Healthy hacks for a quicker recovery from alcohol

Have you ever woken up after a night of drinking alcohol and immediately felt a sense of regret after saying or being part of some drunken debauchery? Well unfortunately I can’t help you with what you might have said or done, but I can offer you some advice with the prevention of that dreaded hangover and improved recovery.

Probably the most effective method I have found is abstinence: not drinking altogether… but let’s be honest. In most people’s work or social group, it’s almost expected and inevitable that we will take part in the boozy festivities. Alcohol is ingrained in our culture – at Christmas or New Years functions, alcohol corporate events, dinners, lunches, weddings, birthdays, even public holidays – all of which are excuses to throw down the drinks, sing with no tune and dance with no rhythm!

I have worked with numerous corporate clients over the years on strategies to reduce alcohol consumption for better health outcomes – some successful and many more unsuccessful. The major things I have learnt from this, is that unless you’re a high level athlete, having professional photos taken of you in your underwear or have a disease that prevents you from drinking, then you will probably still continue to drink. With this said, there is an obvious need to give people strategies to help them stay on the healthy side when consuming alcohol.

Here is a quick science lesson on reasons why you feel like death the day after drinking. (Feel free to skip to the tips if you’re not interested). Once you start drinking alcohol your body will produce less vasopressin, which is also called antidiuretic hormone (ADH). Vasopressins have two major functions: Firstly, to retain water in the body and secondly, to constrict blood vessels. (1) When alcohol your body ingests alcohol there is a reduction in ADH and your body will start secreting more liquids in an attempt to flush your system from the alcohol. This is the reason why you urinate like a fire hose after a few drinks. The problem with this is that after several hours of drinking, you become more and more dehydrated with each alcoholic beverage you take, and dehydration is one of the key factors in the severity of the hangover. Lack of ADH has also been linked to reduce short-term memory from consumption of alcohol. (2) Have you ever wondered why the next day you can’t seem to account for several hours from the previous day? This is the reason why!

Reducing the negative effects

Tip #1 Eat avocados before, during and after your drinking sessions

Avocados are extremely rich in potassium, in fact, even more than bananas. Potassium is an important mineral/electrolyte in staying hydrated and works synergistically with sodium to balance the fluids and electrolytes in your body. Alcohol can deplete potassium stores in the body, so hence why eating foods rich in potassium can help alleviate part of this problem. Avocados also have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body that can offset some of the inflammatory responses from the alcohol and sugary mixed drinks. Not to mention all the other health benefits from avocados. See further benefits of avocados at Jeremy Gwyer blog.

Tip #2 Use soda water with a shit load of lime

Using soda water/sparkling water as a mixer can offset some of the dehydration effects by increasing the ratio of water to alcohol being consumed. Tip 2.1 – for every alcoholic drink consumed, you should match it with the same volume of water. The reason for added lime is for the alkalizing effects and to help regulate blood sugars. With the use of lime it helps to reduce the acidic effect on the body from the alcohol, also the lime can help regulate the blood sugar response to the 3am French fries/burgers (that you’ve most likely inhaled!), and will reduce your likely insulin coma the next day.

Tip #3 Avoid soft drinks, salty snacks and caffeine (sorry, no espresso martinis)

Studies have reported that consumption of soft drinks and caffeine can reduce your body’s potassium stores, thereby adversely affecting hydration. (3, 4) Staying away from the salty snacks will also help maintain the sodium-potassium relationship. Naturally your body should have 4 times the amount of potassium than sodium, and when continually snacking on salty chips and nuts, this ratio can be in jeopardy and cause further dehydration.

Tip #4 Take activated charcoal before bed

Activated charcoal is reported to absorb toxins and chemicals in the digestive tract and export them out of the body. Supposedly it works better on darker spirits like whisky. Please be aware that activated charcoal can also impact medications and their effectiveness if taken together. Dave Asprey of BulletProof recommends activated charcoal and its dosages.

Next time you are planning a night out, try one or all of these tips and see how you feel the next day. Most importantly, with a little bit of planning and discipline, you won’t be missing any training sessions the day after. Remember, “failing to plan is planning for failure”.

Bottoms up!

Adam

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References

  1. Martini F, Bartholomew EF, Garrison CW, Hutchings RT, Nath JL, Ober WC, and Welch KFundamentals of anatomy & physiology / Frederic H. Martini, Judi L. Nath, Edwin F. Bartholomew ; William C. Ober, art coordinator and illustrator ; Claire W. Garrisson, illustrator ; Kathleen Welch, clinical consultant ; Ralph T. Hutchings, biomedical photgrapher. San Francisco, Calif. : Pearson/Benjamin Cummings, c2012. 9th ed., 2012.
  2. Millar K, Jeffcoate WJ, and Walders CP. Vasopressin and memory: improvement in normal short-term recall and reduction of alcohol-induced amnesia. Psychological medicine 17: 335-341, 1987.
  3. Packer C. Cola‐induced hypokalaemia: a super‐sized problem. International journal of clinical practice 63: 833-835, 2009.
  4. Tsimihodimos V, Kakaidi V, and Elisaf M. Cola‐induced hypokalaemia: pathophysiological mechanisms and clinical implications. International journal of clinical practice 63: 900-902, 2009.

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