What to Eat Before, During, and After Drinking

When I mentioned to friends that I’d be looking into the truth about what to eat to avoid and aid a hangover, they were quick to offer up their own advice. “Bagels and ginger ale,” one declared assuredly. “Bacon, because the grease absorbs the alcohol,” said another, while another friend added the very entertaining, "Marijuana is actually the best cure." I say this with love, but, according to the experts, they've got it all wrong.

“Contrary to popular belief, turning to heavy carbs and greasy foods really won’t help you avoid or get over a hangover,” says Lauren Minchen, M.P.H., R.D., C.D.N. The science is simple: Even though that plate of fries might provide an upfront boost of energy, that boost is just the result of an initial spike in blood sugar, which means, of course, that an inevitable crash is not far behind. I asked Lauren to what extent the following measures can make a difference in how you feel after a long night out. While drinking is always drinking, Minchen said that after taking these steps, most of her clients report having “at most a slight headache instead of feeling like someone knocked them in the head!” I’ll take it.


If you are gearing up for a night on the town, there are a number of things you can do even before you have your first drink that will help you feel better the next day. “I recommend sticking to lean proteins, like turkey, chicken, or beef, and veggies,” Minchen says. The nutrients you are going for are amino acids in protein which help the liver detox and allow for a less severe hangover. Vitamin B, which is found in leafy greens, bright yellow and orange veggies (like bell peppers), and beets, supports both the liver and the pancreas. “So many alcholic beverages contain sources of added sugar,” Minchen points out. Whether you’re sipping a Jack and Coke or a vodka cranberry, your pancreas is hard at work pumping insulin. “The vitamin B in vegetables helps to support the pancreas,” says Minchen.


In this case, it’s not necessarily what you eat but what you drink: A glass of water between drinks is a good idea and may make the difference between a small headache the next morning and the groggy don’t-wake-me-up-EVER feeling. After the first two or three drinks, however, especially if you find yourself thinking, “Wow, tomorrow’s gonna suck,” you should actually up that to two to three glasses of water between each drink. Minchen explains, "Drinking water in between drinks helps your body to flush out the alcohol more efficiently, which can help energize you and prevent that headache-y, groggy feeling the next morning." Plus, if you drink lots of water, you will probably imbibe a bit less alcohol, which is undoubtedly the best hangover cure.


Protein and vitamin B are still key. For breakfast Minchen recommends a high-protein breakfast, like eggs, any way you like ‘em and a Virgin Mary (here’s Ina’s!). Fruits like kiwis and bananas are also great as they’re hydrating and high in vitamin B. While tomato juice is a good choice, another surprising no-no is citrus products like orange juice. “Alcohol and citrus are both irritants to the stomach lining, so orange juice after alcohol is like adding insult to injury,” Minchen advised.

Though many people try to get themselves going with a caffeine rush, Minchen recommends resisting this knee-jerk reaction. Caffeine is actually very dehydrating, and you’d do better to drink at least 2 liters of water to replenish your body!

Protein+hydration+vitamin B, and you should be feeling better soon!