Most of us enjoy a drink every now and again. Watching the Springbok’s bring home the rugby world cup has certainly given us a reason to get a little more boozy than usual, over the past few weeks. While the bokke have returned, and enjoyed the victory lap through the country with their cup, the average Joe and Josephine are entering a challenging final of their own. 

The Festive Season is the pinnacle drinking season of the year. Office parties, end-of-year functions and themed get-togethers are well underway. A good time doesn’t need to compromise your wallet or liver if you have a rigorous game plan. Pace yourself if you want to make it through the night, and better still, wake up with no hangover.

Remember, when it comes to session drinking, it is a marathon and not a sprint. While I don’t drink anymore, there are a few tips I’ve picked up from 13 years with the bottle. Some seem obvious, while others will definitely surprise you.

EATING ISN’T CHEATING

If I could go back and scold 20-something-year-old Inga every time she slapped fries, burgers, or a slice of pizza out of a friends hand before whining, “eating is cheating,” I would.

Lining your stomach is taught in Drinking 101 (you might not have heard of the course because it’s strictly reserved for the night school curriculum). The alcohol percentage, and amount, aren’t the only things you need to consider when drinking. How your body metabolises alcohol is important too, so help it along. 

Eating a balanced meal is especially important before heading into a night of heavy drinking. So skip the salad and tuck into a plate of complex carbohydrates, good fats and protein – I hear red meat is great because the amino acids help process booze.

HYDRATE

For every drink, there has to be a glass of water. Your liver needs the extra help to flush out as much alcohol as it can. If you’re alternating between booze and aqua, you won’t have to shock your body by chugging a litre of H2O at the end of the night. 

What I have found to work is swapping out still water for sparkling. A vivacious American shared the tip at a dinner party I attended two years ago. I tried it once and because it worked so well, I recommended it to all my friends who now do the same. Though Nisa harped on about how the bubbles helped metabolise the alcohol quicker, the scientific explanation is even more of a mouthful. Just take my word on this one – it works.

Activated charcoal has been used as an antioxidant for generations. Drink a glass of this before bed and you should wake up feeling a whole lot better than you would’ve had you skipped it.

STAY AWAY FROM SUGAR

We don’t give children a lot of sugar because their manic rush is always followed by an epic crash, right? Why do we think that after a certain age, we are miraculously exempt from the same biological phenomenon?

Cocktails and punch often go down a treat because there is enough sweetness to mask the sharp taste of alcohol. But as you sip on your long island iced tea or brandy and coke, you’re body is stockpiling on sugar that’ll have you dancing on tables one moment, and cursing the day you ever picked up a drink the next.

But wine has sugar too, you might be saying. This is true. Which is why I often stick to tequila on the rocks or whiskey and water. The sugar content is much lower in liquor, so if you drink it neat (or with a splash of soda water, a block of ice, or a little water) you won’t suffer a sugar crash hangover the next morning.

SKIP THE SMOKES

Regular- and social-smokers alike, while I can totally appreciate how sweet a cigarette is while you’re drinking (I’ve been nicotine free going on four years now) the grogginess you feel in the morning isn’t worth it.

Cigarettes and alcohol both contain acetaldehyde, which is thought to be the chemical behind hangovers. When you smoke, you’re doubling up on the chemical that makes you feel horrible the morning after a night out. 

Carrying a pack of gum has helped me a lot. When I’m feeling a little tense, I’ll chew some gum and it sorts me right out because I know I was smoking because of the oral fixation and social anxiety. Find a method that works for you.

STICK TO TOP SHELF LIQUOR

The drinking club at my university had this tradition of starting out with a challenge called the Crackling Bomb. A 1.5L bottle of Autumn Harvest was tapped to your hand and you could do nothing else until that you saw the bottom of the bottle. Every guzzle was followed by a wince because the wine had an alarming fizz to it and burned all the way down your throat.

When you drink cheap alcohol, your mouth suffers for a moment, but the rest of your body suffers the entire time it tries to digest the stuff.

You must’ve noticed that you’ll have a nasty hangover is you drink cheap or box wine, but wake up feeling perky when you splurge on a R200+ bottle of grape. The same goes with hard tac, so if you want to avoid a hangover, pay a little extra for it.

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