Whether it’s a family bash or official evening get-together, there’s scant hope of avoiding the invitation or slinking away early. So more often than not, you wake up gritty-eyed, dry-mouthed, fatigued and battling the workday with a foggy head. Not only can all the booze, bingeing and late nights play havoc with your liver, tummy and skin, it can all too easily lead to missed deadlines at work as well.
But there’s no reason to fear the season of cheer. Take the case of Jackie Matai, 36, Mumbai-based promoter of Aspri Spirits Pvt. Ltd, a high-end liquor and wine importer and distributor, who is out literally every night in December attending gigs. Yet, he is up at 7.30am daily and on time at work. His secret: “I make sure I drink responsibly, eat at home before stepping out for the night, drink plenty of water and exercise three times a week at least.”
Mint spoke to doctors, dieticians and partygoers such as Matai to arm you with a manual to avoid the dreaded morning after.
Prep for excess, pre-party
Start out full, so that you don’t get tanked up quickly.
• Don’t enter a party hungry: The golden rule is to eat before you go. This not only ensures you don’t binge (which piles on the calories), but also that the alcohol doesn’t have as potent an effect as it will on an empty stomach. If you are going to the party straight from work, and can’t stop to snack, eat a healthy, protein-heavy lunch. Eating foods containing slow-release carbohydrates, such as vegetables, wholewheat bread, brown rice or baby potatoes with the skin on, can keep you well fuelled through the day and into the early evening. A handful of nuts eaten before the party can do the trick as well, since they are loaded with protein and dietary fibre, which help fill you up.
• Make milk your first drink: A glassful before going out adds a protective lining to the stomach against acidity and alcohol.
• Fortify with a supplement: A good multivitamin (ask your doctor for a recommendation) will compensate for all the vitamins you lose from drinking, and the lacunae in irregular meals. In addition, topping up vitamin B6 levels reduces the effect of hangovers, so it is a good idea to pop that pill before you sleep. Vitamin C will afford some protection against all the smoke that is an inevitable part of the party scene.
Once you arrive, limit the damage without committing social suicide.
• Just add water: Start with a glass of water. Then alternate every glass of liquor with a glass of water. A good method to stay sober, practised by Delhi-based Sumeet Chopra, partner, Madd Foods, is to pick up a colourless drink such as vodka as the first one. For the rest, he passes off tonic water or plain soda as vodka to keep the host happy.
• Plead religion: If you are called for parties every evening, then find “respectable” excuses to stay off the liquor at least two days out of seven, to give your body a break. Cite a “no booze and non-veg on Saturdays (or whichever day the party is)” stance to leave your liver toxin-free—most hosts will respect holiness over health.
Prevention is always better than the cure. But since steering clear is difficult, keep these cures by the bed.
• Settle your stomach: Keep antacids handy, both for too much drink and too much food (for drinks, add a paracetamol to the antacid for the probable pain; not aspirin or Combiflam-type combinations). A fizzy sports drink before going to bed is also a trick many employ, as the carbonated beverage relieves nausea while replenishing nutrients.
• Sort out your head: The key to dealing with the hangover headache is water. People try all sorts of remedies—from an aspirin before bedtime to lime, ginger and the like—but the real solution is very simple. Doctors, in fact, warn against taking aspirin with alcohol as it can lead to liver damage.
Besides, aspirin is ineffective against a hangover headache simply because it is caused by a different mechanism: Dehydration due to all that alcohol actually causes fluid to collect in the brain. Paracetamol is slightly better. Best bet: Simply drink lots of water to flush out the alcohol and restore fluid balance. Drink a bottleful before bedtime, drink some more when you wake up.
• Morning-after settlers: Although the temptation for coffee will be strong, steer clear of caffeine in the morning, as well as citrus juices, which will aggravate acidity. Instead, opt for lots of water, green tea and bananas for breakfast. Lemon tea with honey and ginger is good for the queasiness too. Biting into a piece of ginger works for some people. Kunal Khanna, 36, director, Pooja Beverages Food Pvt. Ltd, Mumbai, says an aloe juice shot or aloe tablet with a cold glass of milk makes him feel like a million bucks the morning after. However queasy you may feel, start the next morning afresh by having a good breakfast as it gives you calories to combat the day.
• Walk it off: Make sure you work out the next day. Exercise loosens up your muscles, and a walk in the fresh morning air will help clear up your head faster.
• Later, lunch: Having foods that soothe the stomach, such as rice and curd, for lunch is a good idea. So is soup, which you could also have earlier in the day, as an excellent hangover remedy.
Facing up to the morning
Is your face puffy, eyes bloodshot? Cosmetic cures are not found only in a woman’s make-up bag. Try these:
• Splash your face with cold water 15-20 times. Alcohol can dehydrate the skin badly, so make sure to wash your face with cold water and moisturize well at night. Repeat in the morning.
• Apply cold eye pads—preferably cucumber slices and rose water, or cold milk soaked in cotton.
• Make sure you get your five servings of fruit and vegetable over breakfast and lunch, to keep your skin fortified against visible damage.
Get better in bed
After attending a party, it is difficult to fall asleep. Manvir Bhatia, neurologist and sleep specialist, tells you how to squeeze in some after-party shut-eye.
• Sleep with your pillow elevated to lessen puffiness in the face.
• Try and party only on Saturdays or days when you know you can go to work a little late, and indulge in a lie-in. If you can’t do this, try to compensate with a mid-afternoon power nap in your cabin or car, when you shut off the mobile phone, computer and all other distractions for 15 minutes.
• Get an extra half an hour’s sleep while being driven to work and back; take a cab if you usually drive yourself.
Experts: Naini Setalvad, Mumbai-based nutritionist and obesity consultant; Ritika Samaddar, head dietician, Max Healthcare, New Delhi; Sangeeta Amladi, head–medical, Kaya Skin Clinic; Manvir Bhatia, neurologist and sleep specialist, New Delhi; and Rajiv Khosla, consultant gastroenterologist, Holy Family Hospital, New Delhi.
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