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6 Things That Practically Guarantee a Hangover

While the only true way to prevent a hangover is not drinking alcohol at all, you don't have to give up happy hour, holiday parties, or wine night with the girls (sorry, book club) if you avoid these mistakes.

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You drink on an empty stomach

Drinking before you eat is a surefire way to guarantee a horrible hangover the next morning. Why? Alcohol is one of the few compounds that can be absorbed directly through your stomach wall, which means that if you down a glass of wine on an empty stomach, the alcohol gets into your bloodstream quickly, says Brian Dixon, PhD, and executive director of health and science education at USANA. That’s why it’s a good idea to eat before you start drinking, just having food in your stomach will slow down the absorption of booze into your bloodstream, as well as keep your blood sugar levels steady. If you know you’ll be out boozing, make your dinner beforehand a balanced one with protein (lean beef, fish, or chicken), healthy fats (avocados, olives), and starches (brown rice), and continue to snack throughout the night.

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You don’t drink enough water

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it dehydrates you, says Dr. Dixon. (It’s also why you find yourself having to pee so often when you’re drinking a lot.) Drinking water while you booze it up will help you stay hydrated, which will minimize your hangover symptoms the next morning. “A good rule of thumb is to have a glass of water in between every drink,” Dr. Dixon says. And if you can manage it, have a glass before you go to bed as well. Here are 10 natural-flavored water recipes to help you drink more H2O.

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You drink too much too fast

Next time you’re offered a shot of Jagermeister, take a pass. “Your body can only really metabolize one drink per hour, so if you’re binge drinking, you’ll quickly overwhelm your body’s ability to get rid of all that ethanol,” Dr. Dixon says. Sip your drink slowly instead of downing it all at once. Here are 17 tips to help you cut back on alcohol.

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The color of your liquor

Weird but true: The darker your beverage, the more severe your hangover is likely to be. The same additives that give liquors like bourbon and whiskey their trademark mahogany colors also add to your pounding head and queasy stomach the morning after. According to Dr. Dixon, the color in high-end alcohol brands tends to be derived from naturally occuring chemicals (such as amino acids) in the wood that the alcohol is aged in, but lower-end brands will just add cheap fillers and preservatives to maintain the color, which can potentially worsen your hangover. “Our bodies are amazing at sensing whenever they’re exposed to any kind of foreign chemicals,” Dr. Dixon says. “Think of your body like an assembly line: That line can only move so fast and when there’s a glitch somewhere and you start to back that line up, it’ll create a domino effect on your body’s ability to filter things out.” That said, light-colored drinks won’t prevent hangovers. The bottom line is that if you drink too much alcohol—no matter what color it is—you probably won’t wake up feeling great. Here are other weird things that can make you get drunk.

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You reach for the hair of the dog

This is the hangover myth that just doesn’t seem to die, but it is absolutely a mistake, Dr. Dixon says. “The only reason it works is because it might numb the pain.” Instead of reaching for another boozy beverage, which will only prolong your symptoms in the long run, try replenishing with your favorite sports drink, some soup, or even a cup of coffee. (Dr. Dixon says the data’s a bit mixed, but caffeine might help with your headache, so it couldn’t hurt to try.) Because people’s blood sugar tends to crash after a night of heavy drinking, Dr. Dixon also recommends reaching for something with simple sugars (think a bagel or cereal) in the morning to quickly boost your blood glucose levels, though he cautions that once you’re feeling a little better, you should eat something healthier. Or try one of these natural hangover cures.

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You don’t sleep

If you’ve ever split a bottle (or two) of wine with friends and then laid in bed wondering why you couldn’t fall asleep, you can blame it on the alcohol. Ethanol is well-known for disrupting the quality of your sleep, so even if you pass out as soon as your head hits the pillow, don’t be surprised if you jolt awake suddenly in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep. The bad news is that a lack of sleep simply magnifies your symptoms. The good news is that you’ll have an excuse to lay in bed and binge-watch Netflix the next day while you recover. “A lot of detoxification happens when you’re sleeping, so you can see how you get a snowball effect when you’ve been drinking,” Dr. Dixon says. “It’s fun but really so unhealthy for our bodies when you really dig into it.”

Originally Published in Reader's Digest