Hangover Prevention: Why Electrolytes Matter and How They Can Help

It doesn’t matter if you are 21 or 101 – nobody enjoys getting a hangover after alcohol consumption, whether it's red wine or tequila.  An evening of heavy drinking can lead to the production of toxic substances, sweating, vomiting, increased heart rate, poor quality of sleep, and leave us with the hangover symptoms of headaches, nausea, and fatigue that we all know so well the morning after a night of excessive drinking.  The disorienting symptoms leave us reaching for any remedy to quickly get us back on track and on with our day! 

It is a misconception that hangovers are just a result of dehydration and that water is the best way to hydrate after a wild night. Many people reach for Gatorade, Pedialyte, or Powerade to offer some relief, but wind up spiking their blood sugar, exacerbating symptoms. 

If you are interested in learning more about hangover prevention and the importance of electrolytes, then fasten your seatbelts and keep reading! In this article we will explore the effects of alcohol on your body, what electrolytes are, why they matter and how they can help. 

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Alcohol and its Effects on The Body

“I am never drinking again!” is a common statement upon waking up from a crazy night of throwing back one too many shooters and sipping on colorful, sugar-rimmed cocktails. If you have experienced a hangover, then you know firsthand how debilitating they can be. Headaches, muscle aches, body aches – the list of aches go on and on... but what causes them? 

Hangover symptoms and the associated “aches” we feel are due to alcohol intake impacting the body in three notable ways: vasopressin reduction, acetaldehyde production and congener ingestion.

Vasopressin Reduction

Alcoholic drinks cause your brain to slow down the production of vasopressin, which is a hormone that tells your body to retain water. When vasopressin is decreased, your body naturally stops holding as much fluid and starts sending it directly to your bladder.  This is why you may notice that you take more frequent bathroom breaks during a crazy night of drinking!  However the fluids that are sent to your bladder are not just from what you are drinking, but also from what is currently stored inside your body. 

As you drink more, you reduce vasopressin production further, which causes additional water to flush out of your system.  When this happens, your body becomes dehydrated and goes into survival mode to ration out the water. Your heart and lungs are extremely important, so your body naturally focuses on rationing water to those systems, while the brain may start to suffer.  With less water, the brain volume decreases, putting pressure on various structures.  This can contribute to your throbbing headache come sunrise.

Acetaldehyde Production

While all of this is happening, your liver goes into panic mode and produces acetaldehyde – which is a highly toxic substance that can cause vomiting, headaches, nausea, delirium, hallucinations, drowsiness, and loss of intelligence. Normally, we can handle some acetaldehyde in moderation, but we only have so much of the processing enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. When we drink too much, too fast, the enzymes get overwhelmed and can't process all of it quickly enough. 

Congeners

Fermenting alcohol creates “congeners,” which is a combination of other substances aside from ethanol. Many substances that make up congeners are toxic, and it has been shown that the more congeners in a drink, the more they aggravate your hangover. Darker alcohols like wine and whiskey tend to have more congeners than clear alcohols like vodka, so they produce worse hangovers

This is why mixing alcohols will make your hangover even more unbearable. Different alcohols are made with different congeners, so the more types of alcohol you have, the more toxic substances you consume.

What are Electrolytes

Electrolytes are minerals that help to regulate a wide variety of your body’s most essential functions, including pH balance, nerve signaling, hydration and muscle contraction. In order to carry out these critical functions, your body relies on primarily six electrolytes:

  • Sodium – plays an essential role in fluid retention, nerve transmission, muscle function.
  • Potassium – potassium and sodium work together to maintain water balance, nerve transmission, and acid/base (pH) balance.
  • Calcium – everyone knows that calcium is important for strong bones, but this super electrolyte is also crucial for neurotransmission, muscle contraction, hormone secretion, and blood clotting.
  • Magnesium – promotes good quality sleep, enzyme activity, muscle function, cell function and nerve signaling.
  • Chloride – similar to sodium and helps to retain water in the body to combat dehydration.
  • Phosphate – helps to build and repair bones, enables nerve function, store energy, and supports muscle contraction. 

Alcohol is a diuretic meaning that it is a substance that dehydrates your body by causing frequent urination. When hungover and in a dehydrated state, this dehydration makes it very difficult for your body to flush out all of the toxins from the metabolism of your alcoholic beverages the night before. In addition, electrolytes have been lost as the body expels electrolytes out with bodily fluids.. 

Okay, so how can replacing these electrolytes help?

Since electrolytes replenish your body with the vitamins and minerals you need to expel toxins while retaining fluids, they prove to be one of the most effective hangover remedy to help kick your hangover to the curb! One of the easiest ways to replenish your electrolytes while battling a hangover is with electrolyte powders, tablets, or concentrates that mix easily into water or coconut water. Purchase from a reputable and honest company like Adapted Nutrition that provides high-quality electrolyte supplementation like their Hi-Lyte Concentrate. This super supplement was designed by nature to be potent, fast acting, and completely absorbed into the body. It is made with natural sea minerals and has three times the electrolytes of traditional sports drinks making it an exceptional option after a fun night of drinking. Whether you are preparing to go out for the night or are dealing with a wicked hangover, electrolytes can help!