking water and eating something nutritious and high in protein at regular intervals.

Seriously, plenty of water.

Also, water.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:45 AM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

There are actually anti-hangover pills that I've heard are mildly successful in preventing hangovers. But you have to take one every hour that you're drinking I believe. And it might just be that if you remember to take them, you are also remembering to drink water between drinks as well, which is the best advice I think. As in, alternate between a pint/glass of wine/shot and a full pint of water. It not only slows your consumption, but it helps to keep you hydrated at the same time.
posted by Grither at 11:46 AM on November 9, 2012

Take two Advil before going to bed.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:47 AM on November 9, 2012

Well, there's the obvious 'make sure you have food with/before your drinks', that many people overlook.
Choose drinks that are harder to drink fast - so in my case, a light tasting cocktail or a scotch and coke might disappear in two minutes, but a heavy beer I'll drink slowly over 30 minutes. (As an extreme example: you can order a shot or a beer, if you order the shot you'll be back ordering an actual drink 30 seconds later).
In opposition to one of your samples, try not to sit for a while when drinking. While seated you don't notice as much how drunk you are, so try and get up and walk around and go to the bathroom and think 'do I feel drunk now? should I slow down?'.

(all of these are from personal experience, not science)
posted by jacalata at 11:48 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Anecdotally, I have a friend who, in college, drank herself to the ER. After a night on hydration IV, she said she'd never felt better in her life. So I'd go with water, and perhaps some Gatorade thrown in for electrolyte balance, since I think hyrdration IV's generally include electrolytes (someone correct me if I'm wrong).

Hydration is your answer.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:48 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Please do not mix Advil and alcohol.

Water. Lots of food. Drink less. Drink slower. multivitamin before bed, lots of protein, water, budget enough time for a loooong sleep.
posted by The Whelk at 11:49 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, the gatorade before bed is an excellent idea. Helps rehydrate and re-electrolyte. I would definitely buy one and put it in your fridge (or next to your bed to remind you?). Then when you get home drink the whole thing before you fall asleep. Definitely *before* going to bed is key here to try and stave off the hangover problem.
posted by Grither at 11:53 AM on November 9, 2012

Drink water, yeah. But is my accrued wisdom. Some of this may be confirmation bias and it may or may not work for you, but here it is.

Take a vitamin B12 pill before you drink anything. I have no idea if there's any science behind this but it's worked for me more than not. Plus it makes your pee an awesome neon yellow, so bonus.

Stay fed. Don't drink on an empty stomach or even if you're peckish. Keep snacks handy. Salty is good - pretzels and such.

I find that bread and eggs in whatever combination tend to do a fine job of sopping up booze. Just my own anecdotal experience.

Mixing is risky but not a guaranteed hangover. It'll be the most likely cause of a headache. If you're going to mix, mix down and not up - don't go from beer/wine to cocktails. Start with a few cocktails (and food, always food) and keep a pleasant buzz going by sipping (not pounding) beers. But once you switch, don't switch back.

Accept that your best-laid plans might go flying out the window after a couple drinks. These things happen. Fight another day.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:56 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Other than water (especially right before bed), some people find that certain things give them a worse hangover, so you can pay attention to how your body responds to different drinks (I've heard beer, red wine, sugar, certain liquors, etc from various people). You said you get a hangover after "2 beers", but maybe you wouldn't after 2 drinks of a different type.
posted by randomnity at 11:57 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Stop drinking 5-6 hours before you plan on going to sleep. That's it. That's the whole thing you need to do.
posted by elizardbits at 11:58 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

drinking a glass of water in between drinks is the best way to regulate your buzz - yet it's one of the hardest things to remember. Once you start drinking the alcohol starts dehydrating you then the drink has to perform double duty as hydration and buzz maintenance which leads to over-drinking. By the time you notice this you are drunk. Drinking water in between will allow you to continue sipping your drink and maintaining that tenuous line between buzzed drunk.
posted by any major dude at 11:59 AM on November 9, 2012

The New Yorker weighed in.
posted by rhizome at 12:02 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Stop drinking 5-6 hours before you plan on going to sleep. That's it. That's the whole thing you need to do.

