What do New Year’s day and my entire college career have in common?
Massive hangovers causing me to watch Netflix marathons of shows I don’t even like. New Year’s day 2016 saw me deadlift (had to keep the streak alive) and proceed to not move from the couch for the rest of the day while watching Making a Murderer (sucky situation for Steven, but not my idea of good TV).
Yes, the guy that brings you all these fancy, top-notch fitness blog posts likes to dabble in copious alcohol consumption on rare occasions.
Everyone knows that a fun drunken night will more than likely turn into a massive hangover the next day. We also know that dark alcohols, like whisky and rum, will further ensure feeling like warmed over shit the next day. Any 2 second Google search or years of experience will tell you that.
Being a chemist, I wanted to know what causes the hangover and how I can minimize if not eliminate the waste of a day afterwards.
CAUSES OF THE HANGOVER:
BREAKING THE SEAL
Let’s start from the beginning at the first sign of drinking too much. Alcohol is a diuretic which causes you to piss everything out. Drinking Vodka and Red Bull? Now you are pissing out 2x the amount of water thanks to the added caffeine. You might as well start up Netflix now because you are going to be a hurting unit in the morning.
All the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function properly is in either the toilet or your neighbor’s bushes.
BLOOD SUGAR IN FLUX
As everyone knows when they have gone low/no carb your blood sugar plays a huge role in how you function as a human. Alcohol cause your blood sugar to drop which causes the fatigue, irritability (think Jersey Shore), muscle weakness. Sounds like a great mindset to pick up chicks at the bar.
Alcohol acts as an irritant in the stomach. This causes an increase in stomach acid to be produced which slows down the emptying of your stomach. That’s why you feel so full after a couple beers. This super fun combination of increase stomach acid and alcohol in your system leads to the nausea, stomach ache and the the always fun vomiting.
BLOOD VESSEL DILATION
Blood vessel dilation is great for working out and getting all the nutrients to your muscles. This is not a good thing the day after drinking. There is a theory that the dilation of blood vessels caused by alcohol triggers the following day headache.
When the vessels dilate in your head, the walls become weak and some fluid leaks out. Think of your blood vessels as an elastic with little holes in it. The more you stretch the elastic the bigger the holes get. This leakage is noticed by the pain receptors around the surrounding tissue. Then the body releases chemicals that cause inflammation. Now whenever blood passes through the inflamed area you feel pain aka a throbbing headache.
When alcohol reaches your liver, an enzyme breaks it down into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is far more toxic than alcohol.
So your body again attempts to break it down with an enzyme and glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that is crucial for liver detoxification. Glutathione contains high levels of cysteine (more on this to come)
Together, this powerful detox duo can break down the acetaldehyde into harmless acetate.
However, when you drink too much alcohol, your stores of glutathione become depleted, which allows acetaldehyde to build up in your body, causing the toxic hangover effect.
Unfortunately for them, women have less acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and glutathione than men, which is why women may have a more severe reaction to drinking the same amount of alcohol as a man of similar weight.
PASSING THE F OUT
Like I said in Sleep Better when you drink you pass through the first couple of stages of sleep and your brain never relaxes once you hit REM. This causes you to never get restful sleep and why you feel lethargic the next day.
Plus, your sleep could be interrupted by throwing up, drunk people or the police knocking on your window when you pass out in a parking lot.
Here is how to minimize the hangover the next day through preparation.
STARTING PRIOR TO GETTING SLIZZERED:
I am going to catch flack for this and I have no scientific evidence to back this up other than personal experience.
One of the side effects of taking creatine is the muscles filling up with water. If you have more water in your body when you drink you have more of a buffer until you hit the dehydration point. This has helped me with the hangover headache. Taking creatine right before you drink won’t do the trick. You need to saturate your muscle with creatine so you will need to be taking creatine regularly for a few weeks before your drunken night.
I’m not condoning this, it’s just something I have stumbled (literally sometimes) on in my drinking career.
EAT SOME BACON
Besides being the best food on the planet, it contains 2 very important things to prevent hangovers. Fat and amino acids. The fat in bacon digest slowly which in turn causes the alcohol to be absorbed more slowly. So you will probably get full before you are drunk. Bacon for the win…. again. I’ll get to the amino acids in a few.
