Unless you’re a fresh-faced 21-year-old, you know you need to eat a good meal before a night of drinking. You may have even neglected this golden rule from time to time and felt the consequences of getting too drunk too fast and the subsequent hangover. No one wants to be that overly drunk guy or deal with the backlash of the next day’s hangover, but if there’s little to nothing in your stomach, the alcohol heads straight for your bloodstream and the effects can be almost immediate.
Without food in the stomach to slow down its progression, the alcohol moves through the stomach, kidneys, lungs, liver, and the brain. About 20% of the alcohol you drink passes through the stomach and reaches the brain within a minute. While you experience a pleasant, temporary flush or feelings of warmth, your body is already dealing with the effects of alcohol.
To avoid being the guy who can’t stand up and to make sure you make it to work the next morning, it’s safe advice to eat before you drink. The question is: What foods should you eat and what foods should you avoid? Here’s what you don’t want to eat before a night of heavy drinking.
1. Salty snacks
Even though it keeps you rushing to the bar bathroom, alcohol dehydrates your body. Like caffeine, alcohol is a diuretic, so it increases the amount of urine the body produces while blocking the release of a hormone that is needed for water absorption. Unless you gulp down a glass of water between pints, you’ll find yourself hungover the next morning. Salty snacks like popcorn, chips, and nuts only make you thirstier, leading you to reach for another drink, which in turn dehydrates your body further. To beat dehydration, eat foods that are water-based like fruits and vegetables (cucumbers and watermelon are particularly good).
2. Spicy foods
Just like those extra spicy buffalo wings, Indian curries, or tomato-based sauces can aggravate your stomach on a normal day, when you drink the effect only increases. Alcohol loosens up the muscles that keep your food and digestive juices down where they should be. Consuming spicy, acidic foods in combination with alcohol can actually provoke acid reflux and heartburn.
How many times has your diet, conscience, or partner suggested you reach for a salad instead of a juicy hamburger? This is one time when salads should be avoided. While the nutrients and fiber in those leafy greens are hard to pass up, eating a simple salad is almost as bad as going out drinking on a completely empty stomach. Vegetables move through your body quickly, so if you’re set on a salad throw on some protein like chicken, nuts, or tuna. Protein takes longer to digest and will slow down the rise of your blood alcohol level.
It may sound like the perfect, guilt-free way to start your evening, but sushi is not your friend before a night of boozing. Not only does raw fish not pair well with shots — or getting sick, should the night go that way — but the soy sauce you dunk your rolls in is packed with salt, which speeds up your dehydration levels endangering you to a nasty hangover complete with your fair share of painful headaches.