My name is Stephen Pennack, I’m a fitness coach and nutritionist. I’ve been invited by the lovely team at Candra to write some articles, centered around nutrition and drinking.
This article is the second in a mini-series delving into everybody’s least favourite part of drinking; the dreaded hangover.
Last up in the Hangover series we briefly talked about the metabolic process of alcohol and the effects of the morning after, in this second part we discuss some of the common symptoms of the infamous ‘hangover’.
First up; why does drinking make us feel so tired?
Aside from all tomfoolery we get up to when boozing it up, alcohol prevents us from using our energy stores efficiently.
You’ve heard of carbs right? Pizza, pasta, bread, all the lovely food we like to eat. These are broken down into a type of sugar called glucose, by our bodies and then stored. Some of this glucose is stored within our blood steam and is readily available energy that we can utilise immediately.
There are also reserves of glucose in our liver, and the rest is stored in our muscles. This type of storage is known as something called ‘Glycogen’. Unfortunately, alcohol prevents us from accessing this store of glycogen. It also reduces the amount of glucose we try to convert from any other sources of stored fuel (like fats or proteins).
Imagine this; your blood sugars are low, you are tired from all that tomfoolery, and you are now also incredibly hungry! That late night pizza stop and a can of fizzy pop on the way home now sound incredibly appealing don’t they? It is also very tempting to opt for a delicious takeaway the day after, but having a proper meal before drinking and having a meal pre-prepared in your fridge that doesn’t require much thought may minimise this craving.
But until the alcohol wears off and blood glucose builds back up to normal, you’ll most definitely still feel sluggish and lethargic, and this in most cases will not return to normal until a day after drinking.
Second classic symptom of a hangover; Headaches. Not only does alcohol play around with our central nervous system, but it causes an increase in blood pressure and acts as a ‘diuretic’ – it forces your body to remove water, aka, ‘breaking the seal’. Less water in our system coupled with more salt is not an ideal position our bodies want to be in, so keep yourself hydrated when drinking by having a glass of water alongside every alcoholic drink, and avoid overly salted foods.
Lastly; Sickness. The body will of course try to rid itself of alcohol because it sees it as a toxin. Unfortunately before that happens and with enough of it in our system it can cause nausea, sweating, flushing of the skin and an accelerated heart rate. Sometimes the build up of alcohol is just too much for our bodies to handle and this will result in an emergency ‘ejection’ of our stomach contents!
A key thought here is just to make sure that we are not drinking on an empty stomach, and to slow down the rate at which we are absorbing this alcohol in the first place, take your time with your drinks and be wary of those shots getting passed around the bar.
Lining the stomach with things like dairy milk are a bit of a false economy, as soon as that milk wears off the alcohol will hit your system in one go. So having a balanced meal before drinking is a way to avoid the negative effects.
Next up in the final part of this mini-series; the long-term effects of alcohol consumption.
We do not claim to cure, prevent, diagnose, or treat any nutrition-related disease or health condition. Always consult a qualified healthcare professional before changing your diet or medications or exercise routine.
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