We have all been there before. You wake up the morning after a night on the town and your head is killing you. You get out of bed, yawn through your parched throat, and start to choke down that glass of water you forgot to drink last night. You say under your breath “ugh, I’m never drinking again.”
What if you could find a way to drink to not have a hangover?
When it comes to hangovers, the type of alcohol matters just as much as the amount you drink. Unfortunately, there is no way to 100% prevent a hangover (the human body just does not work that way). But, there are different types of alcohol you can drink and things you can do to drastically minimize hangovers and make the morning after much more comfortable.
First, though, let’s talk about hangovers. What are they?
What Causes Hangovers?
Everyone knows that alcohol causes hangovers but fewer people know why alcohol causes hangovers. Alcohol actually causes hangover symptoms in several ways, including:
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it increases the rate at which your body processes water ()hence all the peeing when you drink). As such, drinking a lot of alcohol can dehydrate you and upset your body’s electrolyte levels. Common dehydration symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, thirst, weakness, and nausea.
The body metabolizes alcohol and turns it into sugars. As a result, your body stops the natural production of glucose. The result is that after a night of drinking, your blood sugar levels can be very low. Low blood sugar levels cause low energy, weakness, sour mood, and other symptoms common to hangovers.
“Congener” is the term for any substance other than ethanol alcohol that is produced during the fermentation process. Congeners in alcohol are what give each type of alcohol its distinctive flavor, color, and texture. Common congeners found in popular alcohols include methanol, acetone, esters, tannins, and aldehydes. All of these chemicals can exacerbate hangover symptoms through their biological effects.
In general, drinking alcohol with fewer congeners can reduce hangover symptoms. However, it’s important to realize that congeners are just one thing that contributes to hangovers. Drinking any type of alcohol can produce hangover symptoms.
Out of all substances in alcohol, acetaldehydes might be most responsible for hangover symptoms. Acetaldehydes are formed through the breakdown of alcohol by the body. It is believed that build-up of acetaldehydes in the liver contributes to hangover symptoms like nausea and headaches.
To be more specific, when acetaldehyde levels in the liver are high, the body produces less glutathione as it bonds with the acetaldehydes. The lack of glutathione contributes to oxidative stress which produces more serious hangover symptoms. Acetaldehydes are normally removed from the body with the kidneys, which is why it takes time to kick a hangover.
We should also mention that different people produce enzymes that break down acetaldehydes at different rates.
Lack of Sleep
Also, alcohol impairs the ability of the brain to enter into deep sleep and REM cycles. As such, you are less able to get “restful” sleep if you drink too much alcohol. The fatigue and exhaustion of a hangover are partly caused by poor sleep.
Does Higher Quality Alcohol Give You Less of a Hangover?
Cheap alcohol is often pinned as a culprit of the worst headaches. Lower-quality alcohols can indeed produce harsher hangovers as they are more likely to contain congeners and other impurities. Highly-distilled alcohols tend to have fewer congeners and so might produce fewer hangover effects.
It is a difficult question as hangovers are also determined by how much alcohol you drink. If you drink a ton of high-quality alcohol, you can still get a nasty hangover. In contrast, a glass or two of cheap vodka may not hurt you that much.
There is some evidence that alcohol with fewer congeners can produce less severe hangover symptoms, but the difference is not likely to matter much to someone who is out having some drinks for the night. What ultimately determines the severity of a hangover is the net amount of ethanol ingested.
Also, none of this is to say that you should always avoid alcohols with congeners in them. Congeners are what give types of alcohol their unique taste, like the deep, smoky flavor of whiskey or the tart, dry bite of gin. Life would be pretty boring if you cut out all those flavors just to avoid a hangover.
What Type of Alcohol Gives the Least Hangover?
All other things being equal, it seems that alcohol with fewer congeners produces less severe hangover symptoms. In practical terms, that means that lighter-colored alcohols might be a good choice to drink to avoid the worst symptoms of a hangover.
Best Beers for no Hangover
The obvious solution is to pick beers that have a lower ABV. Beers with a 9%-10% ABV are tasty sure, but that is almost as boozy as wine. Besides, most people drink more than one beer anyway, so a lower ABV will probably serve you better.
Also, when it comes to beer, lighter colors are better. Lighter color beers have fewer congeners, which are positively correlated with hangover symptoms. For example, lighter beers like a lager or a witbier will give you less of a hangover than a dark stout or hefty porter. Also, lighter beers tend to have fewer calories too, which is good for your hangover and your waistline.
Best Vodka for no Hangover
Vodka, in general, is good alcohol to avoid hangovers because the method for making it leaves the drink very pure. However, there are levels of vodka to choose from. A good rule of thumb is to check out how much the vodka has been distilled. For example, some high-quality vodkas are distilled 6 times before they hit the shelves.
Best Wine for no Hangover
Wine is a bit trickier as it tends to have a lot of congeners simply in virtue of the way it’s made. In general, wines with lower alcohol content and fewer tannins, such as Cabernets or Tempranillos, are better for avoiding a hangover. Also, red wines produce a harsher hangover because they have a higher alcohol content than white, so stick to white wine to avoid the worst hangovers.
Worst Alcoholic Drinks for Hangovers
All other things being equal, dark alcohols that contain a lot of congeners produce the worst hangovers. This is because all of these toxins wreak havoc on your liver and metabolism. Here are some of the worst alcohols you can drink for hangovers.
Bourbon has long been known to produce nasty hangovers and now we have the science to explain why. Bourbon contains a very high level of congeners that are leached from wood casks during the aging process as well as added tannins to achieve the dark color. Bourbon also has a high proof so a little bit goes a long way.
Also, most bourbons are made with “column distillation” which has more byproducts than other methods of making bourbon.
Likewise, red wine has a very high concentration of tannins and other molecules that can produce a very nasty hangover. Red wine is known to produce a particular kind of hangover experience, which might be explained by the presence of high quantities of histamines. Some people have allergic reactions to these histamines which can exacerbate hangover symptoms.
So if you have a sensitive constitution, stay away from red wines and stick to the whites.
Champagne produces atrocious hangovers, mostly because of the extra yeast added during the fermentation process. More yeast means more sugars and alcohols, which means more pain the morning after.
The only method to fully cure a hangover is time. Your body needs time to metabolize the acetaldehydes and toxins and there is currently no known way to circumvent this process.
However, there are lots of little things you can do to prevent the worst hangover symptoms. These include:
- Drink water while drinking. Keeping yourself hydrated will keep your electrolytes balanced.
- Pace yourself. Hangover severity is also determined by the rate of alcohol consumption, so pacing yourself can really help.
- Eat food before sleeping. Starchy foods absorb a lot of the alcohol and congeners in drinks and keep your blood sugar high.
- Don’t do shots. Shots are great fun and all but they can absolutely ruin your drinking pace and get you too drunk.
There are also several products meant to help you kick a hangover.
For example, Reset IV is a hangover cure package that uses intravenous methods to directly replenish bodily fluids and rehydrate the body. IV treatment is a perfectly safe hangover treatment method used by medical professionals. Reset IV is designed so you can administer IV treatments on your own from the comfort of your house. With Reset IV, you can get over your hangover faster, feel better in the mornings, and prevent the worst symptoms of hangovers. Check out their website here to learn more about Reset IV!