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It all comes down to timing, says Aaron White, Ph.D., of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
If you wait to eat or drink water until the night is over, the damage is already done. All of the alcohol you consumed has already made its way into your body, so adding food or drink on top of it won’t affect how it’s absorbed, he explains.
However, eating a meal and drinking non-alcoholic beverages while you party might be another story.
“Having food in your stomach while drinking can reduce your peak blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) by roughly a third,” White says.
What’s more, fluid in your stomach slows the emptying of the alcohol into your small intestine, which decelerates the rate of absorption in your body. There’s no magic amount, but a good rule of thumb is to alternate a non-alcoholic drink with every glass of alcohol you down. As a result, your BAC won’t spike as high, White says.
And that’s important, because how likely you are to get a hangover depends on the level your BAC ultimately hits.
Of the 31 percent of students in the study who said they didn’t get a hangover at all or that they were “immune” to hangovers, 4 out of 5 of them had a peak BAC below 0.10 percent, found the researchers.
So while consuming food and non-alcoholic beverages as you drink may help prevent feeling gross the following day, the best hangover “cure” is one you already know: not drinking enough alcohol to get drunk in the first place.