HANGING WITH THAT HANGOVER
Even before opening my eyes, I know I’m screwed. Achy and sore; dehydrated and imbalanced; a pounding headache and shitty stomach. Joints hurt, temples are pounding and mouth is sandpaper. Requiring nutrition and sleep and quiet, it’s a day on which you’d sell your soul to avoid all too-strenuous endeavors like work or family or any obligation, if only temporarily.
But it’s a work day. And missing a day in the kitchen is simply not an option.
It’s no secret that a hangover is countered with hydration, sleep and nutrition. Everyone’s got their “cure”. But I’ve yet to find a definitive one. Some are better than others, and they are only temporary remedies. But any relief is still relief.
When a day in bed isn’t possible (bookended by Gatorade, Netflix and a joint), here’re a few tips to make that crushing day-after differing degrees of tolerable.
Upon waking, chug a full glass of water, as cold as possible. It’s so damn refreshing. Obviously. But more importantly, this ignites the metabolism and jolts digestion. It gets everything going, as hazy or painful as it may be.
In addition to drinking, a cold shower does wonders. Its iciness shocks the body and shifts the immune system into high gear. It alleviates surface pain, rinses away that alcohol-laden sweat and helps reduce pounding in the head.
(If it’s winter, and an icy water bath isn’t doable, a hot shower is recuperating in a different way. It soothes achiness and promotes the sweating-out of toxins.)
VITAMINS & ELECTROLYTES
The day after, the body craves hydration, particularly electrolytes: sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. These are readily available in any generic sports drink, but avoid high-sugar varieties (as these will cause a crash later). Some lemonade with a pinch of salt is a decent substitute.
To bolster recovery, a decent handful of vitamins (eaten with a light meal) are nothing but beneficial. A simple multivitamin is good enough, but an ideal cocktail would also include large amounts of vitamin B complex (B12, folic acid, niacin, etc); fish oil; calcium; and vitamin D.
(Note: vitamins are supplements, not replacements. Use them in conjunction with proper nutrition to reap the benefits.)
If the stomach can handle it, food is key to quick(er) recovery. Refueling the body with nutrients and fats coats the stomach, provides energy and speeds hungover healing. For me, it’s four things: spicy, fatty, salty, savory. Heat gives a buzz, some capsaicin, and promotes the sweating-out of some of that souring alcohol from the night before. Delicious fatty foods fill and lube the gut. Salt is an electrolyte, and tastes damn good in any form. Savory foods please the palate, contain protein and provide lasting energy.
If you have a blender, smoothies are quick and reliable sources of immediately absorbable nutrients. An ideal health tonic: cold water, banana, handful kale, orange or apple, pinch of ginger, pinch of turmeric, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, protein powder or yogurt.
Whether fresh or dried (powdered), ginger’s a detoxifying anti-inflammatory ideal for a hangover. With a subtle bite, it tastes good and settles an upset stomach. Throw a teaspoon in a smoothie or sprinkle in hot or iced tea. You can even chew on a fresh chunk for an extended period, getting the spicy-soothing properties direct from the source. The compounds in this root will relieve that hangover pain and nausea.
Turmeric is one of those magical spices that give south asian dishes their color, flavor, subtle spiciness, and most importantly, anti-inflammatory properties. Excellent for joint pain (and as an analgesic generally), this powerful antioxidant has taken over the health and wellness field. So many elixirs, pills, powders and drink mixes are packed with the spice, claiming a host of legitimate and borderline-magical properties.
But, rest assured, even just the clinically-tested benefits are enough for the hangover’d: reduction of pain & swelling, and a host of immune-boosting active chemicals.
While it’s often the first (and sometimes, only) go-to following a long night, caffeine, while crucial, is well below hydration and food on the hangover-cure list. Get some food and water in the system first, both to get the health ball rolling, and to provide a nutritional foundation for proper absorption of stimulants (and vitamins).
That said, the way in which one ingests caffeine is a matter of preference. Strong, black coffee packs a punch, and is rumored to help the liver. But it’s also acidic, hard on a sensitive stomach, and we all know about it’s tendency towards causing twitchiness and watery #2s. Green tea is soothing and mild, hydrates the body, and is packed with antioxidants, but it’s far lower in caffeine. Yerba Mate is a good median between green tea and coffee: it’s herbaceous, decently caffeinated, mellow on the stomach and contains a few antioxidants (again, just avoid the Yerba drinks loaded with sugar).
Energy drinks are the most common quick-fixes. They bring energy quick, mostly due to a cocktail of high sugar, caffeine and herbal additions like taurine. They’re the (drinkable) nitrous of the kitchen: quick to act, quick to dissipate. In general, they’re not worth the risk: the sugar and stimulant contents equal both an impending crash and longer-term health risks (to the heart and circulation, specifically).
WORK UP A SWEAT
Whether via light exercise, a hot bath, jacuzzi, or time in the steam room, a little sweat and gentle increase in body temp help gets the blood flowing and evaporates toxins.
As you kick back your 9th 7.5% IPA of the night, you probably won’t be thinking about the next morning. But if you want to get up in the morning and get back in the game at 100% (let’s admit it, 80%), at least now you have the resources. Happy drinking!