The nightlife veteran’s guide to avoiding a head-crushing hangover
You slowly open your eyes. You're in your bed and your head feels like a tank was parked on it all night.
Why the hell are you at home and how did you even get there? You don't remember leaving the club. And why the heck is the vodka bottle out on the kitchen table together with two glasses? The other side of the bed looks kind of roughed up as well. You did come home alone, or so you thought...
This scene should feel familiar to anyone who has ever been on a proper tour around the blocks at night. Sure as hell I have been through my fair share of nasty, pain-inducing hangovers. You know, the ones where your friends ask you later that day: "So you remember what you did last night?" and you try to play it cool although you’re sweating what embarrassing thing you did this time.
Luckily, after more than a decade of partying and boozing, I have figured out how to prepare for a night out and calibrate my alcohol intake in such a way to not get hangovers at all anymore the next day. Forget the armchair-consultants who have never gone beyond two drinks themselves. This is real advice that works because I learned it the hard way myself.
This step-by-step guide will tell you:
- How to prepare for a party in order to feel 100% energized and ready to go
- What and how to drink to have maximum fun with minimum regrets
- The secret trick what to eat before going to bed that you will not find on the internet
- How to cope with the after-effects on "the day after"
- The 3 common booze myths that are complete BS (and why)
Let’s keep it real – the best hangover prevention is to drink responsibly and not well above your limit. The less you drink, the less shitty you’ll feel the morning after. No advice or wonder drug will change that. So keep that in mind when you’re ordering your sixth Long Island and are wanna blame me if you don’t feel fresh as a daisy after your night out.
How to prepare before you go out partying
Step 1: Hit the gym and do so early
Now before you actually hit the bars and clubs at night, you need the right prep to ensure your night will be a total success. And believe it or not, but that actually starts early on the day you plan to party.
First advice: work out on the day you want to party but do so early during the day.
Now a workout will do three things for you:
- It gets you pumped
- It gets your metabolism going
- But it also tires you physically
A workout improves your mental energy, gets your body going and lifts your spirits for the remainder of the day (and night). That’s exactly what you want for a good night out. Plus the next day you won’t feel as lazy and weak as if you hadn’t worked out, especially if you couldn’t keep your fingers off the booze.
However, the key word here is early.
This whole thing won’t work nearly as well if you put in a session right before you hit the city. You don’t give your body enough recovery time and while you will be mentally up and running, you will feel physically tired. Of course everyone’s body works in a different way but I have found morning and day fitness sessions to be by far the most effective.
Step 2: Have a solid meal that gives you a good base for alcohol intake
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that you better eat something before you start downing shots. The question begs: what exactly should you eat?
I’m definitely no nutritionist but I like to drink and based on my experience, I recommend you to go for a good mixture of carbs and proteins. Think something like this:
Especially after a good workout you’ll get a feeling of being full without having overeaten. You can add a salad but do not go with salad and nothing else. You’ll feel like you have a black hole in your stomach the next day.
Also no fatty foods or fast food. Yes, I know how they supposedly “soak up” the alcohol. However, in combination with alcohol you will get the bill for eating that type of food in a certain place that you go to alone, if you know what I mean. You’ll also feel sloppy and kill all the energy from your gym session by eating pizza, burgers and suchlike.
What to drink and how to drink it
Step 3: Drink clear alcohol
You may or may not know this but if you want to somewhat soften the blow to your head, you should stick to clearer forms of alcohol: vodka, gin, rum, white wine and similar.
Why is that?
The nasty little fuckers hammering away at your head (besides the alcohol itself) are called congeners and are a byproduct of the distilling and fermenting process. The more a drink has of them, and darker liquors do, the more likely your head is going to hurt after your drinking. And if you don’t believe me, science backs this up as well.
Step 4: Have water in between (or let the ice in your cocktail melt)
I like to go with one glass of water per two drinks I have. In Moscow you usually don’t drink tapped water because of the slight swimming pool taste it has, but believe me that is the lesser of the two evils. Otherwise, if you’re tipping your barman well, he’ll hook you up with free bottled water along with your drinks. It will keep your hands and mind busy, while at the same time keeping you hydrated and not diluting the nice little buzz that you have from the drinks.
