How To Get Rid of Your Hangover

New Year’s Eve is right around the corner, and with it comes parties, plenty of alcohol, and the dreaded hangover. January 1 is National Hangover Day, so I decided to give you tips on how to make a recovery a little easier.

It’s estimated that Americans will consume 360 million glasses of champagne on New Year’s Eve. Considering that one champagne flute holds 7 ounces of champagne, that’s roughly 19 million gallons of champagne Americans will consume on New Years’ Eve. What’s even more staggering is that that’s not including cocktails, other wine, or beer. 

Alcohol is a staple in holiday celebrations, yet it has a lot of adverse effects on your health. One champagne toast at midnight is going to have minimal effects. However, if you overindulge in the festivities, you likely will wake up with a massive hangover the next day. Don’t worry. I have you covered. 

I will tell you about five ways to get rid of your hangover for faster recovery. You will also learn about the long-term effects of alcohol and how to understand blood-alcohol content (BAC). First, let’s discuss how alcohol gets processed by your body.   

How Alcohol Gets Processed by Your Body

Twenty percent of the alcohol content in just one drink gets absorbed directly into the bloodstream from your stomach, and the remaining gets absorbed through your small intestine. 

Generally, your body can process one standard drink in one hour. If you consume more than one drink in an hour, the additional alcohol accumulates in your bloodstream and body tissues until your body properly metabolizes it. The excess alcohol is what causes your blood-alcohol content (BAC) to rise. 

You may be underestimating the amount of alcohol you are drinking because the bartender, you, or your friend aren’t using standard measurements. Here is what equals one drink for each type of alcoholic beverage: 

  • One 5-ounce glass of wine (12% alcohol) 
  • 1.5 ounces of liquor (40% alcohol) 
  • One 12-ounce beer (5% alcohol) 

Malt liquor and microbrews tend to have higher alcohol content than standard beer, as do fortified wines such as cognac. 

Most of the alcohol in your body gets broken down by your liver, which processes 90% of the alcohol and turns it into water and carbon dioxide. Your lungs, kidneys, and skin process the remaining 10% through breathing, urine, and sweat.

Many factors determine how long your body metabolizes all the alcohol you consume. Once you take that first sip, 20% of it goes directly into your bloodstream.[1]​​

A common myth is that food absorbs alcohol in your system. Alcohol gets quickly absorbed by the small intestine. When you have food, it slows down absorption and gives your body more time to process the excess alcohol.[2] So, it’s not really food absorbing alcohol, it’s that food slows down your small intestine from absorbing it.

Another factor to consider is carbonation. Drinking a carbonated beverage such as soda, carbonated water, or champagne increases pressure in your stomach. The increased pressure forces the alcohol into your bloodstream faster. 

Understanding BAC

Blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) can vary among people and situations. For example, if you and your friend each have 20 milligrams of alcohol per deciliter, you both should metabolize the alcohol in an hour. However, both of your BACs can be vastly different. 

Your BAC is determined by how much alcohol in relation to the amount of water is in your blood. Your age, weight, amount of food you have eaten, and the ratio of drinks to time can impact how long it takes to metabolize alcohol. Liver disease and medications for anxiety, depression, blood pressure, and painkillers also can interfere with alcohol metabolism. 

Your body metabolizes alcohol at a rate of 20 mg/dl per hour.[3] So, for example, if you have a BAC of .06 (60 mg/dl), it would generally take three hours for your body to completely metabolize the alcohol. Remember, any of the factors mentioned above can make the process longer or shorter. 

How to Get Rid of Your Hangover

I have a hard truth for you– there is absolutely nothing you can do to lower your BAC quickly. You need to let your body naturally metabolize it. Remember that your body removes just 10% of the alcohol in your system through sweating, breathing, and peeing. The rest is up to your liver, which will be hard at work metabolizing the excess alcohol in your system when it should be resting and repairing itself. Here are a few ways to support your recovery process and make it less painful. 

