How to Avoid a Hangover; Advice from a Bartender by Bianca Sterling

We’ve all been there. You wake up, probably sometime mid-afternoon, slightly nauseous, hair is disheveled, head is pounding, and you’re parched but can’t fathom getting out of bed – the water would be painful to chug down anyway. Somewhere in your brain fog you detect memories of the night before, laughing hysterically, belting a song at the top of your lungs with your friends at the bar, forgetting about your knee problems and dropping it low on the dance floor. Was it worth it? Who knows. But one thing’s for sure, you know you’ll be doing it again someday (even if you swear up and down you’re never drinking again).

I’ve lived this moment many times, too many, and I have good news; I think I can help. 

See, I’m a bartender in LA. During my time at the bar I’ve learned a thing or two about hangovers, most importantly, how to avoid them.

First things first: Hydration. 

You know this. We’ve all heard about how going one for one with your water and cocktails can save you from yourself, and it’s true! There is no way to avoid a hangover without proper hydration. First, chug water before you pass out for the night.

Pro-tip: Before you go out, prep your favorite water bottle with chilled water next to your bed (I like to add basil or a frozen strawberry to mine so it pushes me to drink more, but to each their own). If you want to truly maximize hydration, adding a touch of high grade sea salt and a little citrus will be key in absorption. Regardless, water of some kind waiting for you by your bed is a must. 

Some of us may know by now that simple H20 is not enough to hydrate the body in these extreme circumstances you are going to need electrolytes. These come in many forms. Some of my least favorite are sports drinks and supposed “hangover cures” that come in powdered form; these are usually packed with processed sugar and ultimately do your body more harm than good. The next option is Pedialyte, or anything in that field. Still high amounts of sugar but less nonsense than our first option. However, my absolute favorite, star student of the three, is coconut water. Real, no sugar added, coconut water. The taste may take some getting used to, but if you took shots of god knows what at the bar, I promise you can handle a little coconut in your life. Coconut water is elite because it is super high in electrolytes and its sugars are natural, which your body is going to use to make you feel human again. 

Pro-tip: Chug one before bed and another as soon as you wake up. Personally, my body thanks me every time.

Second, now that we’re hydrated, we’re going to go to our other main bestie: Carbs

This one is obvious, but it needs to be said, carbs on drinking nights are non-negotiable. This is not the time to be health-conscious. You are going to need whatever is available and can soak up those many ounces of liquor. Tacos, burgers, pizza, noodles, rice, half of a loaf of bread… these are all great options. I typically inhale a massive bowl of butter noodles before passing out, but that’s just me.

Now that we’re hydrated (and carb-onated?) let’s get to the hippy dippy stuff. 

Third is my true secret weapon, and I love her: Charcoal. 

So simple and so effective, activated charcoal is responsible for saving me from many mornings of misery. There are a few different forms, like charcoal waters and charcoal powder, but my go to girl is Activated Charcoal Capsules. No nonsense, no fuss, just straight to the point. Pop one before bed and another as soon as you find any form of consciousness in the morning (or let’s be real, afternoon). 

Pro-tip: Leave the capsules by your bedside, you guessed it, right by your emotional support water bottle. This trick has changed the game entirely for me. 

How charcoal works is pretty simple, it essentially attaches itself to toxins in your body, and then flushes them out. This is not something you should do every day, because it will drain you of any vitamins, supplements, or medications you’re taking, but for a once in a while drunken night, it’s truly a hero. As an alternative, you can also take milk thistle, which works by helping to regulate the liver. I’ve found that milk thistle is very effective for more regular use when getting your buzz on, but that it isn’t as effective as a true hangover cure.

Fourth: An orange peel. 

I reckon most people’s hangover routines involve ibuprofen, and that’s totally a fair call. As an alternative though, I recently learned that the oils from an orange peel also help with nausea. So naturally, I added an orange to my bedside emotional support pack and found that making tiny incisions in an orange and breathing in all the oils was super effective. Furthermore, unofficially of course, I found that when this was paired with a nice healthy puff of some weed, I had forgotten ibuprofen existed altogether.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is this: Level with yourself. 

If you truly are a “two drink limit” type of person, then great, I love that for you! But if you’re not, then meet yourself where you are, and prep accordingly. You know you’re going to go out, have a blast, get caught up in the moment, and probably drink too much. That’s okay! The most important thing is that before you do that you set yourself up for success. Prep your emotional support bedside items, carry some charcoal in your bag to give to your friends, drink a lot of water throughout the night, and make a plan to get some serious food in your tummy. 

This way, instead of waking up thinking “I’m never drinking again” you can say “let’s go get mimosas!”.

Bianca (she/her) is a lover of all things art. She’s been in the food service industry for nearly a decade and has found herself behind the bar this last year. When she’s not behind the bar you can find her dancing, although there’s plenty of that while she’s shaking up cocktails too! You can find her on instagram at @biancaxxnicole

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