Photo: jmichaeli on Flickr
HANGOVERS. We can all agree that they're awful, but if they didn't exist, no one would ever get anything done on account of being drunk all the time. When the morning after rolls around and the excesses of the night before kick in, we've all got our go-to remedies for putting ourselves back together.
But do they work? Are we wasting our time and doing ourselves more harm than good? We spoke to some health experts - personal trainers, nutiritionists and a proper NHS dietitian1 - about 10 of our standard curative meals:
#1 The Full English
This grandaddy of hangover cures known and respected around the world consists of every hot breakfast you can imagine piled onto a plate and covered in beans. Most mornings you'd just eat a slice of toast on the bus, or something - but after a night of debauchery, the obvious instinctive reaction is apparently to follow it up with more debauchery by eating most of a day's food intake in one go.
Precisely what constitutes a "full" English is a matter of some debate, but there's a core of ingredients that can't be ignored: bacon, egg, sausage, beans and a mug of tea so strong you could fix your shoes with it. Everything else is just details. We like black pudding, mushrooms and hash browns, but you might love tucking into a grilled tomato or two (if you like soggy wet tasteless lumps of vegetable matter ruining an otherwise perfect meal).
THE EXPERTS SAY: Mark Isaacs (personal trainer, nutritional therapist and sports masseur) of Elixan.co.uk is all for them.
He says: "I'm actually not against a full English. The only downside is usually the food quality from the local cafe. Think eggs for protein, wholemeal toast, tomatoes and mushrooms (gotta have your veg), bacon and mushrooms. Protein is great for a sustained energy release to keep you going all day."
Best suits: The kind of hangover where you sit down with your friends and slowly remember what happened the night before, and you laugh, but inside you start to wonder whether it's time you slowed down a bit.
#2 Some sort of pasty eaten on your way to work
Even with the increased price of pasties - thanks to our valiant government's attempt to save the UK's economy by charging a bit extra for hot pastry - it's hard to beat a pasty, if you're hungry enough to crave salt and fat but too busy to sit down in a greasy spoon. Plus the portability inherent in a delicious pastry envelope means you can eat it on the bus to a job you hate, which is a plus.
THE EXPERTS SAY: Mark, and the other experts we asked, didn't think much of pasties at all. "Um... the walk to work will help clear your head, I suppose," he offered.
Best suits: The sort of hangover where you don't feel ropey enough to phone in sick, but only just. And you've probably been late in for the same reason fairly recently, too, so you just need to cobble yourself back together and ride it out until noon, when you can collapse in the canteen.
#3 Bacon sandwich with inordinate amounts of ketchup, possibly an egg in it too
Like the scrappy younger brother of the Full English, the Bacon Sandwich covers a lot of the same bases - it's hot, greasy, salty, and uncomplicated. Plus, unlike the Full English, you can carry it in one hand and shove it into your mouth leaving one hand free to text around your friends and apologise for what happened the night before.
THE EXPERTS SAY: Nina Lenton, an NHS Deititian at a London Hospital, had this to offer: "Low Glycaemic Index (GI - slow-release) carbs are a good idea to help get blood sugar levels back on track. Best to avoid highly processed carbs or anything too sugary (pastries, large quantities of juice) as your sugars will soar and crash. A wholegrain bacon sarnie or eggs on wholegrain toast may work, but I’d go for porridge with blueberries."
Best suits: The sort of hangover where you emerge practically unscathed - a mild headache, perhaps - and spend the rest of the day looking back over your metaphorical shoulder just in case the hangover jumps on you and floors you when you're not looking.
#4 Marmite on toast
This has the big advantage of being cheap, and the added bonus of containing Marmite which is concentrated black deliciousness. Spreading it over toast - with butter on, as well... we're not animals - restores salt, probably (we don't know, we're not scientists), but also engages your tastebuds by supercharging them with salty goodness.
If you don't like Marmite, of course, then this method is a one-way trip to Vomitonia.
THE EXPERTS SAY: Jamie Baird, Fitness Coach at Sanderson hotel, says it's not a bad idea: "Seeing as drinking depletes Vitamin B and dehydrates you, Marmite on toast would be a great source of getting some Vitamin B back inside your system. For the same reason, peanut butter is also a good choice."
Best suits: The sort of hangover where you wake up in a strange house, put on your trousers, and quietly investigate the kitchen while trying not to wake anyone.
#5 A single banana, eaten gingerly whilst rocking slowly back and forth
Bananas are great because they're solid food, but only barely - you can generally force one down no matter how outrageously ill you're feeling. Plus, if you're sick afterwards, bananas are scientifically proven to not taste all that bad on the way back up, either.
THE EXPERTS SAY: Mark Isaacs offered a lot of advice on this one: "If you really push it, rocking could be classed as a form of exercise. The rocking may also help stimulate your bowels if you’re feeling a bit constipated the next day.
