While our friends in the States probably ring in the New Year with kale smoothies and baby yoga, New Year's Eve here in the UK is synonymous with one thing and pretty much one thing only: getting absolutely bladdered. Whether you're going to an all-night rave, hitting up a house party, or just enjoying a few beverages with friends and family down the pub, the danger is that your New Year's Eve revelry translates into a raging hangover on January 1st.
While it's obviously acceptable to be hungover on New Year's Day, it's not exactly fun. But fortunately, getting drunk and avoiding a hangover is something we've got a fair bit of experience with here at Giz UK.
A slight disclaimer on the above sentence: if you're looking to totally avoid a hangover, all you can actually do is know your limits and not drink too much. If you drink too much, you will feel shit – this is a fact and one of the few useful things they teach at universities these days. However, we can certainly help you soften the blow of your hangover, as it were, with a few tips, tricks, and useful tools.
Prepping For Your Piss Up
If you know you're going out on the lash for New Year's Eve, it's important to prepare yourself adequately, as quite simply, you're planning on poisoning your body all night long. Two things are absolutely vital here: sleep and food.
Let's start with sleep. You might have noticed that, when you're already tired and you're drinking to 'power through', you inevitably get drunk faster and feel worse the next day. This is because tiredness and drunkenness manifest themselves in similar ways, so when you're sleepy, you can basically count yourself as already half-cut. Adding alcohol to the equation amplifies its effect, as boffins at the University of Rochester explain:
General fatigue or tiredness will lead to a higher BAC than normal as one's liver is less efficient at processing and/or eliminating alcohol when one's general energy level is low. Furthermore, as alcohol is a depressant, consuming alcohol when tired will, in general, simply increase one's level of tiredness while magnifying alcohol's traditional effects.
The learnings here are pretty damn simple: go easy and get enough sleep the night before (you're planning a late night on New Year's Eve, so ditch the six-to-eight hours-is-fine logic and aim for a good 10 hours of kip). This year, New Year's Eve falls on Thursday 31st December, so ditch any boozy Wednesday plans and beg, borrow and steal to finally get some fucking tickets to see the new Star Wars.
Now, on to food. Drinking on an empty stomach is a terrible, terrible idea. After you've had a quality sleep (our friends at Lifehacker UK have shedloads of sleep tips, if you sometimes struggle to get a good snooze), you've got an entire day to prep your body for the onslaught of beer, Champagne, wine, sambuca, tequila, blow, pills, and crystal meth it's facing.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
Start with a big, hearty breakfast. Complex carbohydrates are, like alcohol, absorbed primarily in the small intestine, so you're not just 'lining your stomach' you're lining the right part of your stomach. Fuel up with a breakfast of whole-wheat toast, or porridge, but don't stop there. You also want something more substantial in there, like ham, eggs and chips, or a good fry-up. Proteins and fats take longer to digest, so they'll stay with you longer and continue to work their anti-spins magic.
But it's not just breakfast you need to worry about. Keep eating throughout the day, following the same rules: lot of complex carbs, proteins, and fats. Cheeseburgers are a superfood when it comes to the UK national sport of binge drinking and make an ideal meal directly pre-pissup.
Pacing Your Pissup
Let's stick with the whole 'sport' as a metaphor for binge drinking just a little bit longer. If binge drinking is a sport, it's a marathon rather a sprint; an entire knockout tournament, not just the big final match. File under 'the bleeding obvious' if you like, but drinking across an entire evening (or entire day and evening) has to be approached as an endurance event if you want to avoid a hangover.
This means pacing yourself, monitoring your alcohol intake, and knowing when it feels like you've had enough. All of which is totally easy, provided you're also in the running for a fucking sainthood. For the rest of us, there's always going to be the temptation for 'just one more pint' or to get in a cheeky round of shots after we've had a few drinks. Now, the simplest way to avoid a Herculean New Year's Day hangover is to stick to one drink (or one type of drink, e.g. 'wines' or 'cocktails') and alternate with glasses of water, but that's all a bit NHS Choices for our liking.
Instead, try to drink strategically. Avoid darker drinks like red wine and whisky, which have more toxins and impurities than lighter drinks (tannins, which many red wine wankers actually hold in great esteem, are one of these chemicals), is a great start. Gin and vodka-based drinks are your bezzies here, as they have the least impurities. Beer can also be your friend: generally speaking, a pint of 4% lager will take longer to drink than a teeny-weeny G&T or a soupçon of champagne, so you're sort of tricking yourself into pacing your drinking. Plus, because it's carbonated, it makes you feel full faster (though this can be a double-edged sword and encourage you to get on the shots).
If you're hellbent on downing 12 drinks on New Year's Eve, making sure they're adequately spread out over the duration of the binge can be the difference between waking up feeling slightly foggy on 1 January, and spending the first half of New Year's Day with your head over a bog.
If you really love them, try and keep shots and darker drinks to a minimum - a nice whisky to round out the night won't necessarily spell D-E-A-T-H the next day, but three or four almost certainly will. If you have trouble keeping up with your drinks but want to set yourself a firm limit (and actually plan on sticking to it), there are loads of drink counting apps available. IntelliDrink PRO (£2.29) is probably the most sophisticated for iOS, while Alcohol Calculator for Android (free) is simple yet effective and even factors in your pace of drinking to its readings. Alternatively, just stick a pen in your coat pocket and mark the back of your hand every time you have a drink.
Finally, and we're going to have to sound like your bloody GP here, but do try and guzzle down plenty of water as well. In part, a hangover is the result of alcohol having totally dehydrated your body, so at the very least, drink a few glasses before bed. Vitamin B is also known to help your body rehydrate faster, so another popular 'trick' for reducing the ill-effects of heavy drinking is to pop some (healthy) pills - either before you start your bout, or right before bed. A slice of burnt toast before bed is another popular home hangover 'remedy', and for the following day, it's basically a case of rinse and repeat if you do end up feeling a bit foggy: plenty of water, some food loaded with carbs, protein and fat (a bacon and egg sandwich on seeded bread kicks the shit out of quinoa any day), and maybe a vitamin B supplement.
That's really all you can do. If you prep your body ahead of your New Year's Eve binge, choose your drinks strategically, pace yourself through the session, drink some water, and maybe turbo-charge your recovery with some vitamins, you'll be well on your way to as pain-free a New Year's Day as possible.
Happy partying readers! Share your tips for avoiding hangovers in the comments below (or just slag us off one last time this year) and see you in 2016!