Step 5: If you have to drink a lot, do it slowly
I cannot stress this enough: in Moscow you have all night long to party. There is no last call and there are plenty of afterhour clubs. There’s no rush. Drinking fast and then trying to “feed off that” just makes no sense, because what will happen is that you will cut your night short by being unnecessarily drunk too early. I don’t even count anymore how often I’m getting asked why I can drink that much. Well that’s because I space out my drinking Sherlock.
A good rule of thumb is to go with one cocktail per 45mins for men and 75mins for women. That is a good 250ml drink with a generous amount of alcohol. For beer and wine you can work accordingly, so about two 0,33l bottles of beer or one a half glasses of wine. By the time three hours have passed, you’ll either be ready to go home or have a solid buzz that you can keep throughout the night.
How to minimize the damage already done
Step 6: Re-hydrate and eat one specific thing before going to sleep
You should know that drinking as much water as possible before going to bed will greatly help to reduce your hangovers. The very reason for the hangover headache is that alcohol dehydrates your body, which in turn leads to your head feeling like it’s about to explode. Drinking as much water as possible before going to bed will help with that.
But let me fill you in on a secret that not a lot of people know. You know what’s the best hangover prevention food that you can get at 5am in the morning before you stumble into your bed?
Most definitely not Kebab.
Grab one of these along with your pre-drinks and thank me later
Why do you think athletes eat so many of them? It’s because they contain tons of valuable vitamins and minerals. And what’s good for millionaire athletes can’t be bad for you come home from a long night of partying. The Healthy Drinker agrees with me on this. Make sure you eat at least one but better two bananas before you go to bed. That way you minimize the headache and hunger feeling before it even starts. After all, athletes eat their bananas during competition and not afterwards, right?
The morning after
Step 7: What to eat the next day
You listened to all my advice and you do feel less shitty, if not all that great. Congratulations! You’re on your way to becoming a nightlife veteran as well. Reward yourself with a good meal that will lift your spirits and make you feel better. Your body will probably be screaming for food although, if you followed the banana advice, not as much as usually. In my experience now is the time to sin and eat something unhealthy. McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut you name it. Personally I like to go with something with a lot of carbs and not that much fat, so pizza fits the bill quite well. Eating too healthy can actually be counterproductive, as your sense of taste is distorted by the alcohol in your system and you will feel a lingering sense of hunger very soon again.
Why these 3 alcohol myths are complete BS
Hangover cures are surely among the top 5 internet search requests along with sex, money and cute cats. So there’s a lot of BS out there that needs debunking. I picked these three ones because I’ve heard them over and over from friends and acquaintances and they are still wrong.
Myth #1: Mixing alcohol is bad
Well uhm, no, drinking alcohol is bad (but fun). As indicated here and here that is just flat out wrong. If you drink more, you will be drunker and more hungover. What might be true however, and this is one for the scientists to figure out, is that a placebo effect takes place. So people who religiously believe this actually do feel drunker. I don’t know about you but I’ll keep mixing up my drinks.
Myth #2: The "beer after" will help you get over your hangover
So the saying goes that if you have a drink the morning after, your hangover will be easier to stomach. Actually not a myth but completely true. It’s because you’re started to get drunker again smartass. Anyone who has been on a multi-day bender knows what I’m talking about. After the first evening your limits are way higher and to you it’ll feel difficult to get as drunk. So yes, it soothes the pain but the effect will be that you’ll feel bad for longer later.
Myth #3: Eating some salt before going to bed helps
Not sure whether that’s a big one but I’ve been hearing this from friends a lot. You’re supposed to lick about half a tablespoon of salt before you go to bed and that’s gonna work wonders. Tried it, didn’t work. Most probably it’s counterproductive too since salt dehydrates your body even more. Stay clear of that.
Leave a comment and let me know your best hangover cures and whether my not-so-secret recipe helped you get through “the day after” better.
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