Does Drinking Water Between Alcoholic Drinks Help Prevent a Hangover? Here’s What an Expert Says

Find out if this age-old strategy really works.

Reviewed by Dietitian Maria Laura Haddad-Garcia

You've heard the old one-for-one rule: Drink one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you consume to help with the next-day hangover. And it makes sense, as alternating adult beverages with trusty ol' H2O is a good way to slow down your drinking and help you stay hydrated. But are your efforts actually staving off a hangover, or are they just adding extra restroom runs to your night? The answer isn't as straightforward as you'd think.

Related: 3 Ways Drinking Alcohol Affects Your Bowel Movements—and What to Do About It

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What Causes a Hangover?

A hangover is an umbrella term for symptoms caused by drinking too much alcohol. "Typically, hangovers start when alcohol starts to leave our body," says Melanie Betz, M.S., RD, CSR, FAND, aka The Kidney Dietitian. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a hangover can be caused by multiple alcohol-related factors, including:

  • Inflammation: When your liver metabolizes alcohol, it creates a compound called acetaldehyde, which contributes to inflammation in the liver, brain, gastrointestinal tract and other parts of the body.

  • Mild dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes you to urinate more. This loss of fluids can lead to mild dehydration that can cause symptoms like thirst, fatigue and a headache.

  • Disrupted sleep: Alcohol can mess with your sleep and cause you to wake up earlier, which can lead to fatigue and other symptoms associated with lack of sleep (like anxiety) the next day.

  • GI issues: Alcohol irritates the stomach lining and increases acid release, which often causes nausea and other gastrointestinal issues.


Depending on how much you drank the night before and other factors, like whether you skipped dinner, symptoms of a hangover can range from mild to debilitating. And these side effects can span both your body and brain. Common hangover symptoms include:

  • Headache

  • Nausea

  • Thirst

  • Diarrhea

  • Fatigue

  • Memory impairment

  • Agitation and irritability

  • Guilt

Does Drinking Water Between Alcoholic Drinks Help with Hangovers?

Interestingly, there is very little research into what exactly causes hangovers and even less into what you can do to prevent or cure a hangover, Betz says. And there isn't any solid research that directly shows drinking water can help prevent a hangover.

While many people believe that drinking too much alcohol causes dehydration and a subsequent electrolyte imbalance, research shows that electrolyte levels in people with hangovers versus those without are about the same. And folks with lower electrolyte levels don't tend to have worse hangovers, per Cedars-Sinai.

"However, we do know that hormones like vasopressin, aldosterone and renin that are associated with dehydration are higher in people who have a hangover.  So, it is reasonable to assume drinking water could help a hangover," Betz says.

While the jury is still out on whether chugging water is scientifically proven to help with hangovers, it's still a great low-cost, low-effort way to try to avoid the impending doom. "Drinking extra water with alcoholic beverages likely won't hurt you—and it might help lower those dehydration hormones to help your hangover," Betz says.

Tips to Avoid a Hangover

The best way to avoid a hangover is to (you guessed it) avoid or limit alcohol in the first place. But if you do decide to drink, following certain protocols before starting your night and while you're drinking might help how you feel the next day. Next time you plan to go out for drinks, try the following tips from Betz:

Related: How Much Alcohol Should You Be Drinking?

  1. Alternate alcoholic drinks with water. Even though there isn't good research that proves water can help hangovers, alternating between one alcoholic drink and one glass of water can help you drink less alcohol overall, Betz says. That said, drinking less alcohol is the best way to avoid a hangover.

  2. Don't stay out too late. Higher levels of inflammation seem to be a major cause of hangovers. "Staying out past your bedtime will not only likely mean you drink more alcohol, but the lack of quality sleep itself could make hangovers worse by increasing inflammation," Betz says.

  3. Avoid cigarettes. If cigarettes are extra attractive to you when you're drinking, do your best to keep them out of reach and resist the temptation. "Smoking also causes inflammation, which could exacerbate your hangover the next day," Betz says.

  4. Remember to eat: Eating less than you usually do can also add to the inflammation caused by alcohol, Betz says. Make sure to pregame your cocktails with a nutritious meal—doing so might just be the key to feeling better the next day.

  5. Limit dark liquors: Darker spirits have higher levels of congeners—compounds that give bourbon and whiskey their signature taste and color. Congeners can also contribute to worse hangover symptoms, per the NIAAA, so stick to clear liquors instead.

How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends no more than one alcoholic drink per day for women and no more than two alcoholic drinks per day for men.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much water should you drink while drinking alcohol?

A good rule of thumb is to drink one extra glass of water per alcoholic drink. Alternating alcoholic drinks and water can help slow down your drinking and help you drink less alcohol overall.

Does drinking water help metabolize alcohol?

No, water does not help metabolize alcohol. Once alcohol is in your system, the only thing that can break it down is liver enzymes, Betz says. "Alcohol dehydrogenase is the main enzyme that breaks alcohol down in our bodies."

What’s the fastest way to get rid of a hangover?

Unfortunately, time is the best way to get rid of a hangover. "You can treat symptoms, such as by taking Tylenol or Advil for a headache, but there isn't anything you can do to get rid of a hangover completely," Betz says.

The Bottom Line

While there isn't any solid evidence proving that drinking water between alcoholic drinks can help prevent a hangover, doing so might help indirectly. Alternating one alcoholic beverage and one glass of water can help slow down your drinking, so you'll likely drink less alcohol overall—and the less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk of battling a hangover the next day. But if you're alternating drinks and still throwing back multiple shots or polishing off a bottle of wine, that strategy can backfire fast.

At the end of the day, the best way to avoid a hangover is to avoid alcohol altogether, or at least limit it to no more than one to two drinks a day, Betz says. "It is important to remember that alcohol isn't a benign substance—drinking too much is associated with a higher risk of most cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure and depression."

Related: What Happens to Your Body When You Drink a Cocktail Every Day

Read the original article on Eating Well.