Certain articles require in-depth research. And that’s exactly what I reminded myself of when I embarked on a two-week drinking mission. (All in the name of health, of course.)
But before we dive into my sleepless, headache-filled adventure, I’d like to explain myself—and also the motivation behind this article. First, this wasn’t exactly in the name of research. The idea came to life the morning after a late night of shuffleboard and spicy margaritas, when I openly announced my hungover state to the office. While I thought my bloodshot eyes and lack of energy were apparent, my coworkers disagreed. It appears I actually have a gift for pulling it together in the most unfortunate states.[AD]
What happened next was all my own doing. My boss didn’t demand that I chug beer every night (that’s far from how we function at Greatist!), but rather it was one of those weeks where social plans were aplenty and my willpower was a-lackin’. And then it spilled over into week two.
Fortunately, my “research” paid off. Even though I suffered from hangover symptoms seven times in a two-week period, I made it through each day (mostly) undetected. In fact, I was pretty damn productive. And you can be too—even if you took tequila shots the night before. Just follow these sneaky, science-backed tricks, and you’ll be a hangover-free, multitasking champion in no time.
The Beginning of the End
If you’re having a few drinks, odds are a hangover is in your near future. (I’m not the only one who gets hungover from one glass of wine, right?) And while you may not be able to completely avoid the painful, uncomfortable symptoms (a magic pill doesn’t exist—yet), they can be minimized.
For starters, make sure to stay hydrated. And I don’t mean ordering drinks on the rocks. Watering down cocktails with ice cubes helps a little, but pairing each alcoholic drink with a tall glass of water is really the way to go. The extra glasses of H2O will not only help you feel fuller (meaning the next cocktail may seem less appealing), but it also decreases the risk of dehydration, which can cause dips in mood, memory, and concentration Mild dehydration affects mood in healthy young women. Armstrong LE, Ganio MS, Casa DJ, et al. Journal of Nutrition, 2012 Feb;142(2):382-8. . Bonus tip: Drink a glass or two of water before going to bed and another one or two when you wake up. Headache and dry mouth, be gone!
It’s also wise to eat a hearty meal before hitting the town. While it may not be feasible to get your hands on a heaping plate of mineral-rich asparagus (which can help prevent hangovers), whole grains prep your stomach for a night of debauchery and can be found on most menus. Even better: Make a home-cooked meal or healthy snack instead of opting for bar food. That way, you can ensure your body is full of the right nutrients and reduce the chances of grabbing late-night pizza. (Though any food is better than no food! And let’s face it: Pizza is pretty delicious—especially after a beer or two.) Plus, studies show a full belly can help keep your blood alcohol content at a lower level Effects of meal composition on blood alcohol level, psychomotor performance and subjective state after ingestion of alcohol. Finnigan, F, Hammersley, R, Millar, K. Department of Psychology, Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens, UK. Appetite, 1998 Dec;31(3):361-75..
At the bar, you should aim to keep it classy and light—when it comes to your activities and drinks of choice. Obviously two drinks are better than five, and turning in early is smarter than staying up until sunrise, but the latter options don’t have to result in severe pain. To wake up the best version of you, opt for clear alcohols like white wine or vodka, which don’t contain the congeners The role of beverage congeners in hangover and other residual effects of alcohol intoxication: a review. Rohsenow DJ, Howland J. Current Drug Abuse Reviews. 2010 Jun;3(2):76-9. (a common cause for that raging headache) found in darker alcohols like whiskey and red wine. It’s also helpful to #treatyoself—nicer brands may have fewer congeners. Sure, happy hour well drink specials may seem like a good idea, but you might be happier the next day if you spend a little extra.
The easiest way to mask a hangover is by looking fresh and awake—which sounds simple but can be a serious challenge.
Start by waking up earlier than normal, taking a cold shower, using redness-relief eye drops, and brushing your teeth like a champ. This rids your body of any post-party liquor smells and provides a much-need energy boost. It may sound counterintuitive to wake up early when you feel like you haven’t even slept, but in my experience, pushing through a hangover is more effective than sleeping through it. I also suggest making your alarm a happy tune so you hate your life just a little bit less when it goes off.
For those feeling extra ambitious (or under the weather), rejuvenate by putting sliced cucumber or pre-soaked chamomile teabags on your eyelids. It’ll de-puff your poppers and help you relax no matter the state of agony your body may be in. Bonus tip: Keep eye drops on hand and use them again in the afternoon, if needed. (If you wear contacts, these are also great days to rock eyeglasses.)
