Want to know how to make it through Fling hangover–free?
Street: What is a hangover?
Julie Lyzinski Nettleton: A hangover is basically your body’s withdrawal from alcohol and reflective of the state that your body is in as the alcohol metabolizes out of your system. And, although common, is actually pretty unhealthy for your brain.
Street: Why does it happen?
JLN: Hangovers happen for a few different reasons, but they are mainly tied to blood alcohol content (BAC), dehydration, lactic acid build up, vitamin deficiency and lack of quality sleep.
Street: Why do some people get worse hangovers than others do?
JLN: Similar to how one drinks, how one’s body interprets alcohol is often due to genetics, or “training.” Students that drink heavily and do not get hangovers likely have one of two things going on. First, it can be genetic. Although this may seem like a positive thing, it actually isn’t. Hangovers act as your body’s way of saying “you’re drinking too much” and without this message, a heavy drinker may not feel the need to cut back. Second, the person is likely experiencing some level of hangover, just in less traditional ways. We tend to assume that having a hangover means that you have a headache, nausea, shakiness or stomach ache, but there are a lot of withdrawal symptoms such as feeling sluggish, not able to function as well cognitively (like for studying!) and more. Basically, contrary to popular thinking, drinking heavily and not getting a hangover is not a good sign and could be an indication that someone has a drinking problem.
Street: Are there particular things we can do (foods we can eat, liquors we can avoid) to avoid a hangover?
JLN: There are lots of things that you can do to prevent a hangover and they all happen before or during your night out — the next morning is too late. Once you have a hangover, you can mask the symptoms but your body will still be in a hangover state. So, this is where science comes in: the higher your blood alcohol level, the more likely you are to get a hangover. It’s that simple.
Obviously the best way to prevent a hangover is to not drink, but if you choose to drink just follow these steps:
• Pace your drinks. Most people can only process one drink an hour, so remember that the build–up in your system is what causes your BAC to spike.
• Re–hydrate with water or other non–alcoholic, non–caffeinated beverages before, during and after drinking alcohol.
• Eat prior to drinking.
• Avoid shots -— each shot is a full drink.
• Avoid punch or mixed drinks that you did not mix yourself. They can easily contain multiple drinks in one cup (one cup does not equal one drink)! And, yes, one cup of jungle juice alone can cause a hangover and, much worse, blackouts.
Street: What’s the ideal pre–drinking meal?
JLN: Something substantial like a meat, pizza, sandwiches, etc. Just a salad doesn’t cut it! Also, if [students] are drinking throughout the day, they need to eat regularly, not just once at the beginning! [Check out our "Eat This, Not That: Fling Edition" for our tips on where and what to gorge on before you go bottoms up.]
Street: What about exercising? Does exercising before we drink make us more likely to end up hungover?
JLN: Exercising before you drink may dehydrate you further, so this might actually increase your blood alcohol content. Muscle is more efficient in processing alcohol than fat, due to the fact that water storage is important for reducing BAC, but one exercise session is not likely going to help. So, regardless of whether you exercise before you drink or not, it is important to follow the above steps to prevent a hangover!
Street: Can a hangover be cured?
JLN: Yes, with time or prevention! You can help it along by replenishing lost fluids and eating a meal. Exercising can help on the back end, especially if you have alcohol left in your system. And, rest is important because even though you likely slept for a long time, you did not get quality rest because your body was focusing on getting rid of the alcohol. Be aware that using acetaminophen [Tylenol] before you go to bed or when you wake up can be very harmful to your liver. Combining acetaminophen and alcohol is very unhealthy.
Julie’s Fling–Specific Advice:
• Fling is LONG, so pacing is even more important — it would be terrible to miss the concert, but being too drunk will result in exactly that!
• Remembering to hydrate throughout the day and night during Fling can be difficult due to all of the excitement and events going on. So, plan ahead and partner with a friend to help you both remember!
• Eating is really important so, again, plan ahead!
• Combining alcohol with other drugs will increase the likelihood of negative consequences.
• Avoid punch!