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There's a Hangover Cure for Each of Your Holiday Sins
The holidays are prime time for indulging in anything and everything—ugly sweaters, sweet treats, sparkly dresses, and too many peppermint martinis. (Oops.) But enjoying the holiday season doesn't need to totally derail your efforts to stay healthy. There may be some rough mornings and startlingly large food babies in your future, but we have a hangover cure for all your holiday sins, so you can start the new year on the nice list.
You Overdid the Alcohol
During the holidays, most of us mistakenly turn one drink into five and wake up the next day in a state of major struggle (we'll blame those specialty holiday cocktails and awkward family reunions). Whether it's one night of festivities or a holiday-break bender, "It's smart to take some time off," says Brooke Alpert, M.S., R.D., coauthor of The Sugar Detox. Drinking can sabotage your night (if you drink enough), your morning, and your diet: "Not only does alcohol contain sugar and calories, but it also makes you more likely to reach for that bread basket or an extra bite of dessert." But don't worry, we have tips on how to recover.
Drink up. Unfortunately, the only true fix for a pounding head and woozy stomach is drinking water and (nonalcoholic) liquids, according to Ruth C. Engs, R.N., Ed.D., a professor at Indiana University who has done extensive research on the effects of drinking. Because hangover symptoms are essentially a product of dehydration, hypoglycemia, and the poisonous side effects from toxins in alcoholic drinks, you need water to rehydrate your body and help flush out those toxins. Electrolyte drinks like coconut water and Gatorade help replenish sodium, potassium, and chloride, rehydrating your parched brain and body.
Hit snooze. Because alcohol is metabolized at a rate of roughly one drink per hour, sleeping is like a time machine through your hangover, so you can wake up feeling like a real human being.
Pop some pills. OTC pain meds like Aleve can ease that throbbing headache, but steer clear of Tylenol (which can contribute to extra damage to your liver), and aspirin and ibuprofen (like Advil and Motrin), which can irritate stomach lining or even cause bleeding.
Too. Many. Cookies.
Sugar cookies, cakes, candy canes, fudge—you're probably about as sick from sugar as a kid let loose in a candy store. "Indulging in these goodies can cause weeks of brain fog, bloat, digestive issues, and even result in a couple extra pounds," says René Ficek, R.D., lead nutrition expert at Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating. The worst part: It creates an insatiable sweet tooth, because every little bit of added sugar makes you crave more.
For a quick fix, get moving. Because your muscles use sugar as an energy source, burning calories lowers your blood sugar, Patricia Farris, coauthor of The Sugar Detox told us in 6 Detox Hacks to Come Down from Your Sugar High. So when you hit sugar-coma status, resist the couch and get active instead—even if it's just little bursts of activity.
Step away from the sugar. For more serious rehab, you've got to cut the cord with the sweet stuff and try to eliminate added sugar from your diet, says Ficek. And watch out for added sugars in packaged foods (look for any ingredient that ends in "-ose"). You can continue to eat naturally occurring sugar—the kind in fruit, vegetables, full-fat dairy, honey, and unrefined carbohydrates—because they're valid energy sources.
Just keep drinking. "When your body is dehydrated it actually craves sweets," Ficek says. "So by drinking a lot of water during the day, you can decrease your sugar cravings and give your body more energy." Basically, start chugging like your hangover cure depends on it.
You Went Overboard on Salty Appetizers
You may strive to stay away from potato chips, but you sneak a few at a holiday party and then, of course, you can't have just one (handful). "All that booze, salty goodies, and more leads to bloating, puffy skin, and a slow GI track," says Alpert. Don't worry—even if you've spent way too much time hoovering around the hors d'oeuvres, the road to recovery is simple: hydrate. "It sounds simple, but the best way to beat this is with tons of water. I ask my clients to aim for a minimum of 1.5 liters a day and working their way up to 2 liters," says Alpert.
You Shopped Till You Dropped
You found the perfect gift for everyone on your list (yay!), but at the expense of your bank account (ugh). But don't freak out or start returning everything you bought. "It's so easy to make [financial] mistakes during the holidays, so instead of feeling guilty, stay focused on a solution," says Beverly Harzog, consumer credit expert and author of The Debt Escape Plan. The worst thing you can do is ignore your debt, so here's what you can do.
Step away from the credit cards. Don't touch them again until you're debt-free. You can't pay off debt if you're still adding to it.
Focus on your biggest enemy. If your debt is spread among different cards, focus on the one with the highest interest rate.
Pare down. Cut back on unnecessary expenses for a few months, and use the money you save to pay back your purchases.
Bonus: If you don't already have an emergency fund, now is the perfect time to start. Once debt is paid off, start saving instead of spending.
You Stuffed Yourself at the Buffet
With so many delicious things to eat, it's hard to pass them up even if you know you're full. If you overindulged, there are steps you can take to reduce that too-stuffed-to-move feeling.
Get a fresh start. Start your morning with a simple protein breakfast, says Alpert. That means nix the yogurt, fruit, and carbs to let your body take care of all the excess sugar from the night before.
Keep it clean. Continue with a healthy lunch like a large green salad with more protein. Green veggies, which are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, can call help counteract the damage done over the holidays. Alpert recommends two cups of greens at both lunch and dinner.
Forgive and forget. "Most importantly, don't beat yourself up over it," says Alpert. "Guilt can sometimes cause the worst food choices. So keep it simple, get back on track, and move on."
You Became a Couch Potato
So you skipped the gym once, twice, or for the entire month of December. When your activity level decreases, your cardiovascular health declines with it, says Kyle Glickman, M.S., CSCS. Meaning you might huff and puff after a mile on the treadmill when you used to run three, easy. And that's not all—inactivity slowly leads to decreases in your energy output, so your body will need fewer calories to maintain the lower activity level. This means your metabolism will slow down and make it that much harder to burn off those cookies.
When you take time off, "it's important to understand that the more trained you are, the more you lose," says Glickman. Instead of crashing down from a holiday high and forcing yourself to go hard in the gym to make up for it, take these cues.
Think long-term, steady progress. "One of the worst and most unsafe things you can do is immediately drop your calories low and increase activity at an alarming rate," says Glickman. This can put you at risk for injury and hurt your metabolism as well. Dieting and a spike in intense activity can send your body into famine mode and decrease your metabolism to try to maintain a balance.
Start small. "I suggest initially setting aside 20 to 40 minutes depending on your previous activity level," says Glickman. "This will allow you to build up your endurance and not burn out quickly."
Schedule it. There's no doubt that it will be hard to get back to your old routine. (Make the rebound painless with this I-Don't-Feel-Like-Working-Out Workout.) "If you schedule your workouts for the same time every day, you don't run into the possibility of finding your way to the couch rather than the bench press," says Glickman.