Myths and truths about how to prevent a hangover

Which commonly heard hangover prevention tips actually work? We debunk some myths and get to the truth

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hangover drinking party

How to avoid a hangover

You only get a hangover when you binge drink. You won’t be nauseous or have a noggin-throttling headache if you choose wine only. Just pop a pain reliever before you sleep and you’ll be better in the morning. You’ve probably heard of these hangover prevention tips, but how many actually work? While the severity and frequency of hangovers are predicted by a combination of factors-think body weight, what you’ve eaten that day, how much sleep you’ve had and more-here we bust some myths and bear some truths about common hangover prevention strategies.

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mixed drink alcohol soda beverage bar

Liquor before beer and you’re in the clear

Myth. If anything, stick to one kind of alcohol when you’re enjoying your night out with the girls. “Once you start switching drinks, you tend to start overindulging. Otherwise you might have stopped at those first two beers,” says Dr. Gary Murray, acting director of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s division of Metabolism and Health Effects in Bethesda, Md. “I do think that by increasing the variety you encourage yourself to indulge and of course overindulgence is the primary cause of hangovers.”

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red wine

Limit red wine if you want to avoid a bad hangover

True. Darker, aged drinks, such as red wine, brandy, etc., have more “cogeners,” which are the by-product of the fermentation process. According to the Mayo Clinic, drinks with fewer cogeners are less likely to cause hangovers. “There are different chemicals in alcoholic beverages-and when you start aging products for example, you develop colours which are organic molecules that can contribute to the hangover,” says Dr. Murray. Therefore you may be better off sticking to clearer alcohols.

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party women drinking cocktails dinner

Eat a big meal before drinking

True. “The food will slow down the absorption into your bloodstream so therefore you get a lower alcohol concentration in your system,” says Dr. Murray. “And then that would then reduce your dose of whatever is causing your headache the next morning.”

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aspirin pill

Take a pain reliever before bed

Myth. Sort of. “But swap the Tylenol for an Aspirin because acetaminophen and alcohol don’t mix well,” says Dr. Murray. “Aspirin is a general pain reliever-it’s not doing anything to improve your metabolism but it dulls the pain of the hangover.”

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quit smoking

Smoking helps prevent a hangover

Myth. And we’re especially looking at you, “social smokers.” Not only are you adding more pollutants to your system, but a 2013 study from Brown University in Providence, R.I. found that smoking while drinking not only increased your chance of having a hangover, but also intensified the severity of it. Quit smoking, and we promise, you’ll feel a lot better-and not just the next morning.

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thirsty water drinking

Drink lots of water between alcoholic beverages

True. This strategy has a two-pronged approach. First, taking in lots of water will slow down how fast you’re downing those pomegranate martinis. And, secondly, “water also dilutes the alcohol and helps flush everything out of your system,” says Dr. Murray. “Lack of hydration is that primary source of your hangover so proper hydration goes a long way.”

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sports drinks

Drink Gatorade before bed

Myth. But swap the Gatorade for a can of Sprite and you may be onto something. This is the newest piece of research in the area of hangover prevention (an area of study that researchers notably want to do much more work in) and while it’s still early, in 2013 Chinese researchers discovered that a carbonated lemon-lime drink such as Sprite can fight acetaldehyde. This is the chemical that alcohol breaks down into once it’s metabolized in your body and what causes those dreaded hangover symptoms.

Ultimately, drinking in moderation is the best way to prevent a hangover. Dr. Murray suggests common strategies such as turning your drinks into “spritzers” (i.e. cutting them with a carbonated beverage such as a club soda) or even pacing yourself to one drink an hour to ward off the next day headache.

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