Woken up with a muzzy head? If you’re looking for a quick way to quell a hangover, electrolyte drinks might seem like a worthy contender – but can they really be a miracle cure?
When you’re suffering after one too many drinks the night before, it’s understandable to look for a quick fix to help get you feeling back to normal. Do a quick search online, and it’s likely you’ll come across blogs and posts about how sports drinks – more specifically those containing electrolytes – can restore your mind and body. But can electrolyte drinks really cure a hangover?
“Unfortunately, the evidence does not point that way at the moment,” says Alex Levington, performance nutritionist at Strength and Nutrition Performance Coaching. “There is evidence for people to have zinc and vitamin B6 but it is limited – there’s only one study and it showed that having a high intake of this recruits metabolites and you’re able to process the alcohol much better through antioxidant properties. It’s quite complex and I would say the paper is a little bit far-reaching.”
He does add though that there is some logic in consuming an electrolyte drink. “Alcohol is a diuretic and makes us go to the toilet quite a lot, so we lose a lot of fluid. We’re peeing a lot and we’re putting back in alcohol and not hydrating, so we’re already at a detriment. Sodium is what we mainly lose when we sweat or when we drink alcohol. An electrolyte tablet is effectively the salts you lose when you sweat. They typically come with things like B vitamins, B2, potassium, chloride, and calcium, but what we’re mainly interested in is sodium.”
How to use electrolytes for hangovers:
Levington believes that the best way to use electrolytes for hangovers is to help you rehydrate, which should solve some of the common issues like dry mouth, headaches, and dizziness. “It’s not going to cure your hangover but it’s going to remove the symptoms of being dehydrated,” he says.
He concludes that the best approach to minimising the effects of a hangover is also the most simple – water. “If you’re out for a night out, have a couple of glasses of water, and that will probably have more impact on your hangover than taking an electrolyte drink. You’re going to become in a re-hydrated state, so you’ve already solved part of the issue of drinking. The alcohol has got to be processed by the liver, which usually takes 24 hours – you have to take time to flush through.”
An easy way to check on your hydration status? Checking the colour of your wee, which should be a pale, tinted yellow – “if it goes really dark then you’re dehydrated”.