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Four Surprising Hangover Myths

Heavy drinking isn’t the only thing that can trigger a hellacious hangover: Your age, sex, and the way you nurse yourself the next day can all impact how you’ll feel. Check out these common misconceptions so you can say “Cheers!” to a good night the next morning.

Myth: Your drinking limit always stays the same

For many people, hangovers get worse with age, even if the number of drinks remains the same.  That’s because our bodies produce less enzymes such as alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) needed to metabolize alcohol as we get older. So while you might have been able to sip, say, three or four glasses of wine with dinner sans hangover at 30, you’re apt to feel foggier the next day at 60 years old.

The exception: If you’ve been a heavier drinker, you may have more alcohol tolerance as you age in part because you’ve trained your body to better metabolize alcohol over time, says Brent Furbee, medical toxicologist and former Poison Center Medical Director at Indiana University Health.

Myth: Liquor before beer and you’re in the clear

“It's not the type of alcohol that you drink, but the overall amount that impacts whether or not you’ll feel hungover,” says Furbee. The bottom line is that a shot is a shot, no matter when you drink it.

Keep in mind that a standard drink is 1.5 fl ounces of liquor, 12 fl ounces of regular beer, and 5 fl ounces of wine. Mixed drinks can be deceiving because people tend to be heavy on the pours, so sticking to a pre-measured amount of alcohol such as that in a bottle of beer might be a safer bet if you’re trying to avoid a hangover.

Myth: Hangovers Don’t Discriminate Based On Your Sex

Binge drinking for women means having four or more drinks in a short period of time, compared to five or more for men. Ladies, you’ll be more apt to feel hungover than your male drinking buddy even if you didn’t drink more than him.

That’s in part because women have a higher percentage of body fat than men, which means alcohol isn’t as likely to be absorbed into your body and instead stays in your bloodstream and goes to your brain. But higher body fat is not the only reason for a killer headache: “An even bigger factor is that women also naturally have lower levels of the ADH enzyme that helps metabolize alcohol, and so they’ll experience the effects of a drink faster and for a longer period of time,” says Furbee.

Myth: Coffee cures a hangover

“One thing that makes hangovers worse is dehydration, and coffee—like alcohol—is a diuretic,” says Furbee. Translation: Drinking java as a pick-me-up when you’re feeling foggy after a night of imbibing will make you pee out much-needed water.  A better way to ease that hangover is to sip coconut water, a fruit smoothie, or good old-fashioned H2O.

-- By Holly Corbett