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Avoid a post-Super Bowl hangover

Consumer Reports News: February 02, 2013 12:38 PM

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For many people (me included), football and beer go together like peanut butter and jelly. That's especially true on Super Bowl Sunday, when beer ads rule the commercial breaks. This year, Anheuser-Busch Inbev, maker of Budweiser, has purchased four and a half minutes of air time, including two spots for its new beer, Budweiser Black Crown. Of course, with all the emphasis on booze, both on and in front of the TV, Super Bowl Sunday is often followed by hangover Monday.

The best way to prevent that is not to overindulge in the first place. But if you're among the many of us who plan to imbibe, these strategies (coupled with a good dose of moderation) can help keep you from waking up on Monday morning with a hangover.

DO: Eat before you drink. Alcohol enters the bloodstream more slowly when your body has a meal to digest, which reduces the chance that your blood-alcohol level will spike to levels that will leave you miserable afterward. A meal with some fat in it is ideal since it takes longer for the body to digest. A slice of pizza, a turkey sandwich with cheese, or crackers with peanut butter are all good options.

DON'T: Count on a late-night greasefest to soak up the alcohol. The food has to be in your system before you start drinking to help. Not only will gorging once you're already drunk not prevent a hangover, but it might give you a stomachache to boot.

DO: Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water or other nonalcoholic liquids along with whatever libations you're enjoying, as well as afterward. One useful strategy is to alternate one alcoholic drink with a glass of plain water or club soda. This offers double hangover protection since it both decreases your overall alcohol load and helps prevent dehydration, which contributes to hangovers.

DON'T: Count on hangover "cures." With names like Drinkin' Mate, PartySmart, and RU-21, these pills claim to prevent or treat hangovers, usually with a mix of vitamins and herbs or activated carbon. There's even an adhesive patch, Bytox, that claims to prevent hangovers by pumping B vitamins through your skin while you drink. But there's been very little research on them, and the few studies that are available are generally small, company-funded, not controlled, and not published. An independent review published in 2010 by researchers in the Netherlands found little supporting evidence for remedies purported to reduce the severity of hangover symptoms. (A notable exception is the Food and Drug Administration-approved product Blowfish, discussed below.)

DO: Take a real pain reliever if you need it. Aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil and generic) can ease a next-day headache, if your stomach can handle it. Products that combine an anti-inflammatory like aspirin or ibuprofen with caffeine—including Bayer AM and Blowfish, both approved by the FDA specifically for relief of hangover symptoms—might be especially helpful. Avoid acetaminophen (Tylenol and generic) if you're a heavy drinker, since the combination can cause liver damage.

DON'T: Go the hair-of-the-dog route. The old strategy of treating a hangover with more booze the next day might bring temporary relief by bringing your blood-alcohol level back up to earlier levels, since hangover symptoms start when the BAC level begins to drop a few hours after you finish drinking (and peak when it reaches zero). But you're in for the same or worse pain down the road when that morning Bloody Mary leaves your system.

And if you want advice on what to drink, see which regular and light beers came out on top in our most-recent tests. Read our wine buying guide and (for subscribers) Ratings of a wide range of reds and whites.

Jamie Kopf

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