Let me state first that this article is not meant to give you a carte blanche to go off and drink yourself into oblivion, but if you enjoy a drink from time to time and have found yourself struggeling with the well-known side-effects the day after, you might want to keep reading.
There were times when I was able to pull an all-nighter, drink anything from beer to shots and mixers and wake up the next day with still a will to live.
Ok, I might have had a few rough mornings too, but recovery was fast and my standard cure would be a "blue drink" (some type of sports drink), a shower and some fatty food, and I would be back on my feet (or right back in the bar)
Now that age has crept up on me and my very physical demanding sports life takes priority, drinking has become less frequent, but more sophisticated (wine, champagne, a good Gin)
Unfortunately,the effects of it however, have become more noticeable.
After doing research (yes, this might sound bad, oh, it actually does) I first discovered Milk Thistle and after some testing, figured this was a good supplement to take for reducing the hangover.
But then, I read up on something more interesting: N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
Before I get into the miracle properties of NAC, let's first go deeper into what actually happens to your body when you drink alcohol. You might not want to know, but you should. Really.
The Devil called Acetaldehyde
Besides dehydration, alcohol does something far worse: When your body deals with alcohol in your liver, the enzyme alchohol dehydrogenase breaks it down into acetaldehyde.
Acetaldehyde is basically a poison, closely related to formaldehyde.
What is happening in your body (summary)
Without getting too sciency (although I have to a little bit) let's first see what happens when alcohol enters your bloodstream. The metabolizing process sorta goes as follows:
Ethyl Alcohol --> Acetaldehyde --> Acetyl Radical
The metabolizing process is done by enzymes, of which the enzyme Acetaldehyde Dehydrogenase (ALDH) is taking care of the biggest share.
There are many varieties of ALDH in our bodies, but the most common one is called ALDH2. ALDH2 will work it's ass off for you, but it can't take care of all of the metabolizing, so some Acetyl Radicals will remain, and they make you feel like shit.
Little side-note: Many East Asians and American Indians have the ALDH2*2 enzyme, which is far less effective. This explains why these folks are more sensitive to alcohol than others, since their bodies aren't able to break down the alcohol in the same way.
|Bla, bla, bla, it's all really bad for you|
When NAC comes in
So when you drink, your are poisoning your system. This sounds very radical, but from a scientific point of view, that's basically the bottom line.
NAC is a form of the amino acid cysteine. It helps to increase the powerful anti-oxidant glutathione, which then reduces the levels of acetaldehyde toxins that occur after ingesting alcohol. Still with me?
Your body makes it's own glutathione, so when you take NAC, make sure you do this about 30 minutes before drinking, allowing your body enough time to produce it.
Why not just take glutathione, you ask? Well, studies have shown, that taking glutathione orally is basically useless, since it's broken down in the stomach. So it works best when your body produces it by itself.
How much NAC?
Most of the time, tablets come in units of 600mg, which is the recommended dosage.
Take 600mg about 30 minutes before, 600mg during and 600mg afterwards (from experience)
Apparently, NAC works even better when you take it in combination with Vitamin B1 & B6. Your body will be depleted of vitamin B after drinking alcohol, so taking a vitamin B supplement beforehand helps a great deal as well.
It honestly doesn't really matter, just look for the tablets that have at least 600mg. My personal preference is the (slighty more expensive) NAC Sustain by Jarrow Formulas.
Take note: You might find a product called L-Cysteine, that is not what you want, make sure it's N-Acetyl Cysteine.
With any supplement, I will always honestly give my opinion and in this case, I can testify from personal experience that this shit works. Nuff said.