You know what is fun? Alcohol. And drinking alcohol. Also pretty much anything after drinking alcohol. Oh. Except for hangovers. Hangovers are NOT fun.
Luckily, after drinking many glorious beverages and experiencing a few less glorious mornings, I’ve come across something that has legitimately helped. Nuun Active Electrolyte Tablets. In this post, I’m going to use my Plasma Physics PhD the way I enjoy most if you don’t want any of that then here is a tl;dr - drinking a glass of nuun enhanced water before bed and when you wake up has made my life less painful and there is some decent logic supporting this method. Seriously, try it.
“Alcohol is a diuretic, so you end up losing water. And the dehydration effect is probably the most severe contributor to hangover,” says Dr. Gary Murray, the program director for the Division of Metabolism and Health Effects of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Although multiple factors contribute to hangovers, some guy with a super long title says dehydration is the most severe contributor, so I want to focus there. If you want to dig into other mechanisms and mediators affecting hangovers, then the review article by Swift and Davidson is great and very accessible. But, assuming you made it through your early 20s then you have plenty of empirical evidence that skipping water at the end of the night is a painful mistake. Hydration is important for avoiding hangovers.
Your body normally does a great job of regulating hydration. Below is a quick intro to how that works. Just skim any unfamiliar words and you will be fine.
Water intake is regulated by thirst. Thirst is triggered by receptors in the anterolateral hypothalamus that respond to increased plasma osmolality (as little as 2%) or decreased body fluid volume. Rarely hypothalamic dysfunction decreases the capacity for thirst.
Water excretion by the kidneys is regulated primarily by vasopressin (ADH). Vasopressin is released by the posterior pituitary and results in increased water reabsorption in the distal nephron. Vasopressin release is stimulated by any of the following:
- Increased plasma osmolality
- Decreased blood volume
- Decreased BP
Vasopressin release may be impaired by certain substances (eg, ethanol, phenytoin) … 
The problem shows up in that last line. Alcohol reduces your body’s ability to release Vasopressin, which contributes to excessive… uh… water excretion. Somehow you need to counteract that. If you just keep drinking Nalgene after plastic cup after glass of water then that can help increase your water intake. But, your kidneys will send that water right out again unless you can coax your body into producing more Vasopressin so that the water can be reabsorbed. That said, don’t give up on water intake. It still helps. We just want to do more.
Nuun helps with the first bullet point “Increased plasma osmolality”. Lucky for us, Google knows what osmolality means:
Osmolality is a measure of the number of dissolved particles in a fluid. The osmolality test reflects the concentration of substances such as sodium, potassium, chloride, glucose, and urea in a sample …
This fun graphic from Nuun shows the electrolytes their tablets contain  and hey, cool, those are the same dissolved particles that we just learn stimulate the release of Vasopressin. So, there you have it, get more electrolytes, hold on to more water, feel better. That is some quality hand-wavy support to make my case that these fun little colorful Nuun tablets can help you reduce hangovers. Basically better, cheaper, easier to keep on hand, and less caloric versions of Gatorade. Note that these are WAY cheaper from Amazon than anywhere I have found them in store.
In the end, the best reason to try them is because they work for me and there is no significant downside . They aren’t miracle pills, they won’t keep you hangover free if you drink two bottles of the Chateau D, but they will certainly help. They also photograph pretty nicely on carpet in the sun. Give them a try and let me know how it goes.
That means I’m going to dive into a subject that I am completely unqualified to discuss. Feel free to ask or be a proper medical doctor if you want real medical advice ↩
Dear god, am I sourcing huffpo? Yes… looks like I’m sourcing huffpo http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/06/how-a-hangover-works_n_1861702.html ↩
Merck Manual, Water and Sodium Balance. I’m not using bibtex so the citation here is a URL: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/endocrine-and-metabolic-disorders/fluid-metabolism/water-and-sodium-balance ↩
Don’t worry, I cut out the gross ending to that quote for you. That just shows how much I care about you. http://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/osmolality/tab/test/ ↩
I wonder if they know how venn diagrams work? ↩
I heard recently that normal people don’t say “hand-wavy” or know what it means… is that true? It is suppose to mean that you appear to be rigorously proving a point but are actually doing little or nothing… My whole life… ↩
For all I know, they work because they just remind me to drink more water or because of a strong placebo effect. I don’t really care. They work for me ↩
Assume you don’t have some obscure allergy, condition, or inclindation to take a whole tube at once. Actually, I should be explicit. Don’t take more than one of these at a time. You will get all electrolyte-y and just ewww to that ↩