It’s an expression oft heard at American frat parties, tailgate parties and bars: “Beer before liquor, never been sicker; liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.” But in the United Kingdom, the phrase, “beer before wine and you’ll feel fine; wine before beer and you’ll feel queer,” is just as common. Is either phrase accurate? No, I’m sorry to say, neither one is correct.
There are many hangover factors that gang up on the hapless drinker and bestow a morning-after whammy that makes so many pray to the porcelain gods.
Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, gastrointestinal distress, low blood sugar, sleep disturbance, headache and the dreaded shakes are all potential consequences of excessive imbibing.
In a new study conducted by British and German researchers, 90 subjects were tested under carefully controlled conditions to prove or disprove the old British adage. The experiment was run twice to ensure accuracy and test all parameters.
In the first go-’round, a group of 30 subjects was given two-and-a-half pints of lager, followed by four glasses of white wine; a second group of 30 was given the same drinks, but in reverse order; the final group of 30 was given either only wine or only beer. All groups drank until they reached 0.11 percent BAC.
A week after the first session, researchers and subjects met again, and this time the order of who drank what was switched.
Before both drinking sessions, participants were fed custom meals designed to provide specific nutrients. While drinking, subjects were interviewed about how they felt and what symptoms of drunkenness they were experiencing. Finally, after both drinking sessions, subjects were given a glass of water and sent to bed under medical supervision.
The next morning, each participant was interviewed and asked to rate the severity of their hangover. Researchers scored each on the acute hangover scale, which ranks factors such as thirst, fatigue, headache, dizziness, nausea, stomachache, heart rate and appetite. Each symptom was evaluated on a scale of 0 to 7, with a total score of 56 representing the worst imaginable hangover (scientifically known as veisalgia). About one in 10 subjects reported that they threw up.
The conclusions of the study dispelled the myth that drinking beer before wine will, indeed, lead to feeling fine. Each group fared about the same in each experiment. So drinkers who indulge in liquor before beer are just as likely to suffer a hangover the next day as those who drink beer before liquor.
What really matters? It’s how much you drink and eat.
So if you’re still living by the mantra of many hearty partiers, you might want to rethink your drinking strategy. The best way to avoid a hangover is to moderate your drinking. If you still want to drink deep, try a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage. At least that way, you may allay some of the worst hangover symptoms.