It's the million dollar question: How can you prevent yourself from being miserably hung over the morning after drinking? We know you don't want to hear it, but the only way to guarantee you won't wake up with hangover symptoms like a headache, nausea, and fatigue is to avoid drinking too much in the first place, George F. Koob, MD, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, tells Health.
OK, sorry, we'll stop telling you things you already know. Fortunately, Dr. Koob also let us in on a few other ways to help fend off a hangover—or at least ease the symptoms if you do end up with one so it feels a lot less wicked. These tips may not always work, but they're better than doing nothing and suffering through all that next-day awfulness.
Eat something before you drink
"Food absorbs alcohol," Dr. Koob says. Having something in your stomach will keep the alcohol you do drink from being absorbed into your bloodstream too quickly, which will cut back on any hangover symptoms in the morning. Just about any kind of food will help, Dr. Koob advises, though some experts believe meals that contain protein and fat are the most effective. For that reason, nutritionist Claudia T. Felty, PhD, RDN, previously told Health she recommends Buddha bowls: “They provide a healthy dose of plant protein, healthy fats, and hydrating veggies.”
Sip water with your alcohol
Hydrating before you go out is always a good idea, but it's just as important to keep up with the H2O while you're drinking. Pro tip: Alternate between your alcoholic beverage and a glass of water. Alcohol dehydrates you, which can intensify hangover symptoms. Any water you ingest will help, even if it's just the ice cubes in your drink. Oh, and downing a glass (or three) before you go to bed is smart, too.
Opt for clear liquor
Clear liquors typically have fewer chemicals called congeners than the darker ones, Dr. Koob says. Congeners are toxic substances made during the fermentation process that play a big role in that sickly feeling you get after drinking. So order a drink with vodka, not bourbon, for example.
Speaking of congeners: "People are individually sensitive to certain congeners and not others," he explains. In other words, your body might have a stronger reaction to the congeners in wine than those in rum, but your friend might notice the opposite. If you know from experience that a certain type of alcohol doesn't make you feel as bad as others, make that your drink of choice.
Get enough sleep after a night out drinking
Alcohol disrupts sleep, and we all know how we feel when we don't sleep well. Dr. Koob suggests easing up on your alcohol intake at the end of the night, so you give your body time to process it before you hit the hay. Having alcohol in your system may wake you up in the middle of the night. Ultimately, the more quality sleep you can get, the better, so try your best to coax yourself back to dreamland. Taking a nap the next day can't hurt either.
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