Tips For A Great Next Day After Drinking Alcohol
Alcohol 101, Part 3
Alcohol has a number of undesirable effects, but it remains both a common element of our social interactions and an integral part of many cultures worldwide. When we choose to drink, doing so mindfully – in ways that support our bodies’ ability to handle alcohol – allows us to enjoy it while still waking up fresh and well-rested the day after.
So what are some ways to drink mindfully? Here are some essential practices to support your body when drinking alcohol:
- Slow alcohol absorption by having food in your stomach
- Drink ZBiotics to help with acetaldehyde
- Make important decisions before you start drinking
- Support your liver and kidneys with plenty of water while drinking
- Pace yourself
- Try to go to bed sober to get better quality sleep
- Get plenty of rest
- Think of your routines and commitments the next day as requirements
1. Slow alcohol absorption by having food in your stomach
Setting yourself up for a great next day after drinking starts before your first drink. You’ve probably heard the advice not to drink on an empty stomach. It’s good advice and it’s based on sound science. Having some food in your stomach before you start drinking will reduce the rate of alcohol absorption into your blood and reduce peak blood alcohol concentration (BAC). This reduction gives your liver time to process that alcohol more efficiently, resulting in you feeling better the day after.
In an illustrative clinical study, those who ate light and heavy meals before drinking saw 28% and 65% reductions in their peak BACs compared to those drinking on an empty stomach (citation). Another study delved further into the matter and discovered that – in addition to lowering peak BAC – eating before drinking boosted the rate of ethanol disposal. The removal of alcohol from the blood was 36-50% faster when food was taken before drinking (citation).
You might wonder what type of food is the most effective in slowing down alcohol intoxication. According to some comparative studies, meals high in carbohydrates and fat had the most inhibitory effect, followed by protein rich-meals (citation).
Not only will food slow the rate of alcohol absorption, which gives your liver time to process that alcohol more efficiently, but it will also lower the concentration of alcohol in your intestines at any given time. This helps to reduce gut irritation caused by alcohol and acetaldehyde, one more reason eating before drinking helps you feel better the day after.
2. Drink ZBiotics to help with acetaldehyde
This last point brings up another way to prepare ahead of time for a night of drinks: drink ZBiotics® before you start drinking. We’ve covered this on our product page and in the first part of our Alcohol 101 series, but here’s a quick recap...
Alcohol (i.e., ethanol) gets metabolized in two parts of the body. The liver converts most of the alcohol in your bloodstream into acetaldehyde, and then into acetate (essentially vinegar). However, a small amount of alcohol is metabolized in the gut before it can be absorbed into the bloodstream. While the gut can carry out the first reaction to form acetaldehyde (citation), it lacks sufficient amounts of the enzyme that catalyzes the acetaldehyde-acetate conversion. The result: a continuous buildup of acetaldehyde in the gut (citation).
This acetaldehyde accumulation can cause chaos in your body and ruin your next day. So what role does ZBiotics play? The probiotic in the ZBiotics drink is specifically engineered (further elaborated in our science page) to produce the same type of acetaldehyde-to-acetate enzyme as your liver – the enzyme that breaks down acetaldehyde.
3. Make important decisions before you start drinking
Don’t leave anything up to chance when it comes to alcohol. One of the first things to be impaired when you become intoxicated is your judgment. As illustrated by functional imaging studies, acute alcohol intoxication hinders the functioning of particular regions of the brain associated with error processing and cognitive control: the anterior cingulate cortex, the lateral prefrontal cortex, and the parietal brain region (citation).
With that in mind, you should arrange for responsible behaviors ahead of time. You might want to get spontaneous while drinking, but planning your night in advance can save your next day from misery (and, more importantly, keep you safe):
- Decide how much you are going to drink before you start drinking.
- Have a goal bedtime to set you up to fulfill your plans for tomorrow (In tip #6, we will touch on the best time to stop drinking depending on your anticipated bedtime).
- And of course, line up a ride home if you’re going out. Your executive functions, perception, psychomotor functions, reaction time, and vigilance will all be impaired. 35% of fatal road accidents are alcohol-related (citation). Don’t be part of that statistic.
The more drinks you intend to have, the more critical this planning ahead becomes.
4. Support your liver and kidneys with plenty of water while drinking
This might sound contradictory to what we have previously stated many times about the “alcohol causes dehydration” myth. The bottom line here is that while alcohol does not cause dehydration, drinking water is still a good idea for a whole different set of reasons.
Not only does it help you space out your drinks a little more (and we will explain the benefits of spacing out next), but it also supports your kidneys and liver as they work overtime to metabolize ethanol. Think of water as a detoxifying flushing mechanism that aids the movement and filtering of ethanol and its metabolites through the liver and the kidneys. Drinking water helps maintain a high blood volume, which ensures that alcohol metabolism is carried out as efficiently as possible, without interruption.
