Alcohol is not inherently bad for you, but it can have negative effects when consumed in excess.
However, some studies show that moderate drinkers live longer than non-drinkers, and that even heavy drinkers live longer than non-drinkers.
While we certainly don’t recommend drinking heavily, a few glasses of dark beer or red wine can provide some powerful benefits, partially due to their high polyphenol content.
If you are going to have a few extra drinks though, there are a handful of simple things you can do to greatly decrease the damage to your body.
These three tips on how to reduce alcohol effect can make you feel great even after drinking.
1. Eat foods high in saturated fat and salt during and after drinking
One of the main reasons alcohol can be damaging is because of the intermediary by-product, acetaldehyde, which is highly unstable and easily interacts with other unstable molecules in your body to create free radicals and oxidative damage.
By far the most abundant unstable molecules in your body are the polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) that have multiple double bonds that are easily broken and can wreck havoc on your metabolism and liver health.
Eating saturated fat helps minimize the interaction of acetaldehyde with PUFA, leading to less oxidative stress and inflammation.
Since alcohol also depletes your blood mineral levels, particularly sodium, eating something fatty and salty goes a long way towards preventing damage.
Think steak or cheeseburger, but remember to avoid anything with polyunsaturated fats!
2. Take extra vitamin C and B1
Since acetaldehyde + PUFAs = oxidative stress, extra vitamin C (the primary antioxidant) can alleviate the damage.
The antioxidant system in the body consists primarily of vitamin E (for fat soluble oxidants), vitamin C (for water-soluble oxidants) and glutathione (the final step in neutralizing any free radical).
Since the main issue with alcohol is the inflammation and oxidative stress from the unstable acetaldehyde (which is water-soluble), taking more vitamin C can go a long way in preventing the damage. Including more vitamin E and glutathione can also help.
In addition, alcohol depletes vitamin B1 (thiamine), and alcoholism is one of the main contributors to thiamine deficiency.
Thiamine is incredibly important for cellular respiration and metabolism; so extra vitamin B1 will help prevent any deficiencies that alcohol consumption can cause.
3. Avoid eating excess protein after drinking alcohol
Usually, protein gets used for building muscles, enzymes and other tissue structures in your body.
But when you consume an excess of protein all at once, whatever your body can’t use or store in the amino acid pool will get converted to glucose by a process called gluconeogenesis.
This process produces ammonia as a by-product, which is a harmful metabolite in excess.
Under normal conditions, a healthy liver is very capable of converting this ammonia into urea to be excreted by your kidneys (which is where the term “urine” comes from), but when your liver is bogged down with processing alcohol, it will have a hard time performing this process.
This of course leads to elevated ammonia levels which causes fatigue, headaches, and high blood pressure. All of which contribute to the cascade that results in a typical hangover.
This doesn’t happen within normal amounts of protein intake, but if you’re on a steady high protein diet and then consume something like a protein shake with 50 grams of protein, you’ll ramp up gluconeogenesis, and therefore ammonia production.
Some protein is fine, just consume it with fat or carbs and don’t go overboard. A protein shake by itself after drinking is often a recipe for a hangover.
Alcohol doesn’t have to be damaging
Alcohol in moderation can have many health benefits, not only from the polyphenols in red wine and dark beer, but also from the slight stimulating effect alcohol can have on the liver.
It’s only once you start overdoing the alcohol and surpassing your body’s ability to handle the oxidative stress and vitamin depletion that problems arise.
Luckily, trying to minimize effects of alcohol is easy:
- Consume saturated fat and sodium before or during drinking
- Supplement with vitamin C and vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- Avoid eating excess protein when a lot of alcohol is in your system
With these simple steps, you’ll stop the damage in its tracks and wake up feeling right as rain.