AVOID WHITE FOODS
White foods like pasta and white bread have been used to “soak up” the alcohol usually eating as a pre-drinking meal. This is a bad idea. White bread and pasta spike your blood sugar and is digested quickly. So when you get around to the drinking, you are more or less drinking on an empty stomach. Plan foiled.
Stick to slow digesting foods like fats and low glycemic foods. Wheat bread and pasta will work and the aforementioned bacon.
EAT SOME GUACAMOLE
Ever wake up in your neighbor’s mulch bed or woken up without pants on and not know how it happened? You can thank alcohol for suppressing vasopressin the night before. This is also the reason you have to pee every 15 minutes. The cure is guacamole or more specifically, potassium. Guacamole is made from avocados which has a higher potassium content than bananas, plus you won’t look like you are performing sexual acts in public eating guacamole. Potassium boost vasopressin which will help you remember where your pants are in the morning or at least why they are off.
BURN THAT TOAST
When you burn toast you create activated carbon. Activated carbon is used in water filters. Instead of eating the activated carbon in your Brita, just down some burnt wheat toast. This will work to filter some of the alcohol and it will give you something in your stomach to slow down digestion. Butter the toast for extra fat to further slow down digestion.
N-ACETYL CYSTEINE (NAC)
NAC is a form of the amino acid cysteine. It is known to help increase glutathione and reduce the acetaldehyde toxicity that causes many hangover symptoms. Try taking NAC (at least 200 milligrams) 30 minutes before you drink to help lessen the alcohol’s toxic effects. Eggs are a great source of NAC or a supplement will work too.
WHILE YOU ARE GETTING SLIZZERED:
Vodka diet (“a lean bro” as it is sometimes called) is my drink of choice when I’m trying to look classy. I emphasize trying. The carbonation in the soda accelerates the absorption of alcohol when it hits your stomach. This way I can be a cheap date and not have to drink all that much. If you are going for a marathon drinking session, skip the bubbles.
DRINK COCONUT WATER
One of the things you lose while drinking, besides your dignity, is electrolytes thanks to the lack of vasopressin and pissing like a race horse. A simple solution is to drink coconut water between drinks or before bed. Coconut water has more electrolytes than Gatorade and less sugar to spike your blood sugar.
From my Everything you need to know about BCAAs post, you know BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine and valine. When you drink, the levels of leucine are increase which is normally a good thing but in this case it isn’t. This increase in leucine can cause hypoglycemia and moodiness. Plus, an increase in leucine causes and increase in B3 to be pissed out. A B3 deficiency can lead to a tryptophan deficiency and finally a serotonin deficiency. Serotonin is that happy chemical that suppresses depression, aggression and unreasonable anger (again see Jersey Shore).
To combat the increase in leucine, sip on some BCAAs. Isoleucine and valine help keep leucine levels in check to prevent you from going bat shit crazy when someone bumps into you.
Alcohol inhibits glutamine, a natural stimulant in your body. This is partly why alcohol has a depressive effect that may make you fall asleep easily… at first. After you’ve stopped drinking, your body will work overtime increasing glutamine levels, which is why you’ll ultimately wake up more often.
This glutamine rebound may contribute to the fatigue, tremors, anxiety, restlessness, and even increased blood pressure that are often felt during a hangover. So buy and sip on some BCAAs that has glutamine mixed in as your hangover cocktail.
THE DAY AFTER GETTING SLIZZERED:
NAC is thought to work even better when combined with thiamine, or vitamin B1. Vitamin B6 may also help to lessen hangover symptoms. Since alcohol depletes B vitamin in your body and they’re required to help eliminate it from your body, a B-vitamin supplement taken the next day could get you on your feet faster.
Since you added a few inches to the water table the night before you are probably dehydrated. You could chug water like the beer you were chugging last night, but it’s not as fun. Instead add a little salt to that water will actually speed up the healing process.
Salt causes you to retain water and that is exactly what you want. Add half a teaspoon of salt to two liters of water and you’re good to go. Taste like you’re drinking ocean water? Add a little sugar as well.
EAT EGGS FOR BREAKFAST
If you can stomach it, eat some eggs the next morning. Like the NAC you had last night, the cysteine will help you the next morning too.
Increased blood flow=toxins flush out quickly= you being happy. Some light cardio or maybe try out The Walking Dead Workout will do the trick.
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