By Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN
So instead of o.d.’ing on exercise and waking up with some seriously sore muscles, you had a little too much fun with some NYC Marathon shenanigans last weekend, threw back one too many, and your head is doing some serious hating on you. Been there. Most of us have. I can help you out of that predicament. By focusing on hydration, a few key nutrients, and specific fuel, your bod and head will be ready for a double workout vs. a double shot in no time.
Drink up, properly that is
Our bodies are up to 75% water. If we don’t drink enough water, our bodies do not function properly — and losing just 1% of our body weight worth of water can make you feel the effects of dehydration, which range from fatigue, headache, dizziness, and weakness, to muscle cramps and even rapid heartbeat. That pounding hangover headache? You can point a finger at dehydration. Here’s how to rehydrate fast:
● Coconut water: Coconut water is like water on steroids when it comes to hydration, due to it containing the electrolytes sodium and potassium (1 cup contains approximately 600 milligrams potassium and 250 milligrams of sodium). Why is this important? Sodium and potassium go together kinda like PB&J when it comes to fluid balance.
● Fruits and veggies: If you can lift your head high enough to eat and not just suck on a straw, then dive into some produce. Yes, you can eat your fluids! Watermelon, strawberries, melon, and oranges are all good choices for the breakfast table. And, if you can pull out the juicer, throw in lettuce, celery, and spinach.
● Virgin bloody mary: That whole “hair of the dog” thing is a big ole’ myth. But a virgin bloody may do you some good. The vitamin C found in tomato juice is a potent antioxidant that can help your body fight the free radicals produced as your body detoxifies itself from alcohol.
● Coffee: The worst thing you can do for a hangover is, well, make it worse with caffeine withdrawal. If you’re a java junkie, don’t quit now. Not only does coffee help us hydrate (yes, it even counts as fluid), but it’s also a rich source of antioxidants. However, you do want to drink with caution. Have a small cup (perhaps half your normal go-to dose) and see how you feel. Caffeine can have the opposite effect, and that dark brew may make your hangover worse.
Get your nutrients on!
You’ve chugged a coconut water and a virgin bloody, and your head is still splitting? Alcohol not only dehydrates you, but it causes an increase in insulin secretion, leading to a drop in your blood sugar and all sorts of not-so-fun side effects like headaches, nausea, and dizziness. Instead of reaching for the bacon, egg, and cheese that you swear has magical hangover powers (it doesn’t!), reach for foods with these nutrients:
● Fructose: Honey or a fruit high in fructose helps your liver metabolize the alcohol in your body, which may help your hangover symptoms go away faster. Honey also contains small amounts of the electrolyte potassium. Try drizzling a teaspoon into a smoothie.
● Potassium: Fruits high in potassium are bananas, oranges, kiwis, and apricots. Replenishing this electrolyte reduces feelings of nausea, fatigue, and headache. These fruits are also high in antioxidants, which may help reduce symptoms associated with inflammation caused by alcohol.
● Sodium: Beets, celery, carrots, and green leafies are all nutrition powerhouses that also contain more sodium than your average vegetable. As a frame of reference, 4 beets gives the same amount of sodium as a serving of coconut water. Make sure you eat the celery out of your virgin bloody mary, or juice up some greens to help relieve fatigue, nausea, and that darn headache.
● Cysteine: Cysteine is an amino acid which helps break down the alcohol-induced toxin, acetaldehyde. While cysteine is found in many high protein foods, it’s especially high in soy, eggs, nuts and seeds, chicken, pork, oats, and dairy. To speed up your recovery, steam some edamame, scramble eggs, or serve yourself a cup of settling oats.
● Vitamin C: Detoxifying alcohol causes your body to produce free radicals. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that may help your body scavenge free radicals after a bender. Many of the fruits that are high in potassium are also high in vitamin C, so make sure to grab an orange or kiwi or mix up a berry-licious smoothie.
● B-Vitamin: Water-soluble B vitamins help clear alcohol out of your body, and are lost when you “break the seal.” Foods like whole grains and dark leafy vegetables contain many B vitamins (riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, B-6, and folate), so make sure to grab a hearty slice of whole grain toast with your eggs (B-12, riboflavin, and cysteine) to kick that alcohol out of your system.
Your blood sugar is low, your brain is fuzzy, and you’re not sure what to whip up for some fuel? Don’t worry, I’ve got your hangover grub covered. Start the day off with a healthy breakfast that’s easy on the stomach and packs in the nutrients you need. Your best bet?
● Egg and spinach omelet with Ezekiel toast: This combo is loaded with protein, cysteine, and B vitamins.
● Kale and banana smoothie: Blend up one banana, 1 cup chopped kale, with 1 cup coconut water, and you’ll be chuggin’ potassium, and vitamin C and B vitamins. Drizzle in a teaspoon of honey for an even bigger boost.
● Tomato soup and crackers: Serve yourself some tomato soup with a handful of crackers such as Mary’s Gone Crackers. You’ll feel better after a little vitamin C, B vitamins, and electrolytes all in one tasty meal.
● Chicken and veggie soup: Chicken soup isn’t just for colds! This electrolyte and protein-rich taste of your childhood may be just the thing that turns that hangover around. Keep a canned organic version on hand for the morning after those nights that just kinda happened. Serve with a fruit cup, or grab a kiwi for added fructose, vitamin C, and potassium.
Keri Glassman is the founder and president of Keri Glassman, Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice in New York City, as well as The Nutrition School, a 12-week online course created to provide an unprecedented nutrition education and a springboard for building a successful career as a nutritionist. She is on the advisory board for Yahoo Health, is a contributing editor and advisory board member for Women’s Health Magazine, the Health and Wellness partner for JW Marriott hotels, and contributes monthly to Livestrong.com and Foodnetwork.com.
Keri was Lead Nutritionist for Turner’s health and wellness entertainment brand, Upwave, and the Nutritionist and Judge on the healthy cooking competition show, “Cook Your Ass Off.” She has authored four books, including The New You, Improved Diet, and The O2 Diet. Keri is regularly featured on national television programs including The Today Show, Good Morning America, and Access Hollywood Live. She is a spokesperson for national brands that align with the Nutritious Life mission, and is a prolific writer and commentator for many media outlets. Keri resides in New York City with her children, Rex and Maizy.