Hair of the Dog

Super Bowl Sunday is one of the biggest beer-drinking nights of the year, and whether you threw back too many because your team won or because your team lost or because watching Steven Tyler reverse-age Benjamin Button-style while racing a Kia Stinger made you painfully aware of your own fleeting mortality, you may be feeling the effects today.

Now I personally didn’t drink too much last night — I was sipping on an appropriate-sized glass of heart-healthy red wine a la Gisele — but there’ve been plenty of previous mornings when I didn’t escape an alcohol-fueled night unscathed.

Unless you’re a teetotaler or some kind of B-vitamin-filled superhero, you know the feeling: headache, chills, rumbly tummy and an uncontrollable urge to order a bacon-egg-and-cheese delivery straight to your bedroom. That’s right, folks: Today we’re talking about hangovers.

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My hangover spirit animal.

It’s pretty well understood what causes a hangover (dehydration, not eating the night before, loss of electrolytes, a poor night’s sleep), but there seems to be little consensus on what cures them.

Sure, most doctors (which — let the record show — I am not) agree chugging a lot of water and keeping down some food is a good start. But supplemental remedies are a dime a dozen: prairie oysters, pickle brine or maybe a little hair of the dog. And who knows which actually work?

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I got your hair of the dog right here, pal.

Now I’m no doctor (yes, I know we already established that but my lawyers were adamant I repeat it), but the thing I find helps more than any of those is something a bit more controversial: a workout. I realize working up a sweat may sound like the worst possible cure when all you want to do is lie in bed and rewatch The Truman Show, but I swear to you: 8 out of 10 times, I feel modestly better after a night of boozing if I make it to the gym the next morning (fine, or afternoon.)

The crunchy granola websites will say that’s because working out makes you “sweat out toxins,” which sounds kiiind of unscientific to me, like drinking bulletproof coffee or eating celery. But exercising does have some proven benefits that could potentially relieve the pain of the morning after. Here are a few to keep in mind:

Exercise makes you thirsty. Your hungover body needs to hydrate, and 30 minutes on the elliptical certainly makes me want to drink. Be careful not to get more dehydrated while you move, but if you’re throwing back a giant water bottle or two during your routine, I bet you’ll get more water in your system than you would have laying on the couch watching Paul Hollywood shatter bakers’ dreams.

Exercise distracts you from your other ailments. If you’re sitting in bed moaning about your symptoms, your headache will be looming large on your mind. But go to a barre class semi-hungover instead, like I did last Sunday, and you’ll soon forget about your aching temples when your glutes start quivering instead. Don’t try something dangerous like rock climbing when you’re feeling rocky, but 100 squats and lunges sure kept my mind off my other problems.

Exercise releases endorphins. Hangover systems aren’t all physical, and some mornings I wake up with what my husband calls the metaphysical hangover. As British writer Kingsley Amis so poignantly put it:

“When that ineffable compound of depression, sadness (these two are not the same), anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future begins to steal over you, start telling yourself that what you have is a hangover. … You have not suffered a minor brain lesion, you are not all that bad at your job, your family and friends are not leagued in a conspiracy of barely maintained silence about what a shit you are, you have not come at last to see life as it really is.”

And while he’s surely right, it never hurts to release some extra good-mood hormones to help drive that fact home. Work up a sweat and you’ll help relieve even the most self-deprecating of symptoms. It’s science.

Of course, some hangovers are crueler than others, so you be the judge of just how far you can push it when fighting the brown-bottle flu. Hang in there folks and remember: you have a full month+ of recovery before St. Patrick’s Day.

How do YOU survive a hangover?

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