Note that your timing may vary - for me, it's 2-3 hours. If I wait 5 I'll just be hungover by bedtime. The trick is to time the trough for when you're already asleep. (Hydration remains important. The food thing is more about making sure you don't get too drunk too fast, which would knock you out and/or make you sick.)
posted by restless_nomad at 12:04 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and try to avoid the highly sugary drinks if possible as well!
posted by Grither at 12:05 PM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

My own process is: eat carbs early and often. Slow down towards the end. Eat something right before you go to bed. If you must do shots, follow them up with a glass of water or even better a shot of pickle juice (you heard me). Don't smoke.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:11 PM on November 9, 2012

Coconut water (in lieu of Gatorade, which I cannot drink) can also do wonders - both before bed and the morning after.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 12:12 PM on November 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

Alcohol dehydrates your cells, and that is what makes you feel crappy when the buzz wears off. So, water and gatorade. A glass of water in between each drink and then another big glass before you go to bed and another one right when you wake up.

I don't drink a lot - maybe once a month tops, and 2-3 drinks a night is my limit - but I also have a lot of water and I have never had a hangover in my life.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:18 PM on November 9, 2012

Drinks that are low in sugar (such as anything mixed with fruit juice or pop) will render better results. Avoid tap beer. Eat before you start drinking. Then eat later, while you are drinking. Drink more water than feels necessary all through the night. Get up a few hours before you have to wake up via an alarm (or naturally due to all the water you've drank) to drink more water. It is these last glasses of water that will be key to not getting a hangover. It might mean disruption of sleep (but, if you're drinking heavily you're not really 'sleeping', anyway) but the hydration will pay off. The next day you will be tired but you won't be hung over.
posted by marimeko at 12:18 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Drink a shot of olive oil before you start drinking. Or try prickly pear extract.

Bloody Marys over mimosas. Less sugar plus potassium in the tomato juice.

Clear drinks (vodkas, gins) over darker drinks (bourbons, rums). Darker drinks have more congeners, which make hangovers worse.

Avoid carbonation and sugars (another good reason to skip the mimosas).

Eat lots of vegetables during the day. More fiber helps your stomach digest. Asparagus in particular has some something or other that helps with enzymes or something. Protein can't hurt either.

Water. Lots and lots and lots of water. In the morning, during the day, at night, in the middle of the night, in the morning.

Potassium and Vitamins C and Complex B the next morning. Vitamin Water Revive was basically created to treat hangovers and contains all these things.

Real Simple's holiday issue just had a big article about this, which included a lot of these tips, if you want the science behind them--I'm at work or I'd have included it! I can also attest to a lot of these now that football season is underway, which on the West Coast means heading to sports bars to watch the East Coast teams at 10 a.m. :)
posted by stellaluna at 12:27 PM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't say that "don't mix" is particularly sound advice. It's not like there is a chemical reaction that happens if you switch from beer to scotch or if you start with gin and end with whiskey. The only way this makes any sense is that our judgment about how much to drink goes down as a result of the amount that we drink. If a person -- especially an experienced drinker -- starts on something relatively low alcohol and then moves to something much higher in alcohol, they will be moving to a much more potent drink right at the time when their judgment is impaired. This is why the old saying goes "liquor before beer, never fear; beer before liquor, never sicker." The point is that if you get drunk on whiskey and then move to beer, at least you're not putting as much alcohol into your system as you were previously. If you get drunk on beer and start doing shots of whiskey, on the other hand, you're radically increasing your alcohol intake.