Lastly, put on your Sunday best. OK, not your actual Sunday best, but leave the yoga pants at home and dress nicer than normal. Not only will it make you feel more confident, but it’ll also ensure your boss (and coworkers) don’t think you spent the night playing drinking games instead of finishing that project you promised to nip in the bud. At the very least, tell yourself you got this—mentality is half the battle.
The common symptoms of a hangover—headache, fatigue, nausea, decreased motor skills, sensitivity to light (and basically every stimuli)—can be tough to shake. Drinking interferes with normal hormone production The alcohol hangover. Wiese JG, Shilpak MG, Browner WS. Veterans Affairs Medicinal Center and the University of California, San Francisco, USA. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2000 Jun 6;132(11):897-902., so you’re not just feeling dehydrated and sleepy: Your body is actually out of whack. And while popping an aspirin (take it after breakfast to avoid stomachaches) can help, it isn’t a quick cure-all.
What can help, surprisingly, is Sprite. Soda might have a worse reputation than alcohol, but the bubbly beverage has a health benefit (in this case): Sprite increases the activity of ALDH, an enzyme that alleviates pesky symptoms by turning acetaldehyde (the cause of your hangover) into acetate, which is attributed to many of the health benefits of drinking. So sip on, and watch your symptoms fade away. Bonus tip: Those steering clear of sugar can try soda water, which appears to have similar results. (I’ve found that ginger-flavored kombucha works wonders too!)
Once you’re feeling more hydrated (the color of your pee is a good gauge; the clearer the better), it’s time for an energy boost. Coffee is a great go-to—the smell itself can perk you up—but caffeinated tea also works, and it’s a great low-acid option if you’re feeling queasy. Grabbing a cup of coffee or tea is also the perfect excuse to walk outside and get some air, which increases the rate that alcohol toxins are broken down—meaning you’re that much closer to full recovery.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. And in this case, that often means reaching for a greasy egg sandwich or oversized (and stuffed) bagel for breakfast. While these taste great in the moment—boy, do they taste great—heavy foods can weigh you down and increase stomach woes. Same goes for slamming a glass of juice: The acid in OJ can irritate your stomach even more. Other items on the no-no list: booze (hair of the dog isn’t legit, sorry!), fried foods (double sorry), and anything extra acidic.
Though you may crave carbs, what your body really wants is a meal like fruit, amino-rich eggs, vitamin-packed oatmeal, and good ol’ H2O. These foods will not only help you refuel and rehydrate, they’ll also help ensure you can make it through the day full of energy—no yearning for an afternoon siesta. Other good options are miso or chicken soup (hello, healthy sodium), tomatoes, spinach, and toast with honey.
The Little Things
These may sound like common courtesies and natural behavior, but when you’re hungover, it’s easy to forget the small stuff.
For example, don’t hide. Sure, if you need a few hours to work from home, do it. But it’s best to show your face, say hello, engage with those around you, be friendly, and smile. Your inner voice may be screaming, “If I open my mouth to speak, I’m afraid I'll burp or vomit.” But odds are neither of those things will actually happen, so fake it till you make it! Even if it’s obvious you had too much, at least you’ll appear polite and professional.
Hangover days are also the time to pay extra attention to your scent, as booze has a lovely (read: terrible) way of seeping out of your pores and breath no matter how much you scrub, brush, and gargle. Approach your morning as you would a date night and pick up a pack of gum, swipe on an extra layer of deodorant, spritz on a little extra perfume or cologne, and bring extras to freshen up throughout the day. Warning: Don’t go overboard (no one likes that guy), just be aware that alcohol can make you sweat and reek, and it’s best to cover up wisely.
Congratulations, you just made it through your hangover (and this article) swiftly and strategically. Golf claps. But here’s the thing: No matter how much of a pro you are, drinking can have consequences: Binge drinking is bad for your health and even worse for your productivity. Plus the lack of sleep can mess with your mind and body, including increasing the risk for depression (and overeating).
My social experiment may have resulted in super valuable information (right?!), but it also left me with flu-like symptoms, a few extra pounds, and (I imagine) a few less brain cells. Fortunately, recovery is in sight—I followed all the tips above, and you should too—but learn from my mistakes, don’t follow my example. Instead, drink in moderation, choose your libations wisely, and take care of yourself. And when you’re in times of need, you always have this.