We’ve all been there after a big night out craving a burger and chips. For many of us, it’s the standard hangover good to go for.
But is greasy food actually good for a hangover?
In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at whether this traditional hangover cure approach with a greasy brunch is actually any good for your symptoms.
Or is it making things worse instead?
Find out as we look at the science behind hangovers and digestion.
Hangover symptoms and causes
To understand if greasy food is good for hangovers, we first need to cover how alcohol affects your body in the first place.
Over-indulgence in alcohol leads to hangovers by several different mechanisms.
Alcohol is a diuretic which makes you pee out more fluid than you are consuming. In fact, you lost approximately 100ml extra water for every unit of alcohol consumed (1 unit = 1 shot of strong spirit).
This is one of the reasons behind the frequent toilet trips after “breaking the seal” (obviously in addition to the extra fluid you’re drinking).
Congeners in darker colored drinks and the toxic by-products of alcohol metabolism produces free-radicals that react with your cells. This process is called oxidation and results in inflammation.
Deranged glucose control:
Acute alcohol intoxication, also known as binge drinking can drop your blood glucose levels. This is probably the most likely cause of your greasy hangover food craving which we will discuss in more detail later.
The mechanism by which excessive alcohol consumption leads to a drop in blood glucose levels is complicated. It’s thought to be related to a reduction in your cells’ sensitivity to insulin.
In addition, your livers response to low blood glucose levels is dampened. In normal circumstances, a drop in blood sugar levels results in an increase in sugar release from your liver and other tissues like muscle. This process is called gluconeogenesis which alcohol disrupts.
Furthermore, going on a big night out is usually associated with a late night and not eating much nutritious food. Fuelling your body with alcohol all night wreaks havoc from all directions.
Why do you crave greasy food when you have a hangover?
It’s certainly not the case for all of us, but a lot of people get a craving for greasy food when hungover. And there are a few different theories as to why this is.
Highest calorie food:
As mentioned in the last section of this article, alcohol disrupts your blood glucose balance and low blood glucose triggers your brain to search for the most calorie-dense food to re-energize.
Greasy food such as a burger and chips or pizza is full of fat and carbohydrate which fully satisfies this craving. In addition, it’s the fastest and easiest way to achieve maximum calorific intake.
Release of “happy-hormones”
Having a hangover sucks. A lack of energy, headache and feeling low are real mood killers. Fatty foods are known to trigger the release of neurohormones such as endorphins which gives a short burst of feel-good energy.
Therefore, one theory for the craving of fatty foods when hungover is the fact that it may be a way for your brain to make itself feel better about some of the decisions made the night before!
Release of galanin
Galanin is a hormone thought to be associated with cravings. Interestingly, levels rise after drinking alcohol and eating fatty foods.
So, one of the reasons for craving fatty foods is thought to be because of the rise in galanin levels after drinking alcohol which triggers the urge to seek fatty foods.
There haven’t been any robust studies on cravings when hangover as yet so the points mentioned above are generally accepted theories only for now.
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Does greasy food improve hangover symptoms?
So now that we’ve got all the science out of the way, we can better understand if fatty food is actually good for hangovers or is it best avoided.
Firstly, it all depends on when you decide to have your greasy meal as this massively impacts how useful it is for your hangovers.
Studies have shown that high peak alcohol concentrations are associated with more severe hangovers. Having a fatty meal before you start drinking is known to massively decrease your peak alcohol concentrations.
The reason is, alcohol is absorbed much more slowly in the presence of fat and carbohydrate in your gastrointestinal tract. It’s thought that these foods act like a sponge and therefore slow down alcohol absorption.
Therefore, having a big greasy meal before your night out may reduce your hangover severity the next day.
Is greasy food bad for hangovers?
Having a greasy meal when you’re already hungover is a different story. By this stage, your stomachs been battered by alcohol which leaves it in a delicate an fragile state.
The reason is, alcohol causes inflammation of the stomach lining, in addition to increased stomach acid production. This is part of the reason why hangover nausea is such a problem for most people.
Filling yourself up with fatty food is rather heavy for your stomach to deal with, which can lead to worsening nausea. Protein from meat is also particularly difficult to digest and sits in your stomach for longer than carbohydrates.
So although you may be craving a greasy meal the morning after the night before, it could be doing more harm than good.
Anything else to consider?
Hangovers are a sign from your body that you’ve probably been drinking too much. If you drink enough, you will have bad hangovers, regardless of the fact that you may have had a greasy meal before drinking. It’s certainly not going to prevent you from having a hangover.
Sticking to the basics by keeping well hydrated throughout your night can also go a long way in preventing the worst hangovers.
Greasy food for hangovers: Final words
That brings us to the end of our look into whether greasy food is good for hangovers. We’ve covered some of the reasons why you may have a craving for fatty foods and scenarios where indulging in greasy food can be beneficial and potentially detrimental.
If you’re going to chose s time to have a greasy meal, choosing to do so before you go out is probably the better option.
Whereas doing so when you’ve already got a hangover could make things worse.
If you’re interested in this topic, check out our article on good hangover foods.