The whole business about clear spirits over dark spirits because of congeners is also not really true, in my opinion. Maybe a whiskey hangover will be a little worse than a vodka hangover, but they're both going to suck. The point is that there is no "sweet spot" where you can get hammered on vodka with no hangover but the same amount of drunkenness on whiskey would leave you with a pounding skull. More to the point, at least with the whiskey you're going to be aware that you're drinking booze, which is more than you can say for vodka.

I do some writing about spirits and cocktails, and have upon occasion had as many as fifteen cocktails in a single, albeit quite long, evening. I have not had a hangover in around twenty years. The secrets are pretty easy to understand, and come in more or less three parts: (1) strategies to reduce inebriation while drinking; (2) hydration and nutrition; (3) before bedtime.

First, start the evening with some fat in your stomach. Eat something like cheese or beef. Hey, eat a cheesesteak! This will slow your rate of digestion and give your body more opportunity to break down the alcohol before it enters your bloodstream. Keep track of how you're feeling, and once you feel yourself inching towards tipsy stop immediately and wait around 30 minutes (it will take around this long to feel the full effects of the booze you already have inside you). Consider taking a break and eating something else. Don't go back to drinking until you feel like you have your level of inebriation under control. The reality is that if you get falling-down shitfaced there is nothing you can do that will make you not have a hangover. Also consider that, once you get past your college years, it's actually pretty socially embarrassing to be drunk in public anyway.

Second, drink water continually. My rule of thumb is at least one large glass of water in between every drink. Once you feel yourself getting tipsy, you might increase it to two. This is also a good strategy to avoid overindulging in alcohol because, if you're like me, you like to sip from a drink in your hand during these social situation, and sipping from a glass of water prevents you from sipping from a glass of booze. Keep in mind that the majority of bad hangover effects are due to dehydration. At some point, consider eating some more fatty food (again, do this before you find yourself drunk).

Finally, before going to bed, drink as much water as you can possibly hold and take the largest multivitamin you can get down.

Do all these things, and you may wake up tired but you won't wake up hung over.
posted by slkinsey at 12:40 PM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

"especially an inexperienced drinker" I meant to say
posted by slkinsey at 12:45 PM on November 9, 2012

Coconut water (in lieu of Gatorade, which I cannot drink) can also do wonders - both before bed and the morning after.

YES. Coconut water before bed, if you wake up in the night, and first thing in the morning. It works miracles for me. MIRACLES.

Also, make sure you have plenty of fat and carbs in your stomach -- when I was in college, we called this THE BASE -- and when you wake up, some thing greasy usually helps. But coconut water may prevent the need for that.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 12:46 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Advil isn't the problem, tylenol is. (Acetaminophen is already bad for your liver so it on top of alcohol is not a good idea).

I've had good luck with B vitamins before bed, plenty of water, and eggs in the morning.
posted by nat at 1:10 PM on November 9, 2012

Take a vitamin B12 pill before you drink anything. I have no idea if there's any science behind this

At least one of the B vitamins (one of the ones in tomatoes -- I think it's B1, a.k.a. thiamine) reacts with alcohol, converting it into a harmless substance (water?). This science is brought to you by my dim memory of getting horribly drunk one Thanksgiving in Georgia with a chemistry grad student, whose harm reduction technique had by the next morning made him a culture hero.
posted by feral_goldfish at 1:32 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

On the other hand, much of our drunkenness that night came from horribly greasy, foul-tasting, unexpectedly alcoholic coconut cocktails, so maybe the coconut- and/or grease-promoters have the right of it. (Whatever the case, those particular cocktails were Not Worth It.)
posted by feral_goldfish at 1:37 PM on November 9, 2012

As someone who enjoys drinking but who has always gotten terrible hangovers, I have spent a lot of time experimenting with harm reduction techniques. When it comes to hangovers, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and I echo much of the advice above: eat fatty foods before drinking, drink water at least every other round, and take a B-complex vitamin before bed. To avoid getting hassled by my friends, I often disguise my hydrating rounds as drinks, either by refilling my empty beer bottle with water (when at a house party) or ordering a soda water with lime (when at a bar).

My secret weapon in the war against hangovers is pediatric therapeutic hydration, a.k.a. Pedialyte and its store-brand equivalents. Once you've tried this stuff, you will realize that Gatorade is total sugar-water bullshit. End your drinking session by opening a one liter bottle of Pedialyte, drop in two Alka-Seltzer, and drink it down with a B-complex vitamin. It doesn't taste that great, but you will be amazed how much it helps your recovery. If you're really hurting, do it again, without the vitamin, when you wake up (especially if your eyes pop open when the booze wears off at 4:30 am).

One of my greatest regrets is that I didn't stumble onto this technique until I was over 30. It would have made weekends in my twenties so much more bearable!
posted by Mendl at 2:17 PM on November 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

Milk thistle seems to help me if I take it before going to bed.
posted by queensissy at 2:20 PM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Activated charcoal before drinking has worked for me. Actual scientific evidence about how effective it is is mixed, so it might just be a placebo effect.

But even if it is a placebo effect, it's still an effect.
posted by logicpunk at 2:22 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a completely insane non-hangover regimen but good GOD does it work.

First off, I drink a medium glass of water once every two drinks for liquor at least (it's good to aim for 1:1 but it can be hard to remember.) Beer or cider, a big cool glass of water every two or three. Not a huge wine drinker so can't help you there. Pace your drinks, too, the trick is to not drink so quickly you overshoot your mark of being happily, pleasantly drunk. If you learn to get there and stay there, you can drink for a long time without ever pushing it over into miserable.

I make sure to eat when I'm drinking. Good stuff, too, not just chips and crap, which will frankly make me feel kinda sick the next morning anyway. I like protein and greens if at all possible and what goes better with drinking than steak or salmon? This will slow your metabolism and also help cushion your poor stomach from all that alcohol that will be poured into it.

Try to get some exercise in the fresh air if you can before you go to bed (it's extra-fun if you're still tipsy). I have no idea why but I can REALLY tell the difference in hangovers between the times I've walked or ridden my bike home from friends' houses, and when I've caught rides. Just a good 20 minute walk enjoying the cool and the night sky makes all the difference the next morning.

For my next trick, a solid non-queasy stomach is essential (you remembered your food and water, didn't you?) When you get home, enjoy one of these. They're not very good, so do it like your last shot of the evening if you have to, but they are super-full of vitamin C and a good B complex. Then make yourself a nice cup of mint tea, and with it, take:

- a Vitamin D (this might not be strictly necessary but hey, it doesn't hurt and I never get enough anyway)
- two cranberry pills (flush out your kidneys)
- a potassium (replenish the potassium you just flushed out via booze)
- a zinc (I'm not sure what the zinc does but I can tell you anecdatally that the whole shebang works less well without it)
- a valerian (only if you're not still HUGELY drunk, otherwise skip it-- but it's nice, it will help compensate for that lack of REM sleep that comes from alcohol)
- a probiotic (love your stomach and it will love you)
- a NSAID (but not, as others have mentioned, Tylenol due to the acetaminophen thing. I like naproxen but YMMV)

Lastly, make sure you finish your tea and take a good long piss before bed. When you wake up, have some solid food, black tea, and revel in how good you feel compared to all your friends.
posted by WidgetAlley at 2:27 PM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

CRAP! I forgot. Like logicpunk says: Take an activated charcoal with all those other vitamins, too.
posted by WidgetAlley at 2:27 PM on November 9, 2012

I use "The Method" prescribed by a bar owner: Eat a slice of pie/cake/other dessert, standing, with water before going to bed. This makes you not immediately pass out without getting some water and food in your stomach upon going home. I also like taking my multivitamin with some Gatorade.
posted by thirdletter at 2:56 PM on November 9, 2012

Step 1. Pre-game by eating first, something somewhat heavy/
Step 2. Drink a pint of water before you leave.
Step 3. Don't smoke cigarettes at all during your excursion. I feel about a million-trillion times worse after I drink and smoke a pipe or a cigar. It's a true reckoning each time I do it.
Step 4. (this is where I differ with most folks) Feel free to have a cocktail, or a shot here and there, but between EACH drink, you have a pint of water. Yes, you will be running to the bathroom to pee approximately every hour, or more, but this will slow down your drinking, AND rehydrate you.

