According to research from Macmillan’s Sober October campaign, an average British person spends more than 10 months of their life recovering from a hangover. One of the primary reasons you feel so bad after drinking too much is simple: dehydration. It also leads to loss of electrolytes, which contributes to nausea.
Alcohol blocks the release of vasopressin, a hormone that helps your system retain water. It’s no coincidence that you have to go to the bathroom more often when drinking beer—alcohol increases urine production, making your body lose more fluid than you drink. In addition, the trips to the loo lead to a loss of electrolytes including potassium and sodium, which contributes to nausea.
Dehydration is not the only reason that makes you feel so bad. When your liver metabolizes alcohol, there’s a build-up of acetaldehyde, a by-product of alcohol breakdown which is more toxic than the booze itself, and causes the nausea and sweating that accompanies a heavy night.
Alcohol also affects your sleep and body’s ability to replenish glycogen, so completing a training day with a night at the pub can hinder recovery.
One thing’s for sure: the after-effects of too much alcohol are not fun, and hangover prevention is definitely preferable to attempted cure.