The pounding headache, bloodshot eyes, achy muscles, heartburn… There’s no ignoring it: You’ve got a hangover. All of those tips to “stay away from sugary drinks,” “eat a substantial dinner” and “drink water after every cocktail” were for naught. Boozing crimes have been committed and you #wokeuplikethis. Now what? You’ve probably got to tackle a to-do list longer than Santa’s…or perhaps you have to dash to the office through North Pole-like weather.
Never fear! You don’t need to let one night of revelry derail the rest of your week. In anticipation of this booze-filled season, we present expert advice for alleviating those pesky hangover symptoms, especially if you forgot to take preventative measures the night before.
5 Horrific Hangover Scenarios, and How to Power Through
1. You’ve got six hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic ahead of you.
That happy hour with friends was a little too happy. You meant to chase every glass of wine with a pitcher of H2O, but the holiday cheer somehow steered you off course. Now you’ve got to hop in the car to spend the holidays with your family.
Hangover Rx: “When you wake up in the morning, have 16 ounces of water,” recommends Jim White, RDN, ACSM-HFS, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson. Sports drinks and coconut water, which is lower in sugar, can also redeem electrolytes lost while drinking, says White. He suggests downing an additional eight to 16 ounces every hour throughout the day. (So, bank on some bathroom breaks!) Portable snacks are good to have on hand, too, says Jessica Crandall, RDN, Denver Wellness & Nutrition Director. Pack a banana, protein bar or some nutty granola, since they’re rich in potassium and sodium, two nutrients that get depleted from the body when you urinate while drinking.
“The old ‘hair of the dog’ is pretty much just a myth.”
2. You’re attending yet another get-together later today.
It’s hangover o’clock, and also time for you to meet friends for brunch. You figure that some mimosas or Bloody Marys will help blunt your headache and curb last night’s damage.
Hangover Rx: “The old ‘hair of the dog’ is pretty much just a myth,” says White. “You’re drinking and you’re numbing but as soon as that wears off, you’re going to feel worse.” Instead, he recommends ordering a full breakfast. Eggs, he says, are a good source of cysteine, an amino acid that helps the liver break down alcohol faster. Save pancakes for another time and head straight for the menu’s omelet section. Bonus points for adding non-starchy greens like kale, spinach or peppers, which is a great way to sneak in a serving of vegetables at the beginning of the day.
3. You tried to self-medicate, and nothing’s quite cutting it.
Your alarm clock goes off and you’re desperate for some energy. On your commute to work, you buy all of the over-the-counter “hangover pills” in sight at the pharmacy and a large coffee to jumpstart your brain.
Hangover Rx: “I have personally tried [over-the-counter hangover pills] and there’s not a lot of science behind them,” says Crandall. She notes that lots of brands have excessive amounts of vitamins that won’t be helpful. Instead, Crandall advises seeking out protein, complex carbohydrates (a rich source of b-vitamins) and potassium-rich foods like banana or melon. Since coffee can irritate the gut, she suggests opting for herbal tea instead. If you can’t function without a jolt of liquid energy, go for black teas over green or fruit teas since the latter doesn’t have any natural caffeine.
4. You’ve committed to fitness (and don’t want to eat a class cancellation fee).
“Sometimes elevating the heart rate will cause additional pounding in your head.”
There’s no way you’d let a hangover get in the way of your workout. But as soon as you lace up your sneakers, your forehead starts to sweat with fear just thinking about AMRAP burpees or the eight-mile run you had planned.
Hangover Rx: While exercise will increase endorphins, Crandall and White say it’s smarter to avoid strenuous, high-intensity programs if you’re feeling out of sorts after a night out. “Sometimes elevating the heart rate will cause additional pounding in your head,” says Crandall. But she says that getting some fresh air may help you feel better. White and Crandall agree that low-intensity workouts are ideal. “I would go with yoga, light weight training or some elliptical,” he says. And don’t forget to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
5. You’ve got to hit the shops.
You knocked back some eggnog and everything else in sight — and that’s why you’re feeling like a Santa-sized sack of coal is weighing you down this morning. Your stomach is churning yet you’ve got holiday errands to run, gifts to wrap, and cookies to bake! What’s a modern-day elf to do?
Hangover Rx: Skip the ginger ale in favor of a sip with fewer empty calories — and real ginger, which has been shown to settle gastrointestinal distress, says White. “I would recommend ginger tea first thing in the morning as a great way to ward off an upset stomach,” says White. Since most ginger ales have high-fructose corn syrup and not a substantial amount of actual ginger, it’s best to stick with tea if you’re trying to cope with feelings of nausea.
Originally published December 2014. Updated December 2016.