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How should you prepare for a night of drinking? If you’re asking this question, chances are you’ve got a big night coming up and want to know everything you can do to try and reduce the intensity of your hangover.
Smart move! Because there are so many things you can do before going out.
With so many alcohol-related myths out there, it’s hard to know how best to prepare for a night of drinking.
That’s why, in this article, we’re going to look into everything you can do to prepare for a night of drinking. And hopefully, prevent, or at least reduce the chances of getting a severe hangover.
How does alcohol affect the body?
Before we get into how you can prepare your body for a night of drinking, it’s important to go over how alcohol affects the body first. That way, you can do everything you can to mitigate its negative effects.
Alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream within 90 seconds of consuming an alcoholic drink. The higher the strength of the alcohol, the faster it’s absorbed. Drinking on an empty stomach also massively increases how fast alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream.
Once the alcohol is in circulation, your kidney works to try and break it down and remove it from your bloodstream. After all, alcohol is a toxin, so your body tries to break it down and use it as an energy source before clearing it.
But your liver can only do this at a certain rate. Essentially this means the enzymes that break down alcohol become used up or "saturated" relatively quickly. For most people, the rate of alcohol metabolism is around one drink per hour. Factors such as your weight, height, gender, age, and genetics are involved in determining your metabolism.
Drinking faster than this rate makes your blood alcohol levels rise higher and higher which is when you start to feel tipsy or drunk.
Aside from the pleasurable effect, alcohol also starts to cause problems in a few different ways:
You probably already know that drinking too much alcohol causes dehydration. It’s because alcohol is a “diuretic” which means it makes you pee out more water. It does this by blocking a hormone called vasopressin from being released by your pituitary gland. As a result, your kidneys end up flushing out water.
When alcohol is metabolized in your liver, toxic by-products such as acetaldehyde are formed. In normal circumstances, your liver tries to clear acetaldehyde before it causes too much damage. But the enzyme that breaks down acetaldehyde also runs at full capacity when drinking over your limits. That means you get a build-up of acetaldehyde which then reacts with your cells causing inflammation.
The second line of defense against by-products like acetaldehyde are antioxidants. Antioxidants help out by neutralizing harmful compounds.
A less well-known cause of hangovers is sleep disturbance. Alcohol prevents your brain from reaching the REM stage of sleep which is crucial for waking up fully rested. In addition to this, a long night of drinking is usually associated with a late night. This leaves you with poor quality sleep for a shorter number of total hours which is a less than ideal combination.
In summary: As you can see, there are quite a few things to think about when it comes to preparing for a night of drinking. To prepare successfully, you’ll need to do everything you can to reduce the damaging impact of alcohol mentioned above.
How to prepare for a night of drinking
So, now on to the all-important question. How do I prepare for a night of drinking?
Before we start this section, it’s important for us to emphasize that hangovers and any other negative effects of alcohol can be prevented by drinking less. Without trying to point out the obvious, drinking less alcohol and drinking at a slower pace is all that’s required.
With that out the way, here are some other things you can do to prepare for a night of drinking.
1) Rehydration mixes
The only way to tackle dehydration is to drink plenty of water. One of the best things you can do is drink a glass of water between each alcoholic drink.
To support rapid hydration, you could also consider investing in a rehydration mix. These contain a specific ratio of sodium, potassium, and sugar which hydrates more efficiently than water alone.
These are the ones that are typically used for diarrheal illnesses or endurance sports. But can be used for any cause of dehydration.
So, the best way to prepare for a night of drinking is to drink a glass of water between each drink and consider taking a rehydration mix after your last drink.
2) Eat before going out
We know that all our moms tell us to make sure that we eat something before going out. And to be fair to our moms, it’s a very important point when it comes to preparing for a night of drinking.
Alcohol is absorbed much faster into your bloodstream if you have an empty stomach. Rapid rises in blood alcohol concentration wreak havoc on your insides.
