By Jocelyn Voo
You know you shouldn't, but sometimes a girl just can't help herself. You plan to meet up with friends for a drink after work, and one drink turns into many more, which then turns into a rough next morning. We hope you don't have a hangover reading this, because we bring you some not-so-good news. "There are a lot of myths about hangover cures," says Ruth C. Engs, RN, EdD, a professor at Indiana University who has done extensive research on the effects of drinking. "Essentially there is no cure other than consuming water and liquids like juice (i.e., not spiked) in the morning." The reason? Hangover symptoms are a product of dehydration, hypoglycemia, and the poisonous side effects from toxins in our drinks (sounds great, right?). Water will not only help hydrate your muscles and organs, but will also aid in flushing out the toxins. Juices such as orange juice accomplish both while replenishing your body with missing sugars.
That said, if you swear by a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel or a five-mile run after a night out on the town, you're not alone. We got the scoop on which remedies seem to prove real, and which ones are just part of the rumor mill.
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Rumor Remedy: Sweating It Out with Exercise
"My go-to any time I have a hangover is a workout to sweat out the bad stuff followed by a ton of water," says Jennifer D., a 36-year-old lawyer in New York City. "I don't know how scientific it is, but I feel like going for a run helps process the alcohol left in my body when I wake up. It usually shakes my grogginess and makes me feel better faster."
Unfortunately, exercise on its own isn't an effective cure, according to Engs. In fact, if you exercise and aren't properly hydrating, your symptoms could actually worsen. What you might be feeling that is making you feel better is the endorphin rush that typically comes along with a workout. If you're looking to metabolize the alcohol through your body faster, sorry -- the gym is not the answer.
Real Remedy: Sleeping It Off
If you're lucky enough to catch extra zzz's after a night of boozing, do it. "If I know I've gotten a little too tipsy the night before, I'll sleep it off the next morning and wake up later in the afternoon," says Kate R., 25, a physician assistant student in New York City. "By the time I get up, the worst part of my hangover has passed."
Kate is onto something -- alcohol is metabolized at the rate of .015 of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), or roughly one drink every hour, meaning those extra brews can quickly add up. And just like a broken heart, time can heal all and sleeping through your body metabolizing last night's happy hour will make you feel better. Just make sure to keep hydrated once your peepers finally open.
Rumor Remedy: Hair of the Dog
No, Bloody Marys do not exist solely to cater to the morning-after crowd. If you think drinking more alcohol will fix all your problems, think again. "The body is going through withdrawal symptoms from overindulging, and drinking more just prevents more withdrawal symptoms," says Engs. That unlimited mimosa brunch isn't a fix, instead you're giving your body more toxins to deal with, delaying a future (and probably worse) hangover.
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Real Remedy: OTC Pain Relievers
For some, like Kim G., a 29-year-old business owner in New York City, pain relievers are all that's needed to relieve a terrible hangover. "The first thing I do when I wake up after a night out is take two Aleves and drink a Powerade Zero. My husband has long believed that it's the cure-all drug, whether you have a headache or just feel lousy."
It's true that pain relievers work differently for different people, and after one too many glasses of wine they can ease your Saturday night aches and pains. However, frequent drinkers (those who consume more than one drink several nights a week) should sidestep Tylenol, which can contribute to extra damage to your liver, and aspirin and ibuprofen (like Advil and Motrin), which can irritate stomach lining or even cause bleeding.
Rumor Remedy: Coffee
"I know coffee won't make you pass a sobriety test, but it's the only thing that makes me feel human the day after going out," says Anna H., 28, a social worker in Oakland, California.
The temporary jolt from the caffeine might cause a burst of energy, much like a eating a candy bar for your 3 p.m. snack, but it won't offset the sugar crash later. Keep in mind, once your sugar rush dies down you'll be dealing with a caffeine withdrawal headache on top of a dehydration headache, not a way you want to spend your morning. Your best bet? Save the Starbucks trip until after you've had some time to recoup with water.
Real Remedy: Drinking Electrolytes
The dreaded hangover headache: Experienced by many, friend of none. Why does it feel like there is a tiny elf inside your head pounding at your skull with a hammer? Because your brain is dehydrated.
Kim G.'s plan of Powerade is on the mark for a fast fix. While water does the trick to hydrate, sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade contain electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and chloride) that help replenish and restore your system levels. The sugar in the drinks gives you carbohydrates for energy.
If you'd prefer to go the natural route, try sipping on coconut water, which is stacked with electrolytes. Bonus: It's low-calorie, nonfat, has less sugar than sports drinks and juices, and has been shown in some studies to be less irritating to your stomach.
Rumor Remedy: Eating Greasy Food
Nicole A., 28, a graphic designer in Colorado Springs, Colorado, swears by a plateful of huevos rancheros in the morning after drinking too much. Not only is it comfort food to the Southern California native, it also functions as a stomach soother. "Something greasy and filling always makes my stomach feel better, much more than eating a anything else would."
Sadly, those hash browns and eggs are much better eaten pre-happy hour. "Eating a high-protein dinner before drinking can help slow the absorption of ethanol into the circulatory system," says Engs. So while you think chips and salsa might sound like the perfect appetizer to accompany those pitchers of sangria you just ordered, you're better off choosing nuts, cheese, or lean meats instead.
Toss-Up Remedy: Preventative Pills and Drinks
If you've seen the slew of hangover prevention products on the market, from supplements like Chaser and RU 21, to drinks like NOHO and Resurrection, you're probably curious of the end result. All of them boast a mix of vitamins, herbs, and/or chemicals, and claim that ingestion before drinking will radically reduce the chance of a having a hangover in the morning.
One such product is Mercy, a hangover prevention beverage that touts its heavy dose of vitamins and nutrients as the cause to curing your morning-after woes. According to Bianca Peyvan, 31, a Los Angeles-based registered dietitian, this is what makes the drink work. "Studies have shown that vitamin C, along with B vitamin scan combine with certain amino acids and glucose and help your body generate glutathione (a powerful antioxidant and cellular tripeptide that helps the body rid itself of alcohol's toxins)." When you drink, your glutathione runs low, which is how the drink claims to help, by boosting production. Peyvan says she's tried the magic brew before and woke up headache-free after a night out.
But buyers beware -- there is little medical research on preventative hangover products and many sources say they often don't live up to the hype. Similar to OTC products, what works for some may not work for others. When thinking preventatively, you're better off pace yourself with fewer drinks. Engs advises no more than one per hour.