How to temper those brutal AC35 hangovers
So, we’re halfway through America’s Cup and just reached the other side of carnival. My newsfeed is packed with photos of people dancing and drinking and boating and drinking … I know there’s a large section of the Bermuda population that doesn’t drink (well done), but as for the rest of you, should I send in the nutrition police?
For many of the Cup fans, it’s unlikely that the drinking will stop just yet. There’s a big weekend on the horizon as Oracle and Emirates Team New Zealand battle it out on the water. With Bermuda so invested in this event, we’ll have a few people steadying their nerves I’m sure. Will Oracle pull off another comeback? Will ETNZ perform any more aqua gymnastics? Are those cyclists going head over heels and ending up in the water? Or will they really be the differentiator? Will we get enough weather to make it exciting? Will it be nail-bitingly close or a whitewash? Will the event stay on our shores or disappear in a puff of smoke? So many questions, so much speculation — all washed down with a little Moët or Mouton Cadet. (I’d like to think you are washing it down with green smoothies, but hmmm ...)
So, whether you are drinking to steady your nerves, or to throw yourself into the afterparty, I’ve a feeling there are a few hangovers looming. Of course, there is one sensible and obvious solution to the hangover problem: don’t drink, or don’t drink much. I gave up the blue cocktails and excess a long time ago. The blue cocktails never returned. The excess makes an occasional reappearance — when I forget myself for a minute or, more specifically, when I forget that I have children who get up at 6am. Am only human after all.
What I have learnt is that other than moderation, there are a few simple tricks that will help you with damage limitation. I’m not encouraging you to go overboard (well maybe ETNZ, ha) but I do want to give you a helping hand! Here are some nutrition tips that really make a difference:
1. Avoid drinks with congeners (beware of the “nightcap”)
When ethanol (alcohol) is produced by sugar-fermenting yeasts, other toxic side products called congeners are formed too. Congeners (eg acetone, methanol and isopentanol) seem to increase the frequency and intensity of hangovers, compared to drinks that contain low amounts. Drinks high in congeners include whiskey, cognac and tequila. Bourbon whiskey is exceptionally high. Drinks low in congeners include colourless drinks like vodka, gin and white rum. Vodka contains almost no congeners at all.
2. Watch your mixers!
A regular hangover is bad enough, adding a sugar hangover is even worse. Ditch the sugary mixers (soda, fruit punch, etc) and especially the coolers that serve up a big dose of food dye too. Just one cooler can pack in 10-20 teaspoons of sugar. That’s huge and has serious implications for blood sugar management and weight gain. I would avoid diet options as well, given that these also challenge the liver. Note, too, that bubbles speed up alcohol absorption, so if you are aiming to pace yourself, pick a still option such as red wine or vodka with water and a splash of orange juice.
3. Drink plenty of water and try peppermint tea before bed
Alcohol is a diuretic which means you urinate more than if you were drinking an equal amount of pure water. This can lead to dehydration and contribute to headaches and fatigue the next day. Rule of thumb: arrive hydrated and then drink a glass of water between drinks. Have at least one big glass of water before going to sleep. I think peppermint tea is great for settling the stomach, so brew a strong one before you go out and then leave it in the fridge to drink on your return! This is a great antidote to a rich evening meal, too.
4. Balance your blood sugar
Never drink on an empty stomach and note that hangovers tend to be more severe in those who have low or imbalanced blood sugar. Although hypoglycaemia is not a cause of hangovers, it can make symptoms feel worse. If you are just going out for drinks and aren’t having a meal, do eat something before you go that includes slow-releasing carbohydrates and protein. Good examples include low-sugar granola and plain yoghurt, or scrambled eggs on wholegrain toast.
5. Eggs and avocado for breakfast the morning after
No doubt you have heard of the “kill or cure” fry-up for breakfast. It’s not the saturated fat that’s going to help you, but the amino acids in the protein which can assist liver detox. Eggs are the best choice as they are easily digested and gentle on your stomach. Plus, thanks to their large amounts of cysteine, eggs help to “mop up” alcohol toxins. Whites do contain more protein, but the yolks are cysteine rich, so eat both! Avocado is great for phase two liver detox, so include that too.
6. Rehydrate with electrolytes
But put down the Gatorade, which contains way too much sugar and unnecessary food dyes. Try chilled unsweetened coconut water (eg Zico from Supermart) or the Ultima Replenisher powders (also Supermart). The Ultima looks like a Crystal Light-type product, but it’s actually free from dyes and artificial sweeteners.
After coconut water, it’s about as natural as you can get and very efficient for rehydration purposes.
• The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a registered dietitian. For details: www.natural.bm, 236-7511 or, Facebook, Natural Nutrition Bermuda
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