It’s New Year’s Eve, the one night of the year where you’re guaranteed to want to let your hair down. But if you’re planning on partying tonight, you don’t have to overdo it. Why not try “healthy hedonism” instead?
With a few simple tweaks, you can still enjoy yourself, while limiting some of the damage you’re doing to you body. And that goes for every party season.
Be a better drinker
“You don’t have to avoid alcohol altogether, but you can drink smarter and cleaner,” says personal trainer Lee Mullins, who has worked with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Cressida Bonas. “I tell my clients to choose alcohol with the fewest toxins to improve their hangovers and overall health. Go for high-quality vodka or tequila, with fresh lime and soda water. Steer clear of sweetened mixers like cola, which just up the sugar content further (remember, alcohol is incredibly high in sugar). And choose better quality, cleaner wine, with fewer chemicals.”
“Clean wine” is causing something of a buzz this party season. Simply, it’s wine without (or with fewer) chemicals and additives that can exacerbate hangovers. US brand Thrive Market has just launched a range, but in the UK look for wines labelled “organic”, containing fewer or no sulphates, or “spontaneously fermented”, which means no added yeasts and a more natural fermentation process.
“The morning before a big night out, make a jug of sparkling water, add some mint and lemon and put it in the fridge,” says Rosemary Ferguson, the supermodel-turned-nutritionist, who once graced the cover of Vogue with fellow model and friend Kate Moss, before qualifying as a nutritionist in 2009. “When you wake up hung-over, you often crave a cold, fizzy drink that tastes slightly sugary.
“But, rather than a cola, which is packed with sugar and leads to an energy slump 20 minutes later, this will perk you up.”
She also advises ditching the grease. “Forgo a bacon sandwich and repair some of the damage with a breakfast full of protein and healthy fat instead, like poached or scrambled eggs on sourdough toast, or a big bowl of porridge with nut butter and cacao powder.”
Mullins recommends taking an activated charcoal supplement and having an Epsom salt bath the next day to “absorb some of the toxins”. Try Holland & Barrett Activated Charcoal capsules (hollandbarrett.com).
Avoid a stress hangover
“Forget food and alcohol, stress can be the unhealthiest thing about the festive season,” says chef and food writer Melissa Hemsley. “I avoid tiredness crutches like coffee, which can make my anxiety worse. Instead, I take a big saucepan, chop some ginger and let it bubble away for an hour or so. I then put it in the fridge, with some lemon and lime wedges, and the next day fill a water bottle with it before leaving the house.
“If you do drink coffee, always make sure you hydrate before you caffeinate.
“The other thing I’ve started doing is going to parties early and leaving early: you make better choices at the start of the night, you can make your way around a room and then head off feeling like you’ve chatted to everybody, but protecting yourself from a hangover and poor sleep.”
And if you’re hosting? “Make it easy for yourself,” advises Hemsley. “I have a huge chopping board, which I top with lots of little deli-bought things like olives, good quality hummus, breads and truffle honey, all displayed beautifully. Then I put the booze out, a massive jug of water, and let everybody get on with it.
“Fiddly festive hosting can be overwhelming and the stress hangover – where you come down from the adrenalin high of rushing around – can cause you to crave alcohol and sugar. Take the pressure off and the cravings will disperse.”
Support your gut
Eating and drinking more than usual can put a strain on your digestive system, so it is important to support your gut bacteria. “This helps reduce bloating and research shows a healthy gut bacteria can influence whether your body uses food as fuel, or stores it as fat,” says nutritionist Henrietta Norton.
Boost your gut health by cutting down on sugar, refined foods and alcohol – tricky in December, but Norton recommends avoiding them on the days in between parties. “A good Chromium supplement reduces sugar cravings and slightly lower your fruit intake, while upping your vegetable one,” she says. Try Wild Nutrition GTF Chromium Antioxidants (wildnutrition.com). “Also, eat fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kimchi (spicy fermented vegetables), which are naturally rich in beneficial bacteria and enzymes.” Norton recommends the Biona and Raw brands.
“One of the biggest mistakes we make in December is forgoing exercise because it’s cold or wet,” says Ferguson, “but getting outside every single day, even for a 15-minute walk at lunchtime, helps boost your mood and energy.”
However, you might want to give the HIIT class a miss: “If you’re hung-over or tired, your body is chronically inflamed,” says Mullins, “So doing anything too strenuous will only add more inflammation. Being tired or hung-over can also make you more prone to injury and dehydration, so don’t go spinning, or running the morning after to ‘sweat off’ the night before.
“If you belong to a gym, head to the sauna a couple of times a week, or go to a few hot yoga classes, which will increase your body’s ability to detoxify all the excess,” he adds.
“However, don’t go if you’re hung-over, as it will dehydrate you further.”