Hangover Prevention: Why Do Electrolytes Matter?

“I love hangovers!” said no one, ever. Hangovers are the worst, and if you’ve had one, then you know exactly what we’re talking about. Headaches, chills, upset stomach, and the shakes are all dreaded effects of alcohol known too well by those who like to indulge in alcoholic drinks every once in a while. But, what exactly causes these next-morning hangover symptoms, and what can we do to prevent them? Are electrolytes important for a hangover cure or a hangover prevention, and if so, why?

What is a Hangover, Anyway?

A hangover is a set of unpleasant symptoms that often develop the next day after excess alcohol consumption. 

Although they can vary from person to person, typical hangover symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Excessive thirst
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Increased blood pressure

While there are multiple causes for these awful symptoms, dehydration tends to be the main culprit.

What is Dehydration?

Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluid than what you take in. This imbalance disrupts the normal levels of salts - or electrolytes - that are present in the blood, which can interfere with the way your body functions. This is why common hangover remedies like chugging a sports drink or coconut water can help--they both hydrate you and can also help to replenish the electrolytes that last night's red wine flushed on out. 

Alcohol is a diuretic which means it is a substance that dehydrates your body and causes frequent urination. So with that in mind, it's a no-brainer why heavy drinking causes dehydration.

What are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are essential minerals that have been dissolved into your body’s fluids, including your body's water and blood. Once they dissolve, they form electrically charged particles called ions. 

Electrolytes have many functions and are required for various bodily processes, some of which include:

  • Moving nutrients into your cells
  • Moving wastes out of your cells
  • Balancing your body’s acid/base (pH) level
  • Balancing water levels
  • Supporting healthy nerves, muscles, heart and brain function

Although there are a handful of minerals that are found in your body, the primary electrolytes that you tend to lose from a wild night of drinking include sodium, potassium, and magnesium.

Sodium (Na+)

One of the most important minerals of the bunch is sodium. This electrolyte has many important functions:

  • Regulates fluid balance
  • Helps conduct nerve impulses
  • Increases the absorption of certain nutrients through the gut
  • Promotes the release of the hormone vasopressin
  • Helps to regulate blood pressure

Have you ever noticed that your sweat tastes a little on the salty side? This is because sweat is made up of salt and water. When you sweat from dancing the night away and throwing back one too many shots of tequila, your body naturally releases the electrolyte sodium, which can lead to dehydration if you don't properly replenish.

Potassium (K+)

Potassium is a critical mineral that plays a huge role in cell production. It also helps to conduct electricity and is needed in order for your heart to function properly. In addition, this crucial electrolyte is also necessary for muscle contraction, particularly the contractions of your intestinal tract. Low blood levels of potassium caused by excessive drinking can make you feel weak and cause muscle soreness and stomach upset.

Magnesium

Last on the list but certainly not least is magnesium. Arguably one of the most important electrolytes, this super mineral is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body.This mineral has many functions, such as:

  • Aids in energy (ATP) production
  • Builds bones
  • Contributes to DNA synthesis
  • Regulating blood sugar levels
  • Supports muscles like the heart to contract

Magnesium levels are easily disrupted when you consume alcohol and can leave your entire body off balance. In fact, some of the most awful hangover symptoms are due to a loss of this crucial mineral, such as high blood pressure, fatigue, and muscle weakness.

Electrolyte Supplements

Sodium, potassium, and magnesium are common electrolytes that your body naturally loses when you sweat, but also while you're battling toxins introduced to your body from alcohol absorption. The good news is that one of the easiest ways to replenish these electrolytes and defeat that nasty hangover is simply with hydrating electrolyte supplements like the ones found at Adapted Nutrition

Adapted Nutrition is an exceptional company that believes supplementation should be made using top-quality and clean ingredients that come from natural sea minerals for rapid rehydration. They offer their electrolyte supplements in a powder, concentrate, and capsule form, making it easier than ever to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to support your active lifestyle and keep hangover symptoms at bay.

So, How Do You Prevent a Hangover?

The only surefire way to not get a hangover is simply by keeping an eye on how much you drink. 

However, chugging a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage is a great way to combat dehydration.  It will make things a lot more bearable when rolling out of bed in the morning so you won't have to reach for those over-the-counter hangover pills or pain relievers like Advil (ibuprofen), which really only temporarily relieve symptoms instead of actually making you better. On that note, the whole "hair of the dog" hangover remedy, which tries to combat the side effects of high blood alcohol levels with more absorption of alcohol, isn't something we, or anyone else, really recommends. One thing that does help is taking a multivitamin loaded with B vitamins, since alcohol consumption can interfere with your body’s absorption of the always-vital vitamin B complex of nutrients.  

Speaking of bed, getting enough sleep after a long night of drinking can also help to lessen symptoms associated with a hangover. In addition, you should also try to eat a meal loaded with healthy nutrients prior to consuming any alcoholic beverages so your body doesn't absorb the alcohol as quickly as it would on an empty stomach. 

Also, be sure to take an electrolyte supplement like Hi-Lyte Concentrate while you’re drinking and the next morning for rapid rehydration. Whip up a nutritional breakfast loaded with healthy carbs and natural sugar like toast with honey to help boost your blood sugar levels. Although it might be tough, try your best to limit the amount of coffee you drink because just like alcohol, caffeine is a natural diuretic.

A Final Thought

Hangovers are terrible. Throbbing headaches, upset stomach, and dizziness are all symptoms that come directly from drinking alcohol--don't worry, your body is only temporarily mad at you! Although there is no magic solution to immediately get rid of your hangover, replenishing your body with the electrolytes sodium, potassium, and magnesium can help, in addition to drinking lots of water. If you are planning for a wild evening of cocktails with your pals, don’t forget to stay hydrated throughout the night!

Sources:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/blood-pressure/faq-20058254#:~:text=Drinking%20too%20much%20alcohol%20can,lead%20to%20long%2Dterm%20increases.
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/why-is-sweat-salty#:~:text=Within%20watery%20eccrine%20sweat%20fluid,makes%20your%20sweat%20taste%20salty.
  3. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002423.htm#:~:text=Function&text=Magnesium%20is%20needed%20for%20more,helps%20adjust%20blood%20glucose%20levels.