"Bananas are a bit of a sugar rush, but it's fruit and a good start. They're a good source of potassium (which is great for heart health and blood pressure) and an OK source of Vitamin C which is potent antioxidant and may help relieve some of the alcohol damage from the previous night."
Best suits: The sort of hangover where your back teeth hurt and you can't tell why, and maybe you feel like crying a bit.
#6 Lucozade or other glucose sports drink
You've staggered out of the house, scared and confused, and you end up in a corner shop. Surely there must be a way to end the pain? Some sort of magic potion? And then you remember the advert for Lucozade which said it replaced all sorts of minerals and sugars and electrolytes. You don't know precisely what electrolytes are, but you want them. You want them in you NOW. Maybe that'll help.
THE EXPERTS SAY: Jamie Baird MAY have been promoting a sports drink called Neurosport. Apparently it's the mutt's nuts: "Great combination, replacement of electrolytes and essential vitamins and minerals to rehydrate from the NeuroSport. The NeuroSonic will replace Vitamin B levels and give you a mental boost with the Siberian ginseng." Siberian, eh? Swanky.
Best suits: The sort of hangover where your house has become a grey-walled prison and your hair feels like venomous spiders.
#7 Soup, of some kind
Soup is famously restorative, whether it's something your mum told you about chicken soup being good for you when you're ill, or how happy everyone looks in those adverts for Heinz Tomato - it's got proven pedigree.
On the plus side, it's easy to cook (just whack it in the microwave - remove the tin if you're feeling safety conscious) and even easier to eat, and you can put it in a mug if you're feeling particularly lazy. But it's just a big bowl of watered down baby food once you get down to it, really, which is less than filling.
THE EXPERTS SAY:
Jamie recommends: "Bouillon soup, a thin vegetable broth which is a good source of vitamins and minerals that can top up depleted resources. Its main advantage is that it's easy for a fragile stomach to digest."
Best suits: The sort of hangover where you skive off work and sit around the house in tracky bottoms all day, feeling sorry for yourself.
#8 Just... water
Sometimes, water is all you can stomach. And it's no bad thing - all that alcohol (and all that jumping up and down, if you went out dancing too) can leave you feeling pretty Godawful thanks to dehydration, making your insides resemble a handful of oversized sundried tomatoes.
So jamming water back into your system isn't going to hurt - plus, at half-seven in the morning, a cool pint of fresh tap water can feel like a benediction.
THE EXPERTS SAY: "Water is great for detoxification, which is obviously needed the day after drinking," says Mark Isaacs. "Alcohol is broken down into a poison as the body tries to rid itself of it. Water helps with the flushing of the kidneys, bladder, liver, and intestines, while rehydrating cells."
Best suits: The sort of hangover that wakes you up two hours before work starts, and leaves you thrashing about uselessly in bed waiting for the pain to stop.
#9 Hair of the dog
A dangerous game, this, and not one that we recommend. While some people swear by it, it's rare that we complete a night's drinking, hurl ourselves into bed, and wake up the next day feeling so terrible that we decide the best cure is yet more drinking.
Note: this doesn't apply if you're on holiday, or sleeping in a tent for several days. In that instance, you can wake up at 11am and have a beer with lunch to take the edge off NO PROBLEM.
Photo: Elsie esq. on Flickr
THE EXPERTS SAY: Jamie Baird offers this advice on what is obviously a bad idea: "It's a risky habit to get into. It will work - but it just really delays the appearance of the symptoms until the alcohol wears off again."
Best suits: The sort of hangover where you're doing something so important you can't afford to sit around in pain, but it's the sort of thing where it doesn't matter if you're a bit pissed. Festivals and weddings, basically.
#10 A cigarette and a cup of black coffee, taken whilst staring wistfully out of a nearby window
Sometimes this is just what you need. Breakfast of champions espoused by millions of people all across the world, especially in France, who like to feel as though they're the protagonist in a film.
If you're addicted to caffeine and nicotine - and you have them every day - then it's an important boost to your system. But even then, the coffee is dehydrating you further than you were before and the cigarette isn't going to help any with your headache.
Still. It does feel badass.
THE EXPERTS SAY: Nina Lenton offers support for at least half of the classic combo: "Rehydration is top of the list. Replacing both fluids and salts is essential. Water (plus some food), sports drinks, soup, even tea and coffee may all help (yes - caffeine is a diuretic, but if you are caffeine tolerate, i.e. used to drinking caffeine then the diuretic effect is minimal)." None of our experts recommended cigarettes, which is probably for the best.
Best suits: The sort of hangover where you drank away the pain after she left you and you rise up phoenix-like from the ashes of what you once were.
1We know she was a proper deititian because at one point she corrected the spelling in our email and made us feel embarassed. We spelt it "dietician" and she said that she was "a dietitian with tits, not tics," which made us laugh and instantly promoted her to the rank of FHM's Favourite Dietitian