Hangover | How To Avoid One This Holiday

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Top 10 tips on how to avoid a hangover from alcohol during the holidays. This is the season for office parties and social events, with the expectation to drink alcohol a few times a week. Here are the top 10 tips to limit the damage…


Recommended Alcohol Limits

Regularly drinking a small amount of alcohol can provide health benefits. For example, red wine contains the compound resveratrol, which may increase lifespan through reducing blood pressure, increasing insulin sensitivity, and protecting the heart.

However, large amounts of alcohol can have negative side effects. The UK’s Department of Health released new guidelines in 2016, with the aim to reduce health risks from alcohol:

  • Both men and women should not drink more than 14 units per week
  • These limits are not meant to be saved up for one night out, but should instead be spread over 3 or more days.
  • If you’re pregnant, or suspect you’re pregnant, then you should completely avoid alcohol, to reduce the risk of birth defects

Ideally you should also try to have at least a day off between drinking alcohol, in order to give the liver more rest.

How Much Is A Unit Of Alcohol

One unit of alcohol is typically only part of a normal drinks measure, so it’s difficult to size up. To make things easier, I’ve created the table below, based on the information from the UK’s Drinkaware website.

These are just averages, so if you drink stronger versions, then you’ll need to drink less than shown in order to keep to 14 units or less.

Beer4%1 pint = 2.3 units2 pints6 pints
Cider4%1 pint = 2.6 units2 pints6 pints
Wine13%175ml glass = 2.3 units2 glasses6 glasses
(less than 1 1/2 bottles)
Spirits40%25ml shot = 1 unit4 shots14 shots
Alcopops4%275ml bottle = 1.1 units4 bottles12 bottles

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Long Term Affects Of Excessive Alcohol Consumption

In the short term, there is of course the hangover, and generally feeling bleah the day after. However regularly exceeding limits can have life shortening consequences…

  • Reduced life expectancy
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Hypertensive heart disease (caused by high blood pressure)
  • Liver disease
  • Damages the intestines—this leads to toxins from bad gut bacteria to leak out. If you get an illness the day after drinking, this could be the reason

How Alcohol Affects Your Weight-Loss

The body sees alcohol as a significant toxin. So the body’s first priority is to process the alcohol, which means any fat burning is put on hold—and if you’re combining it with a highly calorific meal, it’s likely to be stored as fat.

Alcohol contains 7 kcals per gram, which is higher than 4 kcals for protein and carbohydrates, but less than fat at 9 kcals per gram. To put the calories from alcohol in perspective, a 175 ml glass of wine, is about the same number of calories as a small ice cream cone.

But the calories in alcohol are only a small part of the weight loss puzzle. In a review published in the British Journal Of Nutrition,1 they concluded that in all studies where they tested drinking alcohol within 1 hour of eating, resulted in a higher intake of food.

I know that I’ve experienced this myself—after eating a full dinner, then having a couple of drinks, I begin to feel that eating an entire pizza on my own could be a good idea.

Also a large amount of alcohol disrupts your sleep. This can lead to an increased feeling of hunger the day after drinking. So alcohol can be a double whammy of increased food consumption on two days, leading to weight gain.

Top 10 Tips For Avoiding A Hangover From Alcohol

Alcohol, Hangover, Headache, Wine, Beer, Spirits, Alcopop, Drinking, Cure, Dehydrate, Healthy, Health, Liver, Poisoning, Holiday, Christmas, Party, Parties

  1. The best way to avoid a hangover, is to keep within the recommended alcohol limits
  2. Drink slower—it takes an hour for the body to clear one unit of alcohol. This equates to approximately half a pint of beer or cider, two-thirds of a 125ml glass of wine,  or 25ml of spirits.
  3. Eat food when you drink—this will also slow the absorption of alcohol
  4. Avoid that splitting headache—alcohol dehydrates your body, including your brain…causing it to stretch membranes attaching it to your skull, resulting in pain. Ouch! Rehydrate between alcoholic drinks with water; adding a dash of salt will also help you to replace lost sodium, or alternatively some salted nuts…now you know why you crave them when drinking alcohol
  5. Magnesium2—the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism report that Magnesium levels drop due to those frequent trips to the toilet. Top food sources include: leafy green vegetables, nuts, fish, meat and dairy
  6. Calcium2—Calcium absorption is hindered by alcohol. Key sources are: dairy, sardines, green vegetables, nuts and seeds
  7. Alcohol depletes B vitamins—eat liver, meat, dairy, eggs, green vegetables, yeast extract
  8. Eat probiotic yoghurts or other probiotic/prebiotic food—if you’ve already read my gut bacteria article, then you’ll know that one of the positive side effects of regularly eating probiotic food is to provide a barrier effect that prevents invasion by pathogens. This may help counteract some of the damage that alcohol does to make the gut leak
  9. Eat some low G.I. food to stabilise your blood sugar—alcohol slows down the release of glucose from the liver. This means it’s possible to go hypoglycaemic if you drink on an empty stomach; symptoms can include shaking, sweating, feeling clammy, lightheaded, dizzy, hungry or nauseous. It can be extremely dangerous if you’re diabetic and drinking alcohol at night, as there is a possibility you will go hypoglycaemic in your sleep
  10. Keep your brain healthy—a study in the journal PLOS ONE3 found that Omega 3 DHA (such as that found in oily fish, fish and cod liver oil) helps to reduce the effects alcohol has on brain inflammation and neuronal cell death

Keep these tips in mind when you’re at social events over the holidays, to limit the damage and avoid that hangover.

George D. Choy
Personal Trainer & Calisthenics Instructor
Gymnacity in Oxted, Surrey, United Kingdom


[1] Yeomans MR. Effects of alcohol on food and energy intake in human subjects: evidence for passive and active over-consumption of energy. Br J Nutr. 2004 Aug;92 Suppl 1:S31-4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15384320

[2] National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism No. 22 PH 346 October 1993. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa22.htm

[3] Tajuddin N, Moon KH, Marshall A, Nixon K, Neafsey E, Kim HY, Collins M. Neuroinflammation and Neurodegeneration in Adult Rat Brain from Binge Ethanol Exposure: Abrogation by Docosahexaenoic Acid. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (7): http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0101223

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About George D. Choy 92 Articles
Personal Trainer and Calisthenics Instructor at Gymnacity in Oxted, Surrey, UK. Fit over 45. Dad with 2 energetic kids 😄 Passionate about helping people to keep strong, slim and healthy.

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