Step 5. If you can, after all is said and done, before you pass out, eat the biggest plate of poutine you can find. This step is really key.

In fact, scratch all the other steps. Just find some poutine.
posted by furnace.heart at 4:11 PM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Eight ounces of water for every serving of alcohol. That's it. During, or after, doesn't really matter. Hydration is your friend.
posted by ambrosia at 5:40 PM on November 9, 2012

Ibuprofen (no acetaminophen), multivitamin, full glass of water. Repeat in the morning, maybe with OJ or Gatorade.
posted by greta simone at 6:49 PM on November 9, 2012

I'm seconding Mendl with the pedialyte recommendation, much better than Gatorade and it comes in tiny bottles you can fit in your purse. My going out used to consist of:

Pregame pedialyte
1-2 drinks
Quick nip to the bathroom, chug tiny pedialyte from purse
1-2 drinks
1 drink
Pedialyte for the ride home
Midnight grilled cheese
Glass of water + Motrin

Ahhh college, it made drinking an art form!
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 7:48 PM on November 9, 2012

Supposedly, wearing mosquito-repellent patches while drinking prevents hangovers. By the time I found out about this, I was no longer interested in drinking heavily, so I never tried. But my sources were at least somewhat reliable.
posted by windykites at 7:56 PM on November 9, 2012

full glass of water following up every drink you consume. fatty protein-y food before and during and after drinking. emergen-C before bed and when you wake up the next morning. gatorade or something similar the next day, and a banana.
posted by ifjuly at 8:04 PM on November 9, 2012

(emergen-C the powder drink mix not the pill/capsule, by the way, because all those b vitamins give you enough energy to not feel dead)
posted by ifjuly at 8:05 PM on November 9, 2012

bananas! :) eat fruit with breakfast and drink a lot of water/gatorade/something with electrolytes before bed.
posted by abitha! at 10:34 PM on November 9, 2012

A glass of water and 2 aspirin before bed.
posted by lalala1234 at 12:07 AM on November 10, 2012

Cysteine. Get it in capsule form if you can because it is really acidic. Take it every hour or two with vitamin c. Eat every 4 hours. Drink a whole bunch of skim milk when you get home. Take a couple of aspirin and more cysteine and C before bed. Drink more skim milk when you wake up.

Cysteine is a miracle substance. I'm glad it isn't commonplace because I would spend even more during my nights out instead of going home.

It's even better than milk thistle.
posted by hifimofo at 12:17 AM on November 10, 2012

Water. Dehydration due to alcohol is the cause of hangovers. 12oz water per drink consumed = no hangover.
posted by sninctown at 10:08 AM on November 10, 2012

furnace.heart: "Step 5. If you can, after all is said and done, before you pass out, eat the biggest plate of poutine you can find. This step is really key. "

A little late, but holy crap. I *never* got hungover in university, because I went to school in Montreal, and poutine was just something you did on the way home from the bar. DEFINITELY find some poutine before bed and you will be up for anything the next day!
posted by Grither at 4:28 AM on November 13, 2012

Hydration during as everyone is recommending and as much sleep as you can get the next day.
I do think if matters what you drink, as we all know people who get bad hangovers from champagne, or headaches from certain red wines but not others, very common. A good rule of thumb to live by is no shots after midnight.
posted by PaulBGoode at 10:31 PM on November 26, 2012

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