Many athletes know first-hand the misery of a hangover. We've heard tales of athletes overdoing victory celebrations, drowning sorrows or - in the case of one member of Team Precision Fuel & Hydration - drinking too much tequila at the Christmas party and stumbling 5.3 miles home before sleeping on the bathroom floor.
We've received emails, reviews and feedback from athletes to say that a bottle of PH 1500 has 'cured' their hangovers. So, can our electrolyte drinks really ease your woes after a night of excessive alcohol consumption? Sports Scientist Abby Coleman investigates...
The symptoms of a hangover
In 2017, around 80% of the UK population reported consuming alcohol, of which 27% confessed they "binge-drink" on their heaviest drinking days, which probably equates to a lot of hangovers.
The classic symptoms of a hangover include a headache, nausea, fatigue, thirst, dizziness, sweating, anxiety, irritability and a sensitivity to light and sound.
As if feeling awful weren’t bad enough, hangovers are also associated with poor performance and an increase in prevalence of injuries among athletes.
The symptoms tend to vary from person to person and range in severity depending on your genetics and how much you drank the night before.
It’s reported that hangover symptoms are closely tied to how efficiently the body breaks down alcohol.
Certain genes are directly responsible for coding key enzymes, such as aldehyde dehydrogenase, which breaks down the toxic alcohol by-product acetaldehyde (produced when alcohol is broken down by the liver).
The dehydrating effects of alcohol
Primarily it’s the dehydrating effects of alcohol consumption that cause the other symptoms of a hangover; headache, thirst, reduction in performance and fatigue.
There are also other factors which play a role in causing hangovers and they include disrupted sleep, gastrointestinal irritation, inflammation, slight withdrawal effects, and acetaldehyde exposure.
You might consider it interesting that alcohol dehydrates us when fundamentally we’re still drinking a fluid. But, as most people are aware, alcohol has a diuretic effect (i.e. drinking it makes you pee more).
This is because alcohol suppresses the release of the anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) which is responsible for signalling to the brain that the kidneys need to retain fluid.
With less ADH circulating to regulate things, we excrete more fluid via urinating, causing the body’s water levels to drop.
It’s been suggested that one alcoholic beverage (say 1 x 250ml glass of wine) can cause the body to expel between 3 to 4 times as much fluid (800-1,000ml).
In addition, urinating more often inevitably means you'll lose more electrolytes.
It’s no surprise then that the the body sends us a strong signal that we need to replenish our fluid levels after drinking alcohol, which is normally highlighted by having a mouth drier than the African savanna .
The need to replenish fluids during a hangover is where some PH might come in handy. The principle is the exact same as rehydrating post-exercise.
How does PH 1500 help relieve a hangover?
It’s been proven in exercise research that fluid retention and sodium content of drinks are closely related. In a study investigating the rehydration process, subjects drank drinks of identical composition bar the sodium content (46mg/L (A), 598mg/L (B), 1,196mg/L (C) and 2,300 mg/L(D)) to combat dehydration.
This demonstrated that the sodium content of the drink was inversely related (i.e. an increase in one variable causes a decrease in another) to the subjects’ urinary volume output.
In essence, the body hangs onto its fluid much better when we’ve consumed a higher sodium-containing fluid (which might help take the edge off your hangover headache the next morning).
Interestingly, when participants were completing trials A and B, they were still in a net negative fluid balance five-and-a-half hours after the rehydration protocol began.
In contrast, when drinking the higher sodium drinks in trials C and D, at the same time point, participants were euhydrated (i.e. a 'normal' state of body water content).
The verdict from athletes
A bottle of PH 1500 seems to be a very popular remedy amongst athletes if the customer feedback and reviews we've received are anything to go by.
Here's a few anecdotes from athletes...
"Not bad for hangover prevention either as recommended by Chris Hoy*…half sachet in water before bed if yer have had 1 or 2…"
*This guy appears to be referring to an interview with Chris Hoy that The Telegraph published a couple of years ago where he advised mixing up an electrolyte drink before bed after a few pints. Even the pros are doing it!
In fact, pro triathlete, Ruth Astle, tried to help a friend out on Twitter:
"Get a load of @thesweatexperts tablets down you – cures my hangovers every time!!"
And here are a couple of other reviews we've received from athletes:
"Oh, and PH 1500 is amazing for a hangover. Took one on my stag do and solved the problem the morning after hahaha"
"Since taking PH 1500 I have not cramped, and it’s helped for hangovers as well"
Do isotonic drinks help relieve hangovers?
Isotonic drinks have also been ear-marked as an effective tool for hangovers. An isotonic drink is a fluid which is similar in concentration to the blood.
Sports drinks like Gatorade and Lucozade typically fall in this category. They’re considered the ‘all-rounder’ of drinks; delivering some energy (~6-8% carbohydrate) and some sodium (typically ~200-500 mg of sodium per litre), as well as some fluid (obviously).
At times, they can be the ideal drink to reach for. At others, less so.
When rehydrating is the primary need, a hypotonic drink (like 1,500mg/l electrolyte supplements) is hands-down the best choice as they are absorbed into the bloodstream at the fastest rate and deliver the least amount of carbohydrate per fluid volume.
The low-sodium content of an isotonic drink won’t cut it when it comes to making a meaningful difference to fluid retention and ultimately fluid balance restoration.
To put it bluntly, it won’t have a vastly different effect than water, it’ll just be more sugary.
Can PH 1500 'cure' a hangover?
Whilst I don’t believe 1,500mg/l electrolyte supplements can be labelled a ‘hangover cure’, it can help ease the symptoms by helping you get a handle on your dehydration.
As for an actual cure, I don’t believe such a thing exists. Without major intervention, the body will naturally restore its fluid balance (you’ll feel thirsty and drink some water) and your hangover will wear off eventually (especially once you get some decent rest too).
But, sipping on something like our 1,500mg/l electrolyte supplements may very well help speed up that road to recovery.
So, next time you have a big night out or celebration, do yourself a favour and drink a glass of water containing a decent amount of electrolytes before hitting the hay – you might thank yourself in the morning.
You can bet our Marketing Manager, Chris, will be leaving a bottle of 1,500mg/l electrolyte supplements on his bedside table before he heads out for the next Christmas party...