These are the basics of my hangover prevention strategy. For the complete breakdown of the research behind each compound as well as a deep dive into the physiology of alcohol, take a look at this post.
Drinking Rules (More Like Guidelines)
- Drink clear alcohols such as gin or vodka
- Minimize sugar content of drinks
- Stick to naturally sourced wine – it has far fewer toxic, hangover inducing compounds.
- Drink 1 full glass of water per drink of alcohol. Dissolve some celtic sea salt in it to replenish electrolytes.
- Drink on a full stomach (lowers impact on total Blood Alcohol Concentration by ~40%, speeds up processing).
- Keep it less than the Hangover Threshold
- 1g / kg bodyweight
- Each drink has ~14g ethanol
- For me this is ~4.5 drinks
- Try to finish drinking at least 1-2 hours before bed to lower impact on sleep.
- Take supplement stack to destroy hangover in its tracks.
The Composite Supplements - Easy Version
For those who don’t feel like buying 10 different bottles of supplements and carrying them all around with you, some of these composite blends are a reasonable alternative. The problem with them is that while they technically contain many of the useful compounds, the dosages are small enough that it’s debatable whether or not they’ll have any impact whatsoever (e.g. CareFree Hangover has 60mg Milk Thistle, whereas the studies used 200mg/kg. That’s an order of magnitude difference in dosing).
Life Extension Anti-Alcohol – Trusted brand, contains some of the below alongside some general anti-inflammatory compounds.
LES Labs DeToxx – Electrolytes, B vitamins, Prickly Pear, Milk Thistle, NAC. A solid combo all around.
CareFree Hangover – B vitamins, DHM, Milk Thistle, Prickly Pear, NAC, Red Ginseng, Mg… probably the best ingredients list that I’ve seen, but I’d like to find some type of independent lab testing for purity.
The Full Stack
For best effect these should be taken at least 30 minutes before starting to drink, but not more than 2 hours beforehand. The advantage of getting them individually is that it’s possible to get the clinically proven dosages.
- Prickly Pear Extract: Source Naturals – Nopal Endurance. This is the precise patented extract used in the studies for hangover prevention.
- Japanese Raisin Tree Fruit Extract: Dihydromyricetin – Note that this has the potential to actually reduce alcohol’s effect on the brain, and thus for those who like the feeling it might be best to take post-drinking to only get it’s anti-hangover effects.
- Red Ginseng – speeds up alcohol processing and lowers hangover symptoms. This has been shown to increase plasma acetaldehyde, so I would recommend pairing it with at least NAC to help mitigate any extra toxicity. 4. It is possible that the greatest anti-inflammatory effect may require doses of ~75mg/kg5(which comes out to ~4.5g for me).
- N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) – A glutathione precursor and one of the most commonly recommended supplements for hangover support, I used to be 100% sold on this. Subjectively, it seems to help. However, after doing a deep literature drive it seems like the only real clinical evidence for its helping with hangovers is one mouse study 6. The biochemistry also seems to check out, as we know that alcohol depletes glutathione79. For now I’m still keeping it in my stack, but be very careful to only take this in advance of drinking rather than at the end of the evening (when it actually might make things worse).
- Vitamin C – One of your body’s primary antioxidants. One study with guinea-pigs fed alcohol showed that those with the highest tissue concentration of vitamin C proved to have significantly decreased residual levels of ethanol and acetaldehyde in the liver and the brain. In contrast, other studies have shown that chronic alcohol use tends to lower Vitamin C levels.1112https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8317379[/efn_note]. (NOTE: I buy it in powdered form because it’s the best bang for buck and I like the taste when adding it to my smoothies.)
- Vitamin B Complex – B vitamins are depleted by alcohol consumption, as well as being involved in glutathione recycling and neurotransmitter production.
- Green Tea Extract – Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory. I take this one when drinking in the evening, both for its quality and because it is decaffeinated. Given the large body of evidence pointing towards its being super healthy overall, I also like to buy it in bulk powdered form and add it to my morning smoothie.
- Milk Thistle Extract – Silymarin – Attenuates most hangover symptoms by almost 40%. I like this version because of its high concentration, and the studies use doses of 200mg/kg bodyweight.
- Magnesium Malate – Alcohol specifically causes your body to excrete magnesium, so it’s generally a good idea to replace what is lost. I like malate because it’s best for mitochondrial function / energy production, but glycinate is also pretty solid (and one of the more bioavailable versions, unlike citrate).
- Curcumin – naturally found in turmeric, curcumin is one of nature’s most powerful anti-inflammatories and thus does a fantastic job at alleviating the inflammation-induced hangover symptoms.
- Siberian Ginseng – Eleutherococcus senticosus – It doesn't have any impact on blood alcohol concentration (BAC), but alcohol's effect on glucose and C-reactive protein (CRP) level was significantly attenuated by PEA, and hangover symptoms were reduced. 3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26012258
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1930162/[/efn_note], and that NAC boosts glutathione production in the case of depleted stores8https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF00609183?LI=true
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9706998[/efn_note]. Vitamin C supplementation has been shown to increase glutathione levels when there is a pre-existing Vitamin C deficiency 10https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12499341