Now that we’ve all had our fun and welcomed 2017 by cheering the night away, it’s time to deal with the consequences. If you belong to the unlucky majority of the population who suffers from hangovers, you know exactly what we’re talking about.
The Real Malta took one for the team and not only researched, but also tested out some of the most popular hangover cures. That’s right, we experimented on humans and here are the results.
What Causes Hangovers?
Most people have at least once in their life experienced the splitting headache, feeling sick to your stomach, weakness, dry mouth and the need to hide from light and sounds.
The simplified answer explaining all of these is that you poisoned yourself.
The more scientific version says it’s actually a combination of factors. The main culprits for your horrific state after a night out are dehydration, low levels of salts, but also decreased amount of glycogen.
Water, Salts and Sugars
We all know water is essential for us, mere humans, to survive. Therefore it should come as no surprise that by denying your body the required amount of water, it no longer serves you at its best. And in this equation, the water within alcohol does not count. According to studies a glass of alcohol causes the body to expel almost a litre of water.
With all these expelled litres, along go the electrolytes. Since sodium and potassium are necessary for proper nerve and muscle function, these no longer have the resources to put in a serious effort on your behalf. Headaches, fatigue and nausea will follow.
Fun fact: when you’re feeling sick and not sure whether you’ll vomit or not, check for signals. your mouth fills with saliva about a minute before.
As for glycogen, alcohol breaks this chemical, stored in your liver, down into glucose. The latter is then politely – and far too quickly – escorted out of your body by pee. Since glycogen is a key energy source, without it, you welcome the morning weak, tired and about as well coordinated as a toddler with an ice-cream cone.
First, we chose our remedies off the elaborate list of suggestions put forward in social media. The lucky winners ended up being… drum-roll… greasy food and lots of water before bed plus sports drink and egg-based breakfast in the morning.
And then, we got drunk. For science. We learnt two things. Getting drunk is a lot more fun when you get to, as opposed to when you have to. And the legal limit in Malta, 0.08%, feels very much like no one in that state should be allowed to operate any machinery. Once our breathalyser showed us both a nice little BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of 0.11%, we called it quits. May the curing begin!
Greasy Food vs Water
Everybody knows it: have a greasy meal and drink lots of water after your night, you’ll be good as new in the morning. Or will you? We put those classics to the test. Julian got to have a nice greasy pizza from Champs pastizzeria and I drank a full litre of water before bed.
Julian: I was pretty hungry by the time I ate the two big slices of mushroom, sausage and egg pizza, so even the first slice was very welcome and already made me feel much better. For reasons out of my control I had to take a pause until I dug into the second slice, but after that I felt like my stomach was ready to take on the night. My only worry was the little amount of water I was allowed to drink, but I was still confident in the grease’s power.
Lilian: That pizza, though. I was forced to just watch that deliciousness disappearing and couldn’t have any of it. Cruel and unusual punishment. I swear, I was almost ready to send the experiment to hell, and have some damn pizza. It didn’t help that gulping down a litre of water in one go is not all that easy. First half, all good, second one… ugh. This better work.
Greasy food is a good remedy, but with a clause. It should be had before drinking, not after, to be truly effective. The grease sticks to your stomach lining and causes alcohol absorption to be slower. That, admittedly, means it takes longer to “get in the mood”, but guarantees a rosier morning after.
Water before bed is most definitely one to note. You need to restore all that liquid you peed out and there is no way around it. However, you’d do good drinking water all through the night, to slow down your alcohol consumption and give your body a chance to deal with it at a normal pace.
Gatorade vs Eggs
What if the measures you took the night before didn’t do much good? Or perhaps you forgot all about them? You wake up, head’s killing you and promises about never drinking again are thrown around. We got there and this time around, I got to eat and Julian to drink.
Julian: My stomach felt good as new, however I felt somewhat lightheaded from the slight dehydration, and together with feeling thirsty I was eager to have some Gatorade. The taste isn’t the best on account of the salts (although some people like it), but just after half an hour of finishing the bottle I was feeling better and better as time progressed. Definitely works to get yourself hydrated after a night out.
Lilian: I was feeling pretty hangover in the morning, regardless of all that water. No headache, I got to give it that, but a general feeling of uneasiness and weakness. But after the breakfast, I was almost as good as new. Mmm.. the eggs, with some melted cheese and a side of Wudy’s. 12 points from me for this remedy.
Sports drinks actually work even better than just pure water. You could of course mix your normal still water with some salt and sugar to have the same result. But that doesn’t sound particularly appetising, especially when you’re hungover and feeling miserable. The science is there, though: you need to take care of your dehydration, lost salts and gain some energy. Sports drinks cover all this.
Eggs, or if you can stomach it, a full English breakfast, would hit just the spot. Aside from replenishing your energy levels, eggs specifically contain a lot of cysteine. That, in essence, is a substance that breaks down the hangover-causing toxins roaming your body after a fun night. Truth be told, bananas and kiwis, amongst others, have the same magical powers.
Yay for Smoothie, Nay for Coffee
Obviously, there are many more options to cure your ailment. However, some well-known remedies are useless or could possibly even make your situation worse.
For example, fruit smoothies replace those lost sugars, give you energy and help with the missing fluids.
Coffee, on the other hand, dehydrates you even more, therefore making the problem worse.
Due to their different active ingredients, choose aspirin over ibuprofen.
A most definite “nay” is having a drink to alleviate the hangover, as in reality it just delays the inevitable and gives your liver even more toxins to deal with.
Over the counter measures such as Dioralyte and Hangover Aid basically work similarly to sports drinks. They give your body what it needs to restore its normal state. Even more so, Hangover Aid actually suggests their product be taken before going to bed to get the nutrients in you as soon as possible.
Pastizzi and tea at Crystal Palace! I know, I know, technically not a true remedy, but they’re just so good. Right?
Kids, don’t drink. But when you do, drink responsibly. And if you don’t manage that, at least make sure you know how to best cure your aching head and frail body the day after.
What are your best hangover cures? Tell us your tricks in the comments!