1. Drink fluids (Especially Electrolytes)

It might seem obvious, but drinking fluids is the first step to easing your hangover. It’s a bonus if your fluids contain electrolytes. Alcohol is a diuretic, which causes your body to remove fluids faster because it blocks the release of vasopressin, a hormone that decreases the urine volume produced by the kidneys.[4]

If you aren’t drinking water with your alcohol, you’ll get dehydrated quickly. And dehydration is what causes that famous hangover headache. Water and food slow down how fast alcohol gets absorbed into your bloodstream, so be sure to eat and drink plenty of water.

Electrolytes are crucial to hydration. These minerals– sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride– support different processes in your body, such as fluid balance, maintaining your blood’s pH levels, and transferring electric signals from your nerves to your muscles. Your body loses electrolytes when you pee and sweat. If your hangover includes vomiting and diarrhea, you are losing electrolytes faster. 

A suitable electrolyte powder such as Nuun tablets or LMNT can reverse the dehydration caused by alcohol. Check the labels because some popular electrolyte products have high amounts of sugar. LMNT is my go-to hydration powder.

2. Sleep if Off

A big misconception is that sleep will “sober you up.” Unfortunately, that’s not true. Sleep does, however, reduce the side effects you will feel. Fatigue, headaches, and irritability are all part of a hangover made worse by not sleeping. The other common misconception is that alcohol helps you sleep. It actually does the opposite. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep after a night out to lessen your hangover symptoms. 

3. Eat some food

Do you remember what I said about alcohol absorption and your small intestine? If you eat some food, it will slow down the absorption in the small intestine. Food also increases the glucose levels in your blood, which in this case, is a good thing. Alcohol is toxic, and the toxins in alcohol lower your blood glucose levels. Your body needs glucose for energy to metabolize the alcohol in your system. So, go ahead and grab some food to help your hangover. 

4. Ditch the Tylenol® and Ibuprofen

I bet you weren’t expecting to hear this. Acetaminophen (the main ingredient in Tylenol®) and alcohol are a dangerous combination for your liver and can cause liver damage. Aspirin and ibuprofen can irritate your gut lining and cause damage. Instead, stick with sleep, food, and fluids to eliminate your hangover. 

5. Add Activated Charcoal

You might have seen activated charcoal products or heard about their detoxing properties. Activated charcoal is a highly effective binder used in emergency rooms for emergency overdose treatment. 

Activated charcoal is charcoal heated to extreme temperatures and treated with oxygen. This process changes the surface and causes the charcoal to become more porous. This porous structure allows the charcoal to bind with toxins, such as alcohol, and carry them out of your body.[5]

The key to activated charcoal’s effectiveness is when you take it, and it works best when taken on an empty stomach and an hour before your first drink. Since it is a binder, you shouldn’t take activated charcoal before or with any medications. It could make them less effective.[6]

Understanding ways to support your body after a night of drinking is only the first step. Alcohol is toxic to your body and does have long- and short-term effects. 

How Alcohol Affects Your Body

It’s likely well-known that the short-term effects of alcohol vary based on how much alcohol you drink on a night out. One to two drinks lowers your inhibitions, while one or two more can cause you to slur your speech, become aggressive, and have blurry vision. Five drinks or more can cause you to be unable to control your bladder, breathing problems, or have alcohol poisoning. Moderation is crucial to lowering the severity of short-term effects on New Year’s Eve. 

Long-term use of alcohol can really take its toll on your body. A drink here or there is not going to cause long-term damage. When it becomes a daily habit, or you can’t stop after one drink, you are more likely to feel the long-term effects.

Long-term effects of alcohol include:[7]

  • High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Infertility
  • Dependence or alcoholism 
  • Cancer of the mouth, throat, liver, or colon
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Diabetes complications

Your body has the ability to repair damage by long-term alcohol use, but it takes about 5 to 7 years of sobriety to fully reverse the damages of alcohol.[8] Being sober isn’t easy, yet it can be rewarding and improve your health. 

Enjoying New Year’s Eve with a champagne toast or a couple of cocktails isn’t bad. If you do engage in more than a few cocktails, follow the above steps to lessen the effects of alcohol on your health and make your recovery a little easier. Have a safe and healthy New Year! 

About Michael
About Michael

Michael is a functional health coach and sports nutritionist based in Austin, Texas. He has a master's degree in kinesiology from the University of Texas and advanced certification in sports nutrition from the International Society of Sports Nutrition.