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13 Holiday Drinking Mistakes You’ll Want to Avoid at All Costs

Chances are you've already made a few of these this season without even realizing it. Say cheers to these expert tips to imbibe without having to deal with a hangover the next day.

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Drinking on an empty stomach

“Drinking on an empty stomach can temporarily raise your blood-alcohol concentration to higher than expected soon after the alcohol is ingested,” says Marvin Singh, M.D. who is board certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology and serves as voluntary assistant clinical professor at the University of California San Diego’s Department of Family Medicine and Public Health. “This has to do with the rate of absorption and the time it takes for the alcohol to be distributed throughout the body. When your stomach is empty, the alcohol is likely to get absorbed much faster and you may get a bit too tipsy too quick,” Dr. Singh adds. To prevent this, eat balanced, healthy meals all day long before your party and make sure to stop by the buffet or app table while you’re there to help slow the absorption of alcohol.
Here are 6 other factors that guarantee a hangover.

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Skipping water between alcoholic drinks

“Alcohol can be dehydrating and make you urinate more frequently,” Dr. Singh says. “When you aren’t keeping up with your fluid losses, you are more likely to get dehydrated quicker, and this is part of the recipe for a hangover the next day.” Drinking water will also serve as a checkpoint to slow down on the cocktails and may also remind you that it’s time for a snack or appetizer. Here’s what your go-to cocktail says about your personality.

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Filling up on mystery punch

A big batch of something red and fruity might look like something you want to dip into, but you’ll want to drop that ladle. Dr. Singh says a lot of these punches use grain alcohol, (a higher-proof percentage of alcohol) meaning you’re likely to get drunker more quickly. If you really want to try it, find out who made it and what’s in it before enjoying a small glass. Weird but true: your body can get drunk without even drinking alcohol.

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Going drink-for-drink with a friend

The problem here is that while it seems easy enough to pace yourself with a friend and take turns heading to the bar for refills you and your friend are not exactly the same size, meaning alcohol will affect you differently. “Similar to medications, sometimes the dosage needs to be higher to get the same effect with someone who is larger in size,” Dr. Singh says. “So if your friend is twice your size, it is likely their body would need more alcohol to get as intoxicated as you.” Case in point? If they need a refill, you should only be halfway done with your drink.

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Drinking from a straw

Dr. Singh says using a straw isn’t a huge deal (particularly if you don’t want to smudge your lipstick) but just be mindful about it. “Anything being ingested from a straw encourages rapid ingestion. This can lead to you drinking too much too fast,” he says. Keep your sips small to pace yourself and drink more slowly. Try these 17 tips to drink a little less overall this season.

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Filling your glass to the brim

Though not a complete party foul (be warned you might get some funny looks) Dr. Singh says to remember what your glass is filled with and adjust accordingly. If you’re drinking wine, you’ve now poured two glasses of wine instead of one. If you are drinking a vodka drink with just one shot in it, filling your glass to the brim with a mixer (like soda water) can actually be a good thing—helping to dilute your drink a little more. “The point is that you should be aware of portion sizes with any drink. Just because you had two drinks doesn’t mean you really had two standard-sized drinks,” Dr. Singh says.

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Standing by the bar

If you’re at a big event and feeling like you’ve secured a nice spot near the bar, don’t let that prevent you from mingling and most importantly—moving. “If the crowd at your event is too big and you are afraid you’ll never get through to get another drink after your first one, instead of sitting at the bar consider giving the bartender a nice tip so he or she remembers you; it’s a nice thing to do and it might save you the hassle of waiting in line for the next round,” Dr. Singh says.

Party table with glasses of champagne. Friends celebrating Christmas or New Year eve.Yulia Grigoryeva/Shutterstock

Giving your glass to someone to refill for you

This gesture is a well-meaning one, but the problem is that it can quickly cause you to lose track of how much you’ve had to drink, says Dr. Singh. Not to mention if the person grabbing you a drink isn’t someone you know particularly well (or even just met) there’s a chance they could tamper with your drink and slip something in it. In the end, it’s not worth saving a trip to the bar, so get up and get your own refill. Find out 21 wacky hangover cures from around the world.

Chocolate Pound Cake with Chocolate Drops. Homemade chocolate pastry for breakfast or dessert.Oksana Mizina/Shutterstock

Eating your alcohol

Foods that have alcohol in them, such as rum cake or vodka-soaked candies can actually make you tipsy, according to Dr. Singh. In the case of baked goods, “it is true that the amount of alcohol reduces a bit when you cook it but even after prolonged baking times a significant amount of alcohol remains,” he says. “Some people will soak the baked goods in the alcohol after it is done baking. When you do this, the alcohol soaks up into the cake like a sponge and you may be taking a shot of rum by eating a proportionate piece of cake.” Just like with your refills, pace yourself with boozy baked goods by just taking a bite or two.

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Playing drinking games

Not only will this quickly make you lose count of how much you’re drinking, playing a drinking game often leads to mixing different types of alcohol which could end up making you feel sick and definitely dealing with a hangover the next day. Just because it’s a drinking game doesn’t mean you have to drink alcohol, Dr. Singh says. He recommends using a non-alcoholic drink if you really want to play without suffering the repercussions later. Here are 9 mocktails that are festive and have zero alcohol in them.

Waiter pouring red wine in a glass.Krilerg saragorn/Shutterstock

Using the same glass for different drinks

You might think this is a silly rule, but there are different sized glasses for good reason when it comes to enjoying liquor, wine, and beer. Higher alcoholic content drinks like hard liquor (drinks like scotch and whiskey) are generally given in smaller glasses, Dr. Singh says. “This is one way to try to keep you to only drinking one drink at a time. If you use a larger than normal glass for hard liquor, for example, there is a pretty good chance that you will get more than a regular sized pour and that one drink you thought you were having could really be two or three drinks in one glass.” If you don’t have the option to use a different glass make sure to measure any hard liquor with a shot glass, Dr. Singh adds. Check out the 9 health perks drinking less can have on your body.

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Thinking you are OK to drive

Even if you don’t feel intoxicated, it’s never acceptable to drink and drive. Chugging your last drink before you leave a party is also one of the worst things you can do because your blood alcohol level will acutely rise before it decreases, and your ability to make decisions may be transiently lower than it might be an hour from then, Dr. Singh says. “Generally speaking, it takes about an hour for your body to process one ounce of alcohol. So, even if you feel like you feel fine and want to get behind the wheel, if you had three drinks an hour before you want to leave, you will have a detectable blood alcohol level.” Use a rideshare like Uber or Lyft, call a taxi, or stay the night if you have to before getting behind the wheel.

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Mixing medication and alcohol

“If you are on any medications and you want to have a drink, you should first make sure that you understand the potential interactions,” Dr. Singh says. “With Tylenol, you can easily develop a Tylenol overdose much quicker than usual if you have been drinking alcohol. Medications like aspirin are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and can cause ulcers and gastritis. If you have been drinking a lot (alcohol can also cause gastritis), taking aspirin with the alcohol could give you a double whammy and increase your risk of damage to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.” It’s also worth noting that taking aspirin before you drink to prevent a hangover won’t do much, and alcohol could even lower the therapeutic benefits of the drug, Dr. Singh adds. Next, find out 50 more ways to have your healthiest holiday season yet.

Colleen Travers
Colleen Travers is a metrics-driven digital writer and editor specializing in fitness, health, wellness and beauty. She's savvy in content strategy and creating timely, buzzworthy content on anything from the hottest fitness trends to breaking down the latest health research into easy, digestible tips to live better today.