There's nothing better than a good night out—until the following morning, when you wake up with the world's worst hangover, that is (hello, hangxiety). Until the day someone invents a miracle instant cure, the best hangover cure is (sadly) to stop drinking alcohol in the first place – or at least take a more mindful approach to drinking.
If you're not ready to give up mojitos just yet, there are some tips and tricks you can try to help you feel less rough come morning. The secret? Your diet.
Yes, if you pick the right food before a night out, your pre-drinking meal can help you to stay hydrated, full, and (hopefully) dull any incoming hangovers. Choose the wrong foods before drinking, however, and you could be left feeling bloated, sluggish, and feeling even worse the next day.
Fortunately, we spoke to Dr. Kathryn O'Sullivan, nutrition scientist, and dietitian, to discover the very best foods to eat before drinking alcohol. "The sad truth is there's no real 'cure' for a hangover, but there are certainly ways to help lessen its impact and hasten recovery," she explains. "Re-hydration, blood sugar levels, and your gut health are the main areas to focus on."
It's also important to note how much we actually should be drinking. The NHS recommends that men and women shouldn't consume more than 14 units a week, ideally spread over three or more days. As an example, one 750ml bottle of wine (ABV 13.5%) contains 10 units, while a single shot of a spirit is one unit and a 330ml bottle of beer is 1.7 units.
With this in mind, read on for Dr. O'Sullivan's tips for the best food to eat before a night out.
What to eat (and drink) before a night out
1. Drink plenty of water
Before your night out, "aim to drink at least two liters of water during the day," says Dr. O'Sullivan. "I'd also recommend having a pint of water with your dinner before going out." Staying hydrated is key, people! You could even add an additional slice of lemon for a bonus health kick too—livers love lemon.
2. Try drinking fruit juice or kombucha for added benefits
"Additionally, you could have a glass of fruit juice to keep your Vitamin C levels topped up (as Vitamin C is one of the nutrients alcohol depletes), or kombucha—a gut-friendly fermented tea," says Dr. O'Sullivan.
She adds that a probiotic, such as kefir, could also give your microbiome a boost of friendly bacteria, as well as help to line your stomach and slow down the rate of absorption of alcohol into your blood. Win, win.
3. Load up on (healthy) fats
Foods with a higher fat content remain in the stomach for longer—so the longer the belly is 'lined', the slower the alcohol will be absorbed into your blood (and hopefully the less likely you are to feel like death the next morning). Salmon, avocado, and nuts are all great options.
4. Opt for a sushi dinner
"Go for Asian cuisines if you are eating out, as they are great for the microbiome thanks to the plant-based meals and fermented drinks," says Dr. O'Sullivan. "Sushi, ramen, miso soup, kimchi, and stir-fries, which are the basis of many Asian cultures, are ideal [for boosting] your gut bacteria." If you're eating at home, try searching out a recipe for miso brown rice and salmon, a tofu noodle stir-fry, or, for a veggie alternative, tofu ramen.
5. Add in some liver-loving ingredients
Turmeric, cinnamon, kale, broccoli, beetroot, avocado, and lemon are all fantastic foods for helping support the liver, so it's not a bad shout to eat plenty of these during the day before you head to the bar, either.
What to eat while you're drinking alcohol
6) Choose plant-based or dairy products
"Eating while drinking will slow down the rate of alcohol absorption, making it a good idea," advises Dr. O'Sullivan. "If you're trying to find food on the go, opt for plant-based choices or dairy foods with live cultures, like yogurts and cheeses." Pop into your local deli or supermarket and seek out wholegrain wraps or sandwiches packed with veg and proteins, or salads bursting with plants, cheeses, nuts, and pulses.
7) Swap salty snacks for olives or nuts
Avoid salty snacks if you can, as they can add to dehydration, cautions Dr O'Sullivan. "Slow-release carbohydrates, like olives, nuts, chickpea and fava bean snacks – even bread and humus – will help steady blood sugar levels," she adds. "This will help you feel less drunk and ease hangover symptoms later."
8) Avoid fizzy and sugary drinks
If you struggle with bloating, it's best to steer clear of any carbonated drinks, such as champagne and even fizzy water, as they can speed up the rate of alcohol absorption and make you feel drunk quickly. "They can also cause the dreaded bloating," confirms Dr O'Sullivan. "Alcohol irritates the gut, which is another cause of bloating. Dysbiosis [sometimes defined as an 'imbalance' in the gut microbial community and has been linked to certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis] can do the same – another reason to focus on your gut."
The best thing to eat for a hangover
9) Put down the coffee and up your fruit intake
We're sorry to be the ones to break this to you, but coffee isn't on Dr O'Sullivan's list of recommended quick-fixes. As much as you might feel the need for a caffeine fix, " it will only dehydrate you further," she says. "Stick to water to rehydrate, and kombucha or fruit juice to replenish your microbiome and replace depleted vitamins."
She also recommends trying a smoothie containing bananas, as they're rich in potassium and help to restore your electrolyte balance. "Electrolyte sports drinks can help with this too," Dr O'Sullivan adds. "Choosing hydrating foods like watermelons, celery, strawberries – and basically all fruits – will be a refreshing way to rehydrate."
10) Choose your meal wisely
Alongside fruits, opt for a meal full of vegetables (think: spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, peppers, tomatoes, cucumber), dairy (such as cow’s milk, yogurt, cheese, milk alternatives like almond or soy) and whole grains (bread, granola, oats, rice, pasta) will do you the world of good.
"Team them with proteins (eggs, beans, meat, nuts, eggs, dairy), fats (avocado, sunflower seeds, olives, cashew, peanuts, almonds), and a pre or probiotic supplement if you can," says Dr. O'Sullivan. Eggs and avocado on wholegrain toast? Coming right up!
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.