Leading dietician Dr. Frankie Phillips sets the record straight on our go-to hangover cures and whether or not they really work.
From downing coffee first thing to stocking up on electrolytes or indulging in hair of the dog, Dr. Frankie Phillips reveals whether our go-to remedies really are the miracle workers we think them to be or just a myth.
Dr. Phillips reveals:
Drinking coffee after a night out/first thing the morning after
Verdict: Miracle worker
“Drinking coffee can be helpful in a number of ways. Firstly, the fluid content will help with any feelings of dehydration as the body tries to excrete the toxins released after breaking down the alcohol. Caffeine is a mild diuretic (making your body excrete water) but the quantity of caffeine relative to water means that, on balance, it will help to rehydrate you - unless you have an espresso shot, in which case, a glass of water on the side will be helpful.
“In the morning, if you’re a regular coffee drinker, have your usual cuppa to prevent the pounding headache that some people get. The caffeine in your coffee will also help you feel more alert and ready to tackle the day ahead. On top of that, the potassium in coffee is useful to replenish your body’s electrolytes - the finely controlled balance of minerals in blood, sweat, and urine.”
Downing drinks filled with electrolytes
Verdict: Miracle worker
“Dehydration can be a real issue after drinking too much alcohol, as alcohol is a diuretic, and this is especially true if you’ve experienced any vomiting. Sports drinks with simple sugars and added electrolytes are a way to rehydrate and replenish the sodium and potassium balance in the body helping to normalize nerve and muscle function.
“The rehydration also comes with a hefty amount of sugar which can give a bit of a short-term energy boost, but I’d suggest having some longer-lasting complex carbs alongside to make that energy more sustainable.”
Greasy food like a fry up the morning after
“Eating a pile of greasy food is absolutely not a helpful cure either when you get in from a night of drinking or the next morning, but eating a healthy snack could make you feel better. Some research has shown that a bacon butty can be a good way to ease a hangover, with the protein building block amino acids in bacon and complex carbs in the bread helping to stabilize blood sugar, but the high salt content is the downside.
“Peanut butter or a banana mashed on wholegrain toast are ideal snacks that can help with replenishing minerals lost and giving some sustainable energy without the excess salt - and they’re easy to make if you are feeling fragile.”
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Toasting away your hangover with hair of the dog
“This is probably the worst thing you can do! Even the so-called Bloody Mary won’t do the trick - the salty drink might taste good but it’s likely to just delay recovering from your hangover as you continue to be dehydrated. Your liver is working away to metabolize the alcohol and the ‘hair of the dog’ simply loads more alcohol into your body while it’s trying to break down the alcohol that you’ve already had.”
Sleeping off your hangover
“Alcohol can play havoc with sleep, so tiredness is definitely a factor in suffering with a hangover the next day. Instead of sleeping it off, try to get up at your normal time, have a cup of coffee or tea, if that’s your usual morning thing, and the caffeine will help you to ‘wake up’ and prevent any caffeine ‘withdrawal’ headaches. It’s better to have an early night the following night and catch up on sleep gradually over the next few days - without any alcohol disturbing your sleep again.”
Whipping up a smoothie the morning after
Verdict: Miracle worker
“Smoothies provide another way to get fluid and electrolytes, especially potassium, back on track and in balance after a heavy night of drinking. Sadly, there is no magic recipe or ingredient that will be sure to make your liver detoxify the alcohol quickly, and dial down those feelings of nausea - although, some research does support ginger as an antiemetic.
“The fluids and simple sugars can help with rehydration as the body tries to excrete the toxins released after breaking down the alcohol. Go steady on the portion size with smoothies, though, as they can be very high in free sugars - just 150ml is enough!”
* Dr Frankie Phillips is a registered dietitian and public health nutritionist with over 20 years of experience. With a PhD in nutrition, Frankie has worked in the NHS and across the academic research and charity sectors. She has also been quoted in media publications and appeared on a number of TV programs as an expert on nutrition.