Alcohol-and-food-related myths shattered
“What to eat before a night of drinking?”
Anyone who paid a drop of attention in their high school bio and chem classes will surely roll their eyes upon seeing the internet’s answers. When it comes to this question, there is a hardly imaginable ocean of misleading and outright false information floating around the internet. Potentially with consequences; in this case, a bad end to a good night out, annoyed bouncers and/or a very, very heavy morning.
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OK, you’re right. The same goes for any other question anyone has ever asked google… but we’re going to stick with this one. There are many factors that influence how alcohol behaves in our body, and out of these food is the easiest, and the most fun, to influence.
It is actually useful to know which foods do what when followed by alcohol, and even understand why (at least a little bit). And of course, we’re completing the picture with some seriously practical tips on where in London to best eat these half-miracles-on-plates!
“Eat lots of carbs”
“Have greasy pizza”
“Salad is useless”
“Carbs help you absorb alcohol”
“Ice cream neutralizes stomach acids”
Let’s be blunt here: these are just lots of wannabe authoritative claims, most of them decidedly unfounded, grounded in misconceptions of how food and alcohol behave in our organism – if you don’t believe me, just try them one at a time. For science.
Food can’t do the work of our liver and actually take care of the alcohol. Some foods can, however, influence the timespan within which the alcohol goes through all the processes (it has to be absorbed first, then, if there is more than the liver can take at a time – only about one drink per hour, which won’t enough on a night out – it gets distributed throughout the body via our blood vessels, and only then the liver actually deconstructs it and can eliminate it.).
I’ll address these one by one with a bit of explanation, a bit of common sense and a bit of personal experience.
Food elements and their friendship with alcohol
Fat does slow down the escalating blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which in practice means you won’t get drunk too quickly and won’t lose control so easily. Quality organic fats such as those in good cheeses (along with the milk proteins of course) can serve you well. There’s your pragmatic reason for pairing wines and cheeses!
Proteins are good, full stop. Very important. They live alongside a lot of water which is what alcohol likes most. They help you slow down the flow of alcohol into your whole body and thus save you from being flooded by it, at the same time helping more balanced distribution. They’re the reason why, if you compare a male and a female of the same size, the male will get lett drunk from the same amount of alcohol – the percentage of protein in his overall body mass is higher, wherefore the alcohol distributes more. Make sense?
Carbs, or starches in most basic carb-y foods (wheat, potatoes, rice), will break down and make you feel heavy once you start drinking. Bread will actually soak in the alcohol and stay in your stomach way longer than fatty or protein-rich foods. In effect, it will keep you drunk longer (especially when you don’t need it… from experience.), because your body will have to deal with the alcohol at some point, it just has it harder with lots of bread in the way.
You’ll hear claims that lactose “coats” your stomach so that the absorption of alcohol from there into your bloodstream is slower. OK, but most of the alcohol that does enter your bloodstream is absorbed from the small intestine, which is also where lactose goes through digestion, so the effect on alcohol will be minimal.
The internet also seems to think that lactose neutralizes the acids in your stomach, which is unfortunately false. Yogurt or acidophilus milk do act as neutralizers (because of other components, not lactose itself!); other forms – including fresh milk – can make the acidity worse. Milk also becomes acidizing when prepared in other ways. So cooked or canned milk definitely does NOT help balance out your acids. And neither does a scoop of ice cream before the club. Sorry…
Now really, what do I eat?
So what is there to do if you don’t want to resort to the suspicious late-night stalls with kebabs you’d never, ever (EVER) touch sober?
Firstly and obviously, definitely do eat before you go out. Those who skip dinner before drinking (for whatever reasons) are the ones queuing up around many a London corner to grab a 3am slice of pizza (more like, “pizza”).
The best of all worlds is light but balanced food, alkaline rather than acidic (if that’s the sort of thing you like to think about) and ideally protein-rich: you want something that will even out the pace of alcohol absorption and keep you strong without weighing you down (by keeping the alcohol in your stomach forever, like lots of bread or potatoes) and upsetting your digestion like overly greasy or spicy foods may do. Japanese food, especially sushi, has a better reputation as a wonder-drinking food than anything else. Or try the best falafel in London (disagree? comment with your favourites!) for brilliant, tasty vegetarian protein, or just browse any of these great small plates, some weirder than others.
Comment to let us know what works for you, where you always go for dinner before a drinking night, or if you think this is rubbish.
See you at the next party – beautiful, in perfect mood and with a strong stomach!
P.S.: Some of us just will get unwell or hungover no matter what. We found a few neat foodie tips to minimize the morning-after-nastiness. They’re simple, biologically sensible and you can get nice organic or local farmers’ varieties to make yourself feel even better! Get yourself some nice pickles (best American-style from Partridges) to fill up your depleted electrolytes; have a sweet handful of almonds; get that B vitamin level back up with some hummus and add amino acids from asparagus to protect your liver cells……………. or go crazier. (source here). Being a step ahead will make your body love you.