In the rhythmic, cranial throbbing that is the dread poetry of a hangover, there’s one desperately repeated whisper: “Quick fix. Quick fix. Dear god, quick fix.”
Whether it’s alcohol that’s still in our system or some kind of bargaining/denial borrowed from the five stages of grief, we hungover scoundrels tend to wish for an instant cure-all. And the formula is near universal: Gatorade (for electrolytes), a couple of aspirin, and yes, the oversize order of greasy food that seems to be the essential, magical ingredient in post-boozing recovery.
But is it really? Does that bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich actually do anything for you after a night of liquid stupid? Not at all. In fact, it makes it worse.
The truth is, eating anything at all before drinking is your best bet, since it’ll slow the absorption of alcohol and prevent you from getting drunk beyond the point of good judgment. (Some nutritionists recommend eating super healthy, to jack your body up with vitamins and amino acids. That said, it seems unlikely that any of us will pregame with kale salad.)
It’s not all bad news. Eating greasy food before drinking is particularly helpful because the fat in the food will actually coat the lining of your stomach, which may sound kinda gross but can keep you from getting sloppy, and about eight hours later, hungover. There’s even a trick they used in the Mediterranean—“swallowing a spoonful of olive oil,” according to WebMD. The same basic principle applies, oil coating your stomach and intestines, slowing the absorption of alcohol. Though it might be less fun than, say, eating three slices of pepperoni pizza.
But the all important question: what about eating greasy food after drinking? Turns out whatever comfort we get from that is psychological, at best. Grease, contrary to popular belief, won’t absorb the alcohol (especially if you slept before eating—your body already absorbed it). Not only that, but if you’ve ever woken up with an upset stomach kind of hangover, greasy food’s only gonna make it worse.
Not that you shouldn’t eat after a night of drinking. Stephanie Brooks, an MS, RD, and nutrition consultant recommends “any kind of food,” but more so foods with nutrients, things that’ll actually provide electrolytes, which are “key to replenish[ing] the body after dehydration” (which is, we should note, the General and Commander in the bodily assault that is the hangover). Rather than that burger or egg sandwich—which for some reason our bodies seem to crave—Brooks recommends chowing down on something slightly more nutritional.
Of course, you could always couple your egg sandwich with a Gatorade and call it even, not just because, according to at least one imbiber, eggs have amino acids “that assist liver detoxification.” And detoxification after a night of drinking—and let’s face it, the holidays are about to hit us like a hurricane of tinseled emotion—is something we should all probably put on the menu.
(PS–not to bum everyone out, but hair of the dog is a bad idea, too. It’ll help soften the pain for about a minute, then leave you feeling more dehydrated than ever.)