5. Pace yourself
Your liver can process alcohol at a rate of 0.15 g ethanol/L per hour (citation, table 3.7), which is about equal to between 0.5-1.0 standard American drinks. This means that the faster you drink, the longer your body will be exposed to ethanol and acetaldehyde before the liver can process them.
For example, four drinks spaced over four hours will only see your BAC reach a maximum level of about 2 drinks, because your body is able to process a good amount of the alcohol in one drink before you consume the next one. However, four drinks in one hour will see your BAC spike, and it won’t drop down to the equivalent of 2 drinks (the maximum in the slower drinking scenario) for 3-4 hours (citation).
To put it another way, though you may drink the exact same amount of alcohol, if you drink it all quickly you will be exposed to higher levels of toxic/inflammatory molecules for a longer period of time. That period of time could be several hours while your body catches up and brings those levels down to what they would have been if you had paced yourself.
6. Try to go to bed sober to get better quality sleep
As noted previously in Alcohol 101 Part 2, alcohol in your brain interferes with your neurotransmitters and disrupts the duration of your sleep stages (especially during the second half of the night), particularly reducing your total REM sleep (citation). It gets worse; because alcohol causes muscle relaxation in the airways, it triggers obstructive sleep apnea, leading to unusual breathing and snoring, which will decrease your sleep quality further (citation). So, it is no surprise that drinking just before bed causes daytime sleepiness and performance impairment the next day (citation).
The best way to combat these issues is to have as little alcohol as possible in your system when you go to bed. To that end, it’s incredibly helpful to stop drinking earlier, giving your body plenty of time to metabolize any alcohol in your system before bedtime. Assuming your drinks are generally evenly spaced throughout the night, then here’s a helpful equation to follow:
- Plan your night so that the number of hours between your first drink and when you go to sleep is at least 1.5 times the number of drinks you had that night.; AND
- Be sure to stop drinking at least 2 hours before bedtime.
That’s a little complicated, so here’s a quick example. If you plan to have 4 drinks in a night and you want to go to bed at midnight, you should start drinking at least 6 hours (4 drinks * 1.5 = 6 hours) before you need to go to bed: so start drinking at 6pm. In addition, you should stop drinking at least 2 hours before you go to bed: so stop drinking at 10pm.
To see why it matters to stop drinking earlier, consider the following comparison... If you have four drinks from 10pm-2am and go to bed right away, you probably won’t be clear of that alcohol until 5 or 6am. While the sedating effect could help you fall asleep faster, your sleep will see frequent awakenings as your BAC declines. Waking up at 9am, you will feel like you only had 3-4 hours of sleep.
On the other hand, if you stopped drinking an hour or two earlier, you might feel a little under-rested, but mostly well off. With four drinks from 8pm-12am, and going to bed at 2am, you’ll likely have all the alcohol out of your system by 2 or 3am, meaning you’re more likely to get 6-7 hours of quality sleep.
7. Get plenty of rest
A lot of complex biochemical reactions take place in your body when you drink, many of which you have very little control over. While the lack of sleep is one of the major drivers of a miserable next day, it is also one of the things you can actually control with a little prior planning.
Closely related to the previous point, in addition to quality sleep, make sure you also schedule enough time to get an adequate quantity of sleep. This is particularly critical if you have scheduled plans for the next day. If you have to attend an event at 10:00am, back-calculate when you need to go to bed to get enough sleep (7-9 hours). Then, you can figure out when to stop drinking so that those are quality hours of sleep and that you wake up feeling fresh.
8. Think of your routines and commitments the next day as requirements
Alcohol can change the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in your brain, causing you to initially feel more confident and relaxed. However, once alcohol wears off, anxiety can surface. Physical symptoms and possible feelings of guilt can exacerbate that anxiety, as demonstrated in studies of social drinking among students (citation). In fact, this alcohol-induced anxiety can last for up to 16 hours (citation). Such anxiety can cause you to flake on things like events, chores, and workouts you had planned for the next day..
Instead of spending all day on the couch, getting on with your day – even if a bit painful at first – will significantly reduce your overall misery. Follow through with your plans, and make sure you maintain normal routines like exercise, outdoor weekend activities, and chores. This will help you reclaim your chemical balance by boosting endorphin release in a healthy way.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that every day is precious, and time is valuable. In the post-pandemic world, we’re all going to want to be able to socialize and drink one night while filling the next day with good work and joyful activities.. Think of all that we have to look forward to: from concerts, drinks with friends, and dinner parties to traveling, seeing colleagues, and even just going to the gym. Now is no time for wasting an entire day on the couch just because you had a few drinks with friends the night before.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a tradeoff between one night out vs. an entire day (or, worse still, weekend). By bringing in mindful action, planning, plenty of rest, and a sense of self-care, you can find that balance where you can enjoy the benefits of drinking with friends and still wake up able to dive into those activities you had planned.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice.