Hangovers: Fact or fiction?

By Anjana Murali / Staff Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Next time, think twice before chowing down on an entire pizza to sober up after drinking. There’s no need to pack on the extra calories, according to Megan Stahl, a health educator for Student Health Services.

Beer and liquor-related myths run amok in Pittsburgh, the U.S. city with the most bars per person. At 12 bars per 10,000 residents, according to a 2013 report from Infogroup, Pittsburgh trumps all other cities on the list, including New York, Chicago and Las Vegas. The Pitt News interviewed Stahl to fact check and dispel some of these myths, including the infamous, “What’s the best way to ward off a hangover?”

The Pitt News: Is there any truth to the popular saying, “Beer before liquor, never been sicker; liquor before beer, you’re in the clear”?

Megan Stahl: No. It’s a myth. The number of servings and the pace of consumption matter more than what someone is drinking. Drinking any type of alcohol too quickly and/or in too large of a quantity can make you sick.

TPN: What are the most common myths or rumors that you hear students associate with drinking?

MS: “Eat bread to sober up.” This one has been around for many years and still makes an appearance from time to time. I can assure you that bread has no magical properties. Eating food can slow the absorption rate of alcohol, that is true. But it will not make you sober. Once alcohol is consumed and is being absorbed, time is the only thing that can sober you up.

TPN: “Darker alcohols are healthier” and “beer is a good workout recovery drink.” Are any of these sayings true?

MS: No. Again, they are myths. Some darker alcohols may contain antioxidants, but the fermentation process of these types of alcohol can increase other types of products and compounds found in the alcohol, some of which can actually make you feel a little worse. Regarding post-workout beverage choices, beer is not the best choice because it dehydrates you, and some studies suggest alcohol can actually hinder muscle recovery.

TPN: What about the beliefs that eating carbs helps you stay sober longer, or taking vitamin B or charcoal tablets prevents hangovers?

MS: Eating food, especially those higher in fat or proteins, before and while drinking slows the absorption of alcohol in the stomach. It doesn’t keep you “sober longer” per se, that part is inaccurate because your body is still absorbing the alcohol. But the food will slow the absorption of the alcohol in your stomach and also slows the rate of the stomach emptying into the small intestine, where alcohol is absorbed more quickly than the stomach. Although you won’t stay sober, this means that your BAC may not peak as high or as quickly, which can help keep a more moderate BAC level.

TPN: What should students do to ward off hangovers?

MS: The only 100 percent way to avoid a hangover is to not drink alcohol. If someone is making the decision to drink, moderation is key — not just to avoid a hangover, but also to be safer about it. Some examples include: pacing oneself to a serving per hour or less, setting and sticking to your personal limits, alternating alcoholic drinks with nonalcoholic drinks — such as water, which also helps keep you hydrated — and avoiding mixed drinks, like jungle juice, as they often contain multiple servings of alcohol, and it can be difficult to know how many servings it actually contains.

Leave a comment.