Thankfully, eating before drinking alcohol massively reduces how fast alcohol is absorbed. In turn, this will steady the rate of alcohol absorption.
You may have heard that eating certain foods or drinking milk before alcohol can help “line your stomach”. In actual fact, studies have shown that any meal that’s rich in carbs, protein, and fat will work.(1)
3) Vitamins and antioxidants
Your body gets antioxidants in two ways. It either comes directly from the food you eat, or your liver produces them naturally.
There are several antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and herbal extracts that can support your body’s natural antioxidant defenses.
Some have been researched specifically in relation to alcohol consumption such as prickly pear extract, red ginseng, and certain B vitamins.(2)
With that said, the studies are small and a lot more research needs to be done before their efficacy is proven.
4) Eye mask
Your eyes and brain are designed to respond to sunlight. The light coming through a window, even if it’s a small amount will signal your brain to wake up.
If you’ve been out all night drinking, chances are you’re sleeping much later than usual. And a lie-in is almost definitely needed.
That’s why an eye mask is a must-have. Make sure to wear one before you go to bed so that even if you’ve slept late, the mask will block out any light coming through your windows so that your mind can rest. It’s a simple, but very effective way of preparing for a night of drinking.
Painkillers such as Ibuprofen are anti-inflammatory. Unlike Tylenol, they work by blocking inflammatory messengers in your body. So, taking painkillers like Ibuprofen may help slow down inflammation.
With that said, these medications should be taken with caution. Read the information leaflets and speak to your doctor before taking them if you have any medical conditions.
In summary: These are the five best things you can do to prepare for a night of drinking. You can set them aside next to your bed so before you go out so you’re well prepared to take action as soon as you get home. We’ve said it before but we’ll mention it again, drinking less alcohol is always the best option!
Things to avoid
So, now that we’ve gone over all the things you can do to prepare for a night of drinking, there are some things you may also want to avoid if possible.
This way, you’ll have the best chance of waking up the next day feeling OK.
1) Caffeinated mixers
Many of the soft drinks that are used as mixers also contain a lot of caffeine and you’ll want to avoid these if you can.
The reason is caffeine, like alcohol, is a diuretic which means it can exacerbate dehydration. In addition, caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours.
That means the amount of caffeine in your system halves every 6 hours. So if you'll still have a high amount of caffeine flowing through your veins in the early hours of the morning if you drink it late at night.
The caffeine in your system will disrupt your sleep even more than it already has been disturbed by alcohol. So, the two go badly
Doing shots is never a good idea if you’re planning on waking up feeling OK the next day. It’s pretty much a guaranteed way of waking up with a hangover.
Slow and steady is the best approach when it comes to preparing for a night of drinking. Shots of liquor cause big spikes in your blood alcohol concentration which is a problem for hangovers.
3) Dark-colored drinks
One of the simplest ways of preparing for a night of drinking is to consider picking lighter-colored drinks. That’s because darker-colored drinks contain high amounts of congeners which are known to make hangovers worse.
Congeners are the name given to compounds in liquor that give them their distinctive taste and aroma. That’s why darker-colored drinks like red wine and whiskey taste the way they do.
Unfortunately, congeners make hangovers a lot worse and you can read about this more in our article about congeners and hangovers.
4) Exercise before going out
You may think that doing exercise before going out is a good way to prepare for a night of drinking. But that’s not the case.
After exercise, your muscles need a good dose of protein and carbohydrates (amongst other things) for recovery. Drinking alcohol soon after exercise without having a proper meal and rest period is far from ideal.(3)
With that said, if you exercise in the morning and then plan to go out in the evening, this shouldn’t be a problem. It’s mainly an issue if exercising within a few hours of going out.
Preparing for a night of drinking – Takeaway points
That brings us to the end of our look at how you can prepare for a night of drinking.
The fact that you’ve landed on this article means that you’re doing the right thing to support recovery as best you can.
Ultimately, the best preparation for a night of drinking is to drink less alcohol. And it should come first on the list before any of the tips mentioned above.