After a non-existent Christmas party season in 2020, many people are looking forward to making up for lost time this year. However, if you get the timings and intake of alcohol and food wrong, it could become one you want to forget, or cannot remember at all.
You may have heard those wise words to ‘line your stomach’ before drinking alcohol and this is good advice that will help you enjoy the party without suffering (too much) the next day.
Eating before drinking alcohol makes sense for many reasons.
Firstly, almost all foods contain water, even those that look dry and hard. This means that if food enters the stomach before alcohol, it will help dilute it.
Secondly, as soon as we eat something our body sets about breaking this down to provide us with essential fuel. As this process begins the absorption rate of the alcohol slows down. This is why the type and quality of food we eat before drinking – not just the quantity – is key to how good or bad we feel the morning after.
A cocktail of the wrong type of food and alcohol can result in some unpleasant side effects on the night itself, never mind the next day – bloating, heartburn, indigestion, gas, nausea, sickness and food cravings, to name just a few.
Talking of cocktails, these can lead you astray faster than many other alcoholic drinks. The heady mixture of sweet fruit juice, syrup and a combination of spirits and bubbles makes them easy to knock back and delicious to drink. But before you know it, the damage is done.
Electrolytes, and the need to balance them, are commonly mentioned when discussing hangovers without explaining why or how. They include sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium and bicarbonate and we need them to live. As our body excretes the toxins in alcohol via urine, we also lose electrolytes. Therefore, good food pre-drinking and again the next day to manage and replenish our electrolyte balance is key to our sickness and recovery.
Top pre-party food choices are:
Oats and other high fibre carbohydrates, such as rye bread, wholemeal pittas, wholemeal pasta or oat cakes are perfect for lining the stomach, slowing the absorption of alcohol and also keeping blood sugar levels stable. This helps us manage cravings and impulsive food and drink choices better. Studies also show that oats can protect against alcohol-induced liver damage and improve liver function.
Eggs and salmon are excellent sources of protein and can delay the stomach emptying, slowing the absorption rate of alcohol. This makes an egg or salmon sandwich on wholegrain bread a winning combination.
Bananas are high in potassium which helps to rebalance electrolytes. The high water content helps with hydration. Take a few oatcakes and a banana to work for a simple snack before the celebrations kick off.
Full fat natural yogurt with fruit is excellent for lining the stomach, slowing the alcohol absorption rate. The high water content of both also helps with dehydration and the dilution of alcohol. Choose yogurt with live bacteria and it will help restore the health of your gut microbiome after an upset stomach caused by too much alcohol.
Avoid high fat, spicy foods or sweet foods as they can increase bloating, nausea and reflux.
Remember that wholegrain/wholemeal (brown) carbohydrates will slow the speed at which we absorb alcohol, whereas white bread, cakes, crisps, pasta, etc increases the rate of absorption.
Finally, drink lots of water during the party, interspersed with alcohol, and this will lessen the effects of any headache the next day due to the dehydrating effects of booze.
Get a good night’s sleep and when you wake, drink water and have a hearty breakfast.
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