It’s always fun to be the life of the party or to be out late celebrating with friends. And then you wake up the next day and wish you hadn’t had such a darn good time. The headache and nausea are real. And it takes everything in your power not to just crawl back into bed and go full-on goblin mode.
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Feeling hungover is an experience anyone who’s ever had a few too many can relate to. Hangovers are the result of too much alcohol, which has a dehydrating effect. You may feel tired, weak, achy, nauseated, and sensitive to light and sound. (Not to mention potentially embarrassed for the choices drunken-you may have made.)
Of course, prevention would have been a better choice. Drinking water between your adult beverage of choice would have helped, too. Or you could have limited your intake.
But, alas, it’s too late for those proactive measures now.
If you’re going to salvage the day, what can you eat to bounce back from a hangover?
We talked with registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, who shared advice for what to eat and what to avoid when you’re recovering from a night of overindulgence.
What to eat when you’re hungover
To take care of a hangover, it’s best to remember two key things. First is to hydrate. Second is to take it easy on your belly. It’s been through enough already.
1. Sports drinks and electrolyte-enhanced beverages
The road to hangover recovery starts with hydration.
“Alcohol is a diuretic, so heavy drinking makes you pee more, which leads to dehydration,” Zumpano explains.
One of the best routes to recovery is to replenish the electrolytes lost to alcohol.
Consuming a sports drink, coconut water or an electrolyte-enhanced beverage before you go to bed or as soon as you get up can help replace lost electrolytes from drinking.
Electrolytes are minerals that help regulate and control the balance of fluids in your body. When choosing an electrolyte beverage, look for one that contains the “big three” electrolytes: sodium, potassium and magnesium.
2. Good old H2O
If sports drinks aren’t your thing (or you don’t have any around and can’t stomach the idea of running to the store in your current state), plain old water can help do the trick, too.
You’ll want to drink it slowly, though. Just a few sips at a time. Downing a full glass may feel great at first, but it can lead to some unpleasant … reactions from an already-upset stomach. Take a sip, take a break and see how your stomach reacts before reaching for more.
Another tip: “Keep your drinks around room temperature, rather than ice cold. Too-cold water can come as a shock to your stomach,” Zumpano advises.
A night of heavy drinking can demolish your body’s stores of vitamins, including vitamins B6 and B12. Getting these B vitamins in your body can help your body to break down and eliminate alcohol.
So, it makes sense that B6 and B12 are some of the most common vitamins found in those over-the-counter supplements that claim to cure hangovers.
Spoiler: Research hasn’t proven hangover vitamin patches or pills to be effective hangover preventions or cures.
What’s more likely to help is getting your fill of those B vitamins from foods. Salmon is rich in both. Additionally, heavy drinking can increase inflammation in your body. And the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon and other fatty fish can lower that inflammatory response.
“Getting vitamins from food is always a better way to go,” Zumpano states. “Vitamin supplements are not regulated like food is, so you take a chance when you rely on them for your nutrient needs. Plus, foods contain multiple nutrients that can serve your body in multiple ways.”
There’s evidence that the natural sugars found in honey and fresh fruits can actually help you move the alcohol out of your system faster.
Try eating mangos, grapes, oranges, pears and plantains. Watermelon is also another great option. Fruits are full of vitamins, nutrients and water that can boost your body and help you rehydrate faster.
5. BRAT diet
Some of the best go-to foods for a queasy stomach are ones that are high in carbohydrates with a most mild (read: bland) flavor.
“This is what we call the ‘BRAT’ diet,” says Zumpano. “Bananas, rice, applesauce and toast.”
These plain foods are easy for your body to digest and are often recommended when someone isn’t feeling well, specifically with an upset stomach, diarrhea and nausea, or having trouble eating or keeping food down. The BRAT diet is good for the flu, and good for your hangover woes, too.
These foods also tend to contain carbohydrates, which can settle an upset stomach and help boost your blood sugar.
Bananas in particular are also rich in potassium, one of those big three electrolytes that you lose after a night of partying.
Ginger has been found to reduce nausea, so incorporating it into your diet the day after drinking can settle your upset stomach and help you feel better. Reach for dried ginger, ginger tea or a ginger shot, or try grating ginger into a fresh smoothie.
But ginger ale and ginger beer tend to be highly sugary, which can make things worse. If you choose to go the ginger ale or ginger beer route, you’re better off with a drink made with real ginger, not ginger flavoring, and stir it up before drinking it until the bubbles are mostly or completely gone. Highly carbonated (fizzy) drinks can lead to uncomfortable gas that won’t do much good for an unhappy hangover belly.
What not to eat when you’re hungover
Some people swear by greasy burgers and fries, coffee or “hair of the dog” (aka, more alcohol) to overcome a hangover. In reality, those really aren’t your best choices, Zumpano says.
Greasy foods may feel comforting, but eating a heavy meal can really stress your hangover belly.
The same goes for coffee, which is acidic and could exacerbate your tummy troubles. And like alcohol, coffee is a diuretic, so it’s not going to help your hydration game. The caffeine may provide a quick perk, but coffee could likely make your hangover symptoms worse.
And that old thought of a boozy Bloody Mary or mimosa to relieve your hangover? Bogus.
Adding more alcohol can keep your buzz going and may help you feel better initially, but it’s just going to prolong your recovery time. Drinking more alcohol isn’t going to undo the effects of last night’s drinking.