Ben’s Step-By-Step Guide To Get Rid of a Hangover Fast (& Even Prevent Getting A Hangover In The First Place!)

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Most people think hangovers are simply caused by dehydration after a night of heavy drinking. But even if you dutifully chase every alcoholic beverage with water, you can still wake up the next day feeling miserable.

The truth is, preventing a hangover is way more complicated than simply chasing your beer, margarita, or glass of wine with a pitcher of water, coconut water, Gatorade, or Pedialyte.

This is because dehydration is just one factor in a hangover.

Your body goes through an intense physiological roller coaster when you consume excessive amounts of alcohol. As the night goes on and drinks keep flowing, all sorts of reactions start occurring — disrupting your electrolyte levels, hormone regulation, immune function, and more. The end result is that cluster of familiar hangover symptoms like headaches, nausea, fatigue, and general misery.

However, although I don't personally endorse drinking to excess, I realize that sometimes it just happens: such as that extra-strong margarita that sneaks up on you before you know it, that glass of wine that somehow keeps getting filled by your waiter and makes its way repeatedly to your lips as you engage in conversation, or the night out with your significant other that just seems to last a bit too late with a bit too much socially lubricating fuel.

So in the rare occurrence (hopefully!) that you do drink a bit too much — or even just one serving of alcohol seems to kick your arse — there are indeed proven steps you can take before, during, and after drinking to help minimize the damage and bounce back faster.

Before the party gets started, discover tips for strategic drinking, staying hydrated, and keeping your digestive system primed. I'll also cover how to flush out toxins, rebalance nutrients, and wake up feeling refreshed (rather than completely wrecked).

Whether it's a weekend bender in Vegas or your buddy's wedding reception, this detox roadmap offers a comprehensive, go-to strategy to counteract the effects of alcohol indulgence. With the right preparation and recovery tactics, you can enjoy yourself without sacrificing the next couple of days to a debilitating hangover — and get way more out of this article than the standard “drink more water” advice you might get if you just Googled “how to cure a hangover.”

Finally, if you're wondering why I would even endorse drinking any alcohol in the first place, then check out the handy resources I've included at the end of this article.

What Causes a Hangover? Why You Feel Like Crap After Drinking

Ever woken up feeling like you've been hit by a freight train after a night of partying?

Turns out, drinking alcohol ignites several biological processes that cause you to feel terrible after a few too many drinks, which I'm about to unpack for you.

Your pituitary gland normally produces antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which increases your blood pressure by causing your body to retain water. When you drink alcohol, your pituitary gland churns out less ADH, so you stop retaining so much water, which is one reason the bathroom line is so long at parties. But as soon as your buzz begins to wear off, ADH production increases once again, causing a rebound of fluid retention, swollen hands and feet, a puffy face, and a headache as your blood pressure rises.

At the same time, your kidneys pump out more of the enzyme renin and the hormone aldosterone. This promotes the secretion of vasopressin, which increases blood pressure by inducing sodium retention and potassium loss. This is why individuals with heart issues are particularly susceptible to heart attacks during a hangover: their cardiovascular system goes into an electrolyte-rollercoaster-hyperdrive, attempting to retain fluids.

And that’s not all. Cortisol works with aldosterone to balance electrolyte levels, so when you are hungover, your body pumps out more cortisol. This not only contributes to even more fluid retention but also raises blood sugar levels by converting amino acids into glucose in your liver, a process known as gluconeogenesis. As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas produces more insulin, resulting in abnormal stress on both the pancreas and the liver. These elevated levels of cortisol can also cause catabolism (decreased protein availability in skeletal muscles), as well as a redistribution of body fat from your legs and arms to your belly.

Oh yes, there’s still more…

As you drink and force your body to metabolize alcohol, your liver converts ethanol into acetaldehyde and acetate, which causes increased production of tiny blood vessel constrictors called thromboxanes. Thromboxanes also cause blood platelets to stick together and form clots and decrease levels of natural killer cells, which are crucial to the immune system. This surge in thromboxane creates symptoms very similar to those of a viral infection, including nausea, headache, and diarrhea.

Finally, most alcoholic beverages contain congeners, which significantly contribute to hangover symptoms. Congeners, which are found in high concentrations in dark-colored liquors like brandy, wine, dark tequila, and whiskey, contain free radicals and positively charged molecules that can significantly disrupt your acid-alkaline (pH) balance and increase your body’s need to step up antioxidant activity to scavenge all those free radicals. As your body goes into fight-or-flight mode to help you handle all these congeners, you get gastrointestinal issues, nausea, headaches, sweatiness, clamminess, and/or chills.

How to Prevent a Hangover: Follow This Protocol to Stop Suffering

So what can you do about this cluster of reactions that can occur once you foray into the realm of two or more alcoholic drinks?

Here are my best practices for a bout of higher-than-normal alcohol intake (or any other outburst of hedonism, toxic excess, or partying).

1 to 3 days before the party

  • Log some extra sleep. Multiple research studies have shown that if you know you're approaching a period of time where you'll be short on sleep, logging a little extra sleep helps mitigate the effects of later sleep loss.
  • Limit your intake of vegetable oil and omega-6 fatty acids, and emphasize monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and saturated fatty acids (SFAs). Animal studies have confirmed that high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids from polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) increase liver damage in response to alcohol intake, while more stable fats like cocoa butter and coconut oil protect against it. If you do eat omega-6s, try to make sure they come from whole foods, such as nuts, seeds, and eggs.

The day of the party

  • Strength training or HIIT before heavy eating or drinking can improve glycemic response to carbohydrate-laden foods or drinks. Exercise also increases antioxidant activity and can reduce liver damage from excess alcohol consumption. Cold therapy, such as a slightly longer three- to ten-minute cold soak, can act similarly.ben hiit
  • Eat several egg yolks or a serving of liver or liver capsules (use code PVFRIEND15
    to save 15%) — scrambled eggs and liver for brekky anyone? When you consume alcohol, your liver will be burning through its choline stores so it can mitigate the damage of drinking, and this will top off those stores. Choline supplementation or adding some extra to your normal dose of fish oil can also work well.

1–3 hours leading up to the party

  • Eat a spoonful each of extra-virgin avocado oil, extra-virgin olive oil, or red palm oil. The polyphenols in olive oil and avocado oil, as well as the vitamin E in red palm oil, can protect against alcohol-induced oxidative stress. Additionally, the monounsaturated and saturated fats in all three oils protect the liver. In a pinch or a hurry, just choose one. Another good, lower-calorie source of vitamin E tocotrienols is annatto, as described in this recent podcast with Barrie Tan
  • Eat a light meal. Although a liver that is emptied of glycogen stores does allow you to convert more of the fructose in cocktails and wines into liver glycogen rather than fat, if you plan to drink heavily, you still want some food in your stomach to slow the absorption of the alcohol. However, you don't want so much food that you're overloaded with calories from both the meal and the booze. If you do not eat, you risk flooding your body with too much ethanol too fast, and the subsequent conversion into acetaldehyde can overwhelm your antioxidant defenses. Preferably, this meal should include plenty of polyphenol-rich plants and spices, including turmeric powder, ginger, berries, and beets, since anything pungent or colorful is fantastic for alcohol metabolism. Another way to get in herb or plant matter is to take 1 to 2g of curcumin or a spoonful or two of Dr. Thomas Cowan’s vegetable powders. Examples of good light meals include a fresh salad topped with fish, beets, and nuts; a mess of scrambled eggs, turmeric powder, and kale served up in a corn tortilla or nori wrap; and a few small handfuls of nuts, dried ginger, dark chocolate, and berries (not only does the cocoa fat in chocolate protect against ethanol-induced liver damage, but the cocoa polyphenols can increase your antioxidant capacity. Make sure you salt these types of light meals with good salt like Celtic, Colima, or Baja Gold.
  • Take 500 to 600mg of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and 1g of vitamin C. NAC is a precursor to glutathione, the antioxidant responsible for metabolizing alcohol. Hospitals give NAC mega doses to treat Tylenol-based and alcohol-based liver poisoning. Vitamin C helps NAC supply glutathione, an essential antioxidant. If you can't get NAC, use transdermal glutathione (which you can discover more about in an upcoming podcast on Glutaryl™ with Dr. Nayan Patel). 
  • Take 300 to 400mg of magnesium. Alcohol depletes magnesium and can also cause constipation, and magnesium helps with both. I suggest taking BiOptimizers Magnesium Breakthrough (use code BEN10 to save 10%).
  • Mix a few spoonfuls of collagen powder into a smoothie or drink of your choice (such as the green tea below) or drink a cup of organic bone broth. The glycine in collagen and gelatin reduces lipid peroxidation and antioxidant depletion in the liver. Adding vitamin C with a supplement or a squeeze of lemon can increase glycine absorption.
  • Drink a cup of green tea or matcha. Green tea contains polyphenols that protect against ethanol-induced oxidative stress, and the caffeine and L-theanine in the tea can give you a stable, slow release of extra energy without too many jitters (if you plan to be out late). 

During the party

  • Before you start drinking, try taking a shot of ZBiotics (a new, genetically engineered probiotic strain designed to support drinking) or a couple of capsules of dihydromyricetin (DHM), both of which can help your body process acetaldehyde. If you want to “feel” your alcohol, save the DHM for after the party since it can bind to relaxing GABA receptors, thus keeping the socially lubricating effects of alcohol at bay.
  • Drink only the highest-quality alcohol available and avoid high-fructose corn syrup, added sugars, and other nasty ingredients. A few particularly good choices are Mezcal tequila, gin, or vodka mixed into sparkling water with bitters or a splash of fresh juice; organic or biodynamic wine; a noncaloric soda such as Zevia mixed with wine and ice for a sparkling cooler; or a ketone cocktail alternative such as those made by KetoneAid. I have plenty of healthy cocktail and mocktail recipes in Boundless Cookbook and Boundless Kitchen.
  • Unless you are drinking the super-fancy, expensive stuff, dilute wine and other spirits with sparkling mineral water to improve hydration. If people ask why you’re bastardizing the wine with water, inform them that you are so refined and elegant that you are making yourself a fancy French sparkler.
  • Add a pinch of salt or one effervescent electrolyte tablet to each glass of water you consume.
  • Stay active to ensure you metabolize snacks and alcohol better. My own trick? I perform forty air squats every time I use the restroom at a long alcohol-fueled dinner or party, and I try to walk the room or dance and move as much as possible. 

Before bed, after the party

  • Rehydrate and get extra antioxidants! Mix ½ teaspoon of salt, the juice from 1 lime or lemon, 1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses, and 1½ cups of water (preferably mineral water or, despite the extra sugar content, coconut water, as long as you have been careful not to have too much sugar at the party). Ideally, drink these 30 to 45 minutes before bed to give yourself enough time to pee before you fall asleep. Other good electrolyte options are Quintessential Hypertonic Elixir, which tastes like salty, salty seawater but is a very rich source of minerals, or BEAM Minerals, which is available as humic and fulvic acid, and can assist with binding toxins. For extra antioxidants, you can also include up to 1500mg of a vitamin C supplement with this water.colima salt
  • Consume magnesium, if you haven’t taken any magnesium yet (you don't want loose stools from too much magnesium!).
  • Take four capsules of activated charcoal to sop up any toxins in the gut. Contrary to popular belief, charcoal does not absorb alcohol, but it does absorb toxins, so this step is only truly necessary if you’re unsure of the purity of the compounds you’ve been consuming, or if you have gas and bloating from excess sugars or strange party foods.
  • Use melatonin. Alcohol reduces melatonin secretion, which can contribute to annoying early awakenings when all you want to do is sleep in. If I’ve had a big night in Vegas (quite rare, but it occasionally happens), I’ll often use a 300mg melatonin suppository from MitoZen.

In the morning

  • Drink the same pre-bed, electrolyte and antioxidant-rich drink from the night before.
  • If you’re sleep-deprived, use my ultimate sleep deprivation hack: a serving of NAD and 5g of creatine.
  • Consume a breakfast that includes eggs so you can get even more choline and/or consume a handful of desiccated liver capsules, or, better yet — although you’ll be hard-pressed to find pâté at Denny’s or a pancake house — eat a serving of organ meat.
  • Exercise lightly (e.g., take a walk in the sunshine) or sit in a sauna. Do anything that gets you sweating (infrared sauna therapy is best due to the added detox effect). Afterward, take a cold plunge or a cold shower, or take a five-minute shower in which you alternate between twenty seconds of cold water and ten seconds of hot water.
  • If you’re really, really hungover, try my go-to hangover cure brew. Just combine all of the following ingredients in a blender until smooth.
    • 1 cup coconut water
    • ½ avocado
    • Juice of ½ lemon
    • 1 (1-to-2-inch) piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
    • 2 large egg yolks
    • 1 heaping teaspoon of fresh, live spirulina 
    • Pinch of good salt

For added efficacy, include 2 to 3 tablespoons of frozen broccoli sprouts, a handful of dandelion greens, and 200 to 300mg of ginseng, which can accelerate the clearance of acetaldehyde.

Finally, if you can’t get into the sunshine because you’re, say, stuck in a maze of Vegas casinos or don’t have the energy to leave your hotel room, you can jump-start your circadian rhythm by utilizing the Ayo, the Beacon40, the Re-Timer, or similar blue-light-producing devices in the morning. Alternatively, if you need to stay awake and phase-shift your circadian rhythm forward before the actual party, you can use these light-producing devices before the party.

Why I Drink in Moderation Every Day

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I don’t endorse drunkenness or excess alcohol consumption.

However, I personally drink about one serving of clean alcohol nearly every night, and — I suspect because I am never tempted to cheat on the weekends after abstaining every weekday — haven’t been drunk in over twelve years.

For more on why a moderated amount of alcohol consumption can be appropriate — including how up to one drink per day is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, improvements in DNA markers of aging, and being possibly beneficial to your health because of mild cellular stress — check out this research by Dr. Chris Masterjohn.

Additionally, a massive study on over 3,411 alcohol consumers suggested that if you’re going to drink alcohol and want to reduce mortality risk, then you should drink like an Italian. It turns out that a safer approach to booze involves a Mediterranean alcohol-drinking pattern characterized by low to moderate total alcohol intake, spread evenly across the week without binge drinking. This pattern also includes a preference for wine, especially red wine, over hard alcohol, along with a tendency to consume alcohol during meals.

I also understand that having occasional bouts of partying tends to be a societal norm, and while it’s pretty rare when I party to exceed three servings of alcohol, I wanted to equip you with all the tools you need to combat the damage and keep a night or weekend of partying from destroying your productivity and happiness for days on end.

If you're interested in learning more about the potential benefits of moderate daily drinking, as well as the science behind how up to one drink per day can be associated with positive health outcomes, I encourage you to listen to this recent podcast episode: “Solosode 471: Why Ben Greenfield Drinks One Serving Of Alcohol Per Day, The Effects Of Alcohol On Longevity, How To Detox After Partying, The Best Supplements For Drinking & Much More.”

Also, feel free to check out all the other resources I have on using moderate alcohol consumption as a longevity-enhancing biohack:

Before I go, I'd love to hear from you! You can share your questions, feedback, or tips and tricks for reducing the effects of a hangover (or anything else covered in this article) in the comments below, and I'll be sure to reply!

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