Why do you do this to yourself?
Editor's note: The only way to completely avoid a hangover is to not consume alcohol. This post is not meant to be an exhaustive explanation of hangovers and how to avoid them, but we hope it helps you reduce the severity.
Hangovers are basically evil punishments against humankind.
So we spoke to alcohol and hangover expert Aaron White, Ph.D, senior scientific advisor to the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), to find out if there's any way to make them a little less awful.
First, here’s what a hangover actually is:
A hangover happens when too much alcohol gets into the bloodstream and hits the brain, causing a peak blood alcohol content (BAC), explains White. That booze gets metabolized into toxic byproducts, and this all contributes to things like dehydration, tissue inflammation, stomach irritation, electrolyte imbalance, and low blood sugar. All of that equals a painful hangover when your BAC returns to zero the next day.
« The most obvious way to prevent a hangover is to look at what causes it and do the opposite, » says White. So, you know, don't drink. But if you do choose to drink and don't want to be hungover AF, at least avoid these things:
Drinking too fast.
It takes about 30-60 minutes for alcohol to absorb in the small intestine and reach a peak BAC so the alcohol affects your brain. « Your body can process roughly one drink every hour and a half, so drinking rapidly will cause your BAC to peak very high early and stay wasted for a very long time, » says White. So if you don't give your body or brain any time to feel the effects of alcohol before the next cocktail comes in, this puts you at risk for poor decision making (more drinks), blacking out, and dehydration.
Do this instead: Space out your drinks and sip slowly so that your BAC stays lower over time. It won't necessarily prevent a hangover, says White, but it could make you less likely to get as drunk.