Do Electrolyte Drinks Actually Help Prevent a Hangover?

Abstaining from alcohol is the only guaranteed way to prevent a hangover, but can electrolyte drinks help if you do want to say cheers with friends?

You've planned a night out with friends, and you have no desire to wake up with a hangover the next morning. Granted, you could skip the alcohol completely and not worry about any side effects. But if you want to imbibe, could an electrolyte drink help prevent a hangover?

What Are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are essential minerals that play major roles in fluid balance by helping bring water into the cells and regulating muscle and nerve function in your body. You consume electrolytes from foods and beverages. Although sports drinks might be the most well-known beverage source, coconut water and some juices also contain electrolytes.

There are good reasons to consume electrolytes, such as during workouts and times of illness—hangovers included. "Electrolytes are mainly lost through sweat, but they are also lost through waste production and vomiting," says Jackie Kaminski, M.S., RDN, a National Academy of Sports Medicine ambassador in Palm Beach, Florida. "Anytime you're losing fluids, you're losing electrolytes, and it's important to replace those."

What Is a Hangover?

When you drink alcohol, your body metabolizes it into ethanol. "Your body's main priority is to metabolize ethanol into less-harmful byproducts," Kaminski says. However, your liver can only metabolize so much alcohol at once. "A hangover is the result of excessive consumption of alcohol that wasn't metabolized efficiently," she says.

Dehydration plays a large role in this, mainly because alcohol affects your body's ability to retain fluid. On top of this, alcohol triggers inflammation, which can contribute to hangover symptoms.

Alcohol Can Mess with Your Heart

Alcohol consumption or hangovers can raise your heart rate, says Kaminski. A 2018 study from PLOS One found that alcohol was associated with three times the odds of developing high blood pressure among women who drank excessively. Binge drinking two or three times per month was found to raise the risk of high blood pressure by 70%, according to the research. Binge drinking is defined as having four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men within two hours, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Alcohol Can Affect Blood Sugar Control

Because alcohol can worsen blood sugar regulation, high alcohol consumption isn't recommended for people with diabetes, Kaminski says. That's because your liver stops releasing glucose to process alcohol. That, in turn, causes your blood sugar level to drop quickly, which can lead to extremely low blood sugar if you're taking certain types of diabetes medication. The American Diabetes Association recommends talking with your doctor to see if alcohol can fit into your life. If so, you'll need to keep your intake low, enjoying no more than one or two drinks a day.

Hangover Symptoms

You might experience numerous symptoms when you have a hangover. They can last as long as 24 hours and include the following, according to the NIAAA:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Thirst
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Vertigo
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Increased blood pressure


There are numerous reasons alcohol can lead to hangovers. For starters, alcohol not only disrupts the metabolism of other nutrients but also causes dehydration by suppressing a hormone called vasopressin, which your body uses to reduce the flow of urine. As a result, alcohol makes you urinate more, worsening dehydration. Worse, if alcohol consumption leads to vomiting, "you're further exacerbating dehydration and causing electrolyte imbalance," Kaminski says.

Dehydration and a loss of key electrolytes and other nutrients can lead to common hangover symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, fatigue, confusion, thirst and stomach pain.

Can Electrolytes Help?

The short answer is probably yes. That said, electrolyte drinks don't give you permission to drink excessively without consequences. "While they won't prevent a hangover, electrolytes could reduce the symptoms of one," says Catherine Gervacio, RD, dietitian and nutrition writer for Living.Fit. Since electrolytes can help restore the balance of fluids in your body after drinking alcohol, she explains that you may experience less severe symptoms of a hangover.

a photo of a hand holding up an electrolyte drink
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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Should you drink electrolytes before or after drinking alcohol?

After is a better option, Kaminski says. Note, though, that staying hydrated while you drink is important, so sip either water or an electrolyte drink between each alcoholic beverage.

2. What's the fastest way to get rid of a hangover?

You'll want to hydrate with fluids, which can include electrolyte drinks. Unfortunately, when you have a hangover, you may have to wait it out until it goes away. According to the NIAAA, "there is no cure for a hangover other than time." In the future, you want to be more mindful of the amount you drink to prevent a hangover in the first place.

3. What food is best for hangovers?

Alcohol depletes many of the essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs. The main ones are thiamin, B12, folic acid and zinc. To replenish these nutrients, Kaminski recommends eating foods like fruits, fortified cereals and eggs on hangover days.

4. What is the best drink for hangovers?

If you've had excessive amounts of alcohol, water alone won't cut it. "I suggest various fruit juices or anything loaded with B vitamins, since those [vitamins] are significantly depleted with alcohol consumption," Kaminski says. Smoothies and drinks like coconut water containing natural electrolytes can also be helpful.

The Bottom Line

Nobody likes waking up with a hangover. While your best prevention is to abstain from drinking any alcohol or seriously limit your consumption, you can at least help your body stay hydrated and replenish valuable nutrients by sipping an electrolyte drink between each alcoholic beverage, as well as right after drinking before bed.

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