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Will Drinking Water Prevent a Hangover?


Water Prevents Hangovers

Most people have heard at some point that drinking plenty of water is the key to hangover prevention. But will keeping a bottle of water on hand throughout the night actually prevent a hangover? There is no simple “Yes” or “No” answer. It depends on how dehydrated you are when you start drinking and how much alcohol you consume.

It is important to know that even though dehydration does contribute to hangover symptoms; it is NOT the main cause of a hangover. When you drink alcohol, it is metabolized to a toxin called acetaldehyde in your liver. Research shows acetaldehyde is 10-30 times more toxic than alcohol itself. [1] Symptoms of acetaldehyde poisoning include sensitivity to light, nausea/vomiting, and headaches.

Most of us have spent at least one morning bent over the toilet vomiting. I guarantee you this was not caused by dehydration. It was caused by having too much acetaldehyde in your system. This isn’t to say that dehydration doesn’t play a role, but it isn’t the primary cause.

How Much Does Alcohol Dehydrate You?

Everyone’s body is different, and the following answer will not be spot on for everyone. The following is just to provide a basic idea of how much alcohol dehydrates you. A single gram of alcohol causes you to lose approximately 10ml of urine. This probably doesn’t mean anything to you so let’s put it in terms that are easier to understand.

You must first understand that a single 12oz beer (of 4.3% alcohol) or a 1.5oz shot (of 35% alcohol) contains approximately 10 grams of alcohol. What this means is that one beer or one shot causes you to lose an additional 100ml of urine, or 3.3 ounces.

This means in order to produce an entire beers (12oz) worth of extra urine you must drink 3.5 beers. It also means the amount of extra urine lost by drinking 10 beers/shots (1000ml) could be recuperated by drinking two normally sized (16.9oz, or 500ml) bottled waters. Drinking some of the water at the beginning of your night and throughout is more effective at preventing hangover than drinking the water as soon as you wake up. This is because even though half of the water you drink is absorbed by your body within 11-13 minutes, it can take up to two hours to absorb the rest. [2]

What Role Does Dehydration Play in Hangovers?

Another question we should be asking ourselves is “How do hangover symptoms compare to symptoms of dehydration.” The following table shows you the 7 most common hangover symptoms compares to the most common symptoms of dehydration as taken from MayoClinic.com:

Hangover Dehydration Symptoms

As you can see, headaches and thirst and the most commonly shared symptoms. Being dehydrated from drinking can make your headaches much more severe, will leave you craving a tall glass of water, and cause you to feel sluggish the next morning. However, the nausea and sensitivity to light people commonly experience has nothing to do with dehydration.

So while drinking water alone won't prevent all hangovers, being dehydrated will only exacerbate hangover symptoms. It's always a good idea to stay hydrated while drinking, especially if especially important if you were dehydrated before you started your night of binge drinking.




Cited Studies

  1. 1. Protection against Acetaldehyde Toxicity in the rat byl-cysteine, thiamin andl-2-Methylthiazolidine-4-carboxylic acid
  2. 2. http://sweatscience.com/how-quickly-is-water-absorbed-after-you-drink-it/

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