Friday, August 8, 2014

Minimizing Hangovers

Due to popular request and the time of year... I am re-posting this blog on hangovers. I hope this information makes for  more energetic Saturday and Sunday mornings!

The summer is a time when people tend to drink more than they do the rest of the year....barbecue’s, Whitebrier Happy Hour, having friends over for tropical drinks, and/or enjoying a nice cold beer (or two) after a long work week. For some people, all of these events are fun at the time, but the next day proves to be a dreadful experience due to the loathed HANGOVER.

A hangover occurs after the blood alcohol has returned to zero after excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol is toxic to the body, so it makes sense that drinking large quantities would wreak havoc on the body. Symptoms of a hangover can include, but are not limited to, headache, weakness, inability to concentrate, decreased activity, fatigue, thirst, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, chills, and shaking.

There are many reasons people experience hangovers including dehydration, changes in immune and endocrine metabolite production, build up of toxins (e.g: acetylaldehyde), gastritis, decreased sleep quality and duration, fatty liver, hypoglycemia, congener content of drinks (metabolites that flavor, scent, and color alcoholic beverages), alcohol withdrawal, and due to the obvious fact that alcohol is absolutely toxic to the human body. Alcohol is poison, so it makes sense that you wouldn’t feel that great after drinking it!

If you do choose to drink more than one to two drinks in a day, there are certain measures you can take to minimize the risk of a hangover and to ameliorate the symptoms once you experience them. While there is not a ton of research on hangovers, a few studies have been done in which I draw my recommendations from.

My recommendations to minimize hangovers:

1. Abstain from alcohol!!! (duhh)
2. Drink small, non-intoxicating amounts
…or…. If you must indulge:
3. Consume alcohol that has few congeners (pure ethanol, vodka, and gin)
4. Consume water with and between drinks
5. Consume alcohol with fructose-containing foods such as fruit and fruit juice
6. Consume solid foods that contain carbohydrates with and after drinks (such as bread)
7. Be sure to get a good nights sleep
8. Eat bland cracker-type foods to help with nausea and hypoglycemia
9. Antacids may help with nausea and gastritis
10. Ibuprofen may help with headache symptoms, just be sure not to consume until the next day since your liver cannot process both the alcohol and drugs at the same time!
11. Make sure you have a folate-rich diet which is needed to metabolize ethanol. Folate is found primarily in leafy greens and whole grains.
12. Exercise!

If the thought of a hangover isn’t reason enough to discourage you from drinking, here is some approximate calorie information on some popular alcoholic beverages:
Alcohol and Calorie Content

Alcohol Name
Serving size
Estimated Calories
Blue Moon Belgian White Beer
12 fl oz
Wine- red or white
5 fl oz
Martini glass
Bloody Mary
4 fl oz
Shot of liquor (vodka, rum, gin, etc)
1.5 fl oz
Long Island Iced Tea
12 fl oz
Pina Colada
6 fl oz
Rum & Coke
10 fl oz
Old Fashioned
4 fl oz

If you get a hangover, you most likely didn’t just have one of these drinks. Do the math to see how many hundreds of calories you consume in just a short period from having “a few” drinks. If you start with a Pina Colada, but ease up and just have two light beers afterwards, you’ve already tacked on almost 550 calories to your daily totals. Visit my blog on beer and nutrition for more information: 
 If you are the type that can down a bottle of wine in a night… try to think of it as soda. Most people wouldn’t drink more than a liter of soda in one sitting, so why is alcohol any different?

So at your parties or weddings this weekend I want you to THINK before you DRINK. Think about whether the alcohol is worth the calories and the consequences. Do not drink in excess no matter how high of a tolerance you think you may have- alcohol is toxic, so too much can easily kill you. Have fun, drink responsibly, and enjoy the rest of your summer!

Chapman, LF. Experimental induction of hangover. Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol 5(Suppl. 5):67–86, 1970.
"Liver and Alcohol Breakdown." UBM Medica Australia, 21 Sept. 2009. Web. 26 June 2012. <>.
Pawan, GL. Alcoholic drinks and hangover effects. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 32(1):15A, 1973.
Swift R, Davidson D. Alcohol hangover: mechanisms and mediators. Alcohol Health Res World 1998; 22:54–60.
Verster, J. C. (2008). "The alcohol hangover-a puzzling phenomenon". Alcohol and Alcoholism 43 (2): 124–126

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How to Maintain Lean Muscle as You Age

As people age, many assume they are destined to gain weight and get brittle bones. However, if you maintain a healthy diet and incorporate regular physical activity, this does not need to be the case. The average American is extremely inactive. For example, many people use climbing the stairs in their house, parking at the far end of the parking lot, and walking the dog for five minutes outside as their exercise for the day. Sorry to be blunt, but this is just normal daily activities and should not count towards exercise, especially if you have a sedentary office job the rest of the day. Your heart rate should be elevated (due to physical activity) at minimum thirty minutes a day and exercise should be challenging in order to get the most benefit. As you get older, a sedentary lifestyle makes you extremely prone to accelerated muscle loss, weight gain, osteoporosis, depression, and early death, among other harmful effects.

Sarcopenia is the term used to describe muscle loss along with a decrease in muscle strength and/or muscle performance, typically beginning at age 25. However, the older you get, the faster your muscles lose strength due to inactivity. Losing strength puts adults at risk for falls, decreases immunity and wound healing ability, slows the metabolism, and decreases glucose disposal (1). Thus the risk for morbidity increases and many studies show that weaker adults tend to die earlier than those who have more lean muscle. In one interesting study (2), healthy young adults who were placed on bed rest for 28 days lost 2% of their total lean leg mass.  In comparison, healthy older adults who were placed on bed rest for only 10 days lost 10% of their total lean leg mass while consuming the same RDA protein as the healthy younger group. This study was quite significant because it shows that the older adults lost 3x more muscle in only 1/3 the time as healthy young adults (1).

So, as you get older it is incredibly important to keep very active. You are not destined to have a slowing metabolism and become a frail geriatric. You must keep moving all day long and participate in regular resistance training to encourage protein synthesis and muscle strengthening. As you get older, you must work harder at your workouts to get the same results as when you were younger. However, you can still maintain a rockin’ solid body if you work hard. The benefit of getting older is most people have more free time on their hands (ie: retirement). Use this as an opportunity to engage in activities that are social and keep you active instead of falling into the typical adult who spends more than ¾ of their day in sedentary activities. I encourage people to (at least) stand up every 20 minutes- every time you are inactive you are breaking own lean muscle. Sit less move more!

To prevent the breakdown of muscle, people must incorporate resistance training on a regular basis. Try to incorporate resistance training that works every major muscle group at least 2-3 times per week to prevent muscle breakdown. You must also consume lean protein and carbohydrates in order to build muscle. Try to spread carbs and protein throughout the day, as this can help prevent your body from going into muscle stores for energy.

To summarize, just keep moving as you get older! Make sure you are getting your heart rate elevated for at least 30 minutes per day, but keep moving all day long! Don’t let your life just pass you by sitting on the couch, go outside, see people, nature, and enjoy moving! You start breaking down muscle in your 20’s which is why many people begin to gain weight…. It doesn’t have to be that way! If