“Most of us have experienced the pain and the frustration of a hangover,” says Shona Wilkinson, nutritionist at superfooduk.com. They are a pain in the, well, head!
“Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that once it’s in your blood your body needs to put its water supplies in your blood to dilute it. This creates an increase in blood volume and pressure. To bring your blood pressure down, we then need to excrete the water down the toilet. The problem being, now our cells are lacking the water that they need.
“Our brain is around 70% water, and dehydration can lead to brain shrinkage, which is what causes the pain. Your body also has to deal with a mountain of alcohol toxins. They all need processing and excreting, which puts strain on your liver and kidneys.”
But the occasional “one two many” is inevitable. So what can us halo-wearing runners do should the evils of alcohol catch us off guard?
“Considering what a hangover is, water seems like the obvious cure, however not all water is equal. The control of hydration is the hands of electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals found in water. For your best chance of beating that hangover, choose mineral-rich water or add in some extra electrolytes. They are designed for athletes and sports people. The water will also help to flush out the toxins, speeding up the detoxification process.
Drink a large glass of mineral-rich water before bed, take a glass to bed and be sure to drink plenty in the morning,” explains Wilkinson.
“Before, during and after drinking it’s best to avoid sugary foods and drinks, as alcohol consumption tends to play havoc with energy and blood sugar control,” explains Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar (marilynglenville.com). It’s better to focus on protein and unrefined carbohydrates, which release glucose slowly.
“Say no to caffeine and spicy food that can not only worsen the dehydration, but also irritate your stomach.”
Try to have something before you go to bed, this doesn’t mean, however, grabbing a doner kebab on the way home. “Having something nourishing to eat before going to bed will help give you the nutrition that your body needs to detoxify. Getting drunk is taxing so something healthy will go a long way to support your recovery,” says Wilkinson.
Nutritionist Cassandra Barns adds, “Stay away from foods that contain high levels of unhealthy fats. These include fried foods, foods that contain hydrogenated fats (found mainly in margarines and processed foods), and poor quality, cheap cooking oils.
The liver has to work extra hard to process these types of fats, when it is already under strain dealing with the alcohol and its breakdown products. Unhealthy fats can also worsen any inflammation in the body, which can add to the effects of the inflammatory cytokines that (as we saw above) could contribute to hangover symptoms.”
Sounds crazy? Wilkinson explains, “The movement will get your blood circulating and will help speed up detoxification, while the sweating will help you excrete the toxins. It will however add to you dehydration. Ensure that you drink plenty of hydrating fluids before, during and after your run.”
“The movement from the likes of yoga and Pilates will help to increase blood flow to all parts of your body, but importantly, your liver. The more blood that passes through, the quicker your liver can detoxify the alcohol. The sweating will help to eliminate the toxins through your skin. However, the sweating can make the problem of dehydration worse, so ensure that you drink plenty of water at the same time!” says Wilkinson.
Focused breathing is an important aspect of Pilates and can help with any nausea you may be feeling, while also being a great way to take your mind of your hangover. “Anyone who does Pilates regularly will recognise the moment, a few minutes into a session, when you get an overwhelming sense of release and calm, and, dare I say it, even joy.
“As your breathing deepens and settles into its rhythm, as your spine lengthens and unravels, as your deep core muscles connect and your limbs stretch out, mind and body unite and you suddenly feel in control. The world seems to be a better place. It’s almost addictive, which might explain why classes have waiting lists. No one leaves, no one wants to miss out,” says Lynne Robinson, Founder of Body Control Pilates (bodycontrolpilates.com) and author of Pilates For Life.
The water and mineral content of fruit will help to rehydrate you and put an end to your hangover headache. “There is an enzyme in pears that scientists are investigating for its ability to help us metabolize alcohol, and prevent us from having a hangover. If you’re going to eat fruit, it makes sense to choose a pear.” advises Shona.
If you are not a big fun of pears, go for berries. “They are rich in antioxidants and offer protection from free radicals, which are considered another cause of hangovers,” adds Marilyn Glenville.
You may well rather endure the hangover than drink a cup of bone broth, but hear us out… “If you make your own broth or stock at home using animal bones, vegetables and a pinch or two of sea salt, you could do worse than drinking a cup or two of this the morning after,” says Wilkinson.
“Bone broth contains lots of minerals that are naturally released from the bones during cooking – and these, together with the salt, could help to fight fatigue and boost your energy levels. The amino acids it contains can help to soothe the gut lining too.”
“It’s actually used in the treatment of some kinds of poisoning, because it absorbs toxins and helps them to be removed from the body. However, it would make sense to take the charcoal during or shortly after drinking alcohol rather than the next morning, as it binds toxins in the gut before they can be absorbed,” says Wilkinson.
Mmm a nice bit of broth and jar pickle to ease the hangover. Admittedly, another unappealing option, but if you can stomach it, it may well work wonders. “The vinegar stimulates the liver to help detoxify and eliminate the alcohol. When pickles ferment, they also produce a certain type of soothing bacteria to help with an irritated stomach,” explains Cassandra Barns.
“Magnesium can be depleted by alcohol and many of us are already deficient in this nutrient. Try adding magnesium-rich foods into your diet, such as leafy green vegetables. Magnesium and Vitamin C both support the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme that breaks down alcohol and eliminates it from the body, helping you to feel more refreshed,” says Barns.