You know that ‘can’t eat, can’t sleep’ feeling? Nope, not talking about love here—we’re talking about hangovers. The misery that follows an office holiday party, family wedding, or accidental bottle of wine after dinner only seems to get worse as we get older. But let’s be real: You’re not about to go easy at your own birthday party or on New Year’s Eve, are you?
While the only true hangover cure is time, there are a few things you can do to make your day-after experience a little less painful, says Elizabeth Kovacs, Ph.D., of The University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine. “Staying hydrated and well-nourished, and keeping your electrolytes in check are just a few things you can do to help keep the torture to a minimum.”
Here, your all-natural, anti-hangover attack plan.
Agua, All Day
Since alcohol speeds up the rate at which your kidneys produce pee, you definitely don’t want to go into a night of drinking already dehydrated, says Isabel Smith, M.S., R.D., New York City-based celebrity dietitian. “Make sure you do a really good job of hydrating the day leading up to going out—even if that means carrying a water bottle everywhere or setting alarms on your phone,” she says.
Take Your Vitamins
A day you’ll be throwing back a drink (or, erm, five) is not a day to skip your multi. “Not only does alcohol deplete your electrolytes (electrically charged minerals your body needs to function), but it also affects your immune function” says Kovacs. Your multivitamin contains the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function at its best, including the antioxidant vitamin C, the immune-supporting vitamin D, and minerals like iron and magnesium.
Pre-game With A Healthy Meal
Heading into a night of drinking on an empty stomach often ends in disaster. “Eat a balanced meal that involves protein and healthy fats before hitting that party,” says Smith. “Having these slower-digesting foods in your system will help slow down your body’s absorption of the alcohol you’re drinking.” Plus, being well fed will keep you from inhaling an entire platter of mini hot dogs.
Choose Your Mixers Wisely
“I tell clients to choose drinks that are as clean as you can go without feeling miserable drinking your cocktail,” says Smith. Sugary alcohols and mixers like flavored rum, soda, and juice have an even greater effect on your blood sugar, leading to a major crash and cravings later on in the night. Smith personally recommends a tequila soda with lots of extra lime juice, and a splash of jalapeno liquor if it’s available.
Double-Fist Booze And H20
You know what goes great with just about any boozy drink? Water. “Try to drink an equal amount of water and alcoholic drinks throughout your night out,” says Kovacs. Combatting alcohol’s dehydrating effect in real time may help you feel less dead inside the next morning. Smith recommends ordering a water along with every beer or cocktail.
Electro-lyte Yourself Up
While we’re not suggesting that you concoct some sort of spiked Pedialyte® punch, if you can work a sports or electrolyte-rich drink (like coconut water) into your night out, more power to you. All the extra peeing you do when you drink not only leaves your body parched, but flushes out electrolytes like potassium and sodium that your body needs to maintain basic functions, says Kovacs. Electrolyte imbalances can make you feel super lethargic and weak, and cause muscle spasms, according to the University of New Mexico. Coconut water cocktail, anyone?
Reign In Drunk Eating
It’s so tempting to order that late-night pizza, but sadly, the cheesy, carb bomb won’t do anything to help your hangover. “Filling up on greasy, high-calorie foods right before bed is a recipe for stomach trouble and a crummy night of sleep,” says Smith. If you know you’re going to want a snack when you get home, keep a healthier—but still yummy—option handy. “I love sweets, so I keep a pint of coconut milk ice cream in the freezer and look forward to having a scoop after a night out,” Smith explains.
No Sleep ‘Til Agua
This one’s short and sweet: Drink a big glass of water or two before you go to sleep, says Smith. Extra points for mixing in some sort of electrolyte supplement, like Nuun Active’s watermelon electrolyte tablets.
Start The Next Day With A Power Breakfast
If you really want to avoid feeling wrecked for a full 24 hours after drinking, you’re going to have to turn down that boozy brunch. “Get back on track with your normal eating the next morning by making sure you eat a breakfast that contains protein and healthy fat,” says Smith. A good option: Toast with eggs and avocado, plus a side of chicken breakfast sausage. Syrup-drenched pancakes will only prolong your already-wonky blood sugar levels.
A few power foods may also deserve a spot on your post-party breakfast plate. Watermelon, for example, contains l-citrulline, an amino acid that helps boost blood circulation, which ultimately helps your body process toxins, says Smith. Tomatoes, meanwhile, contain potassium and a touch of sodium, and may help move your electrolyte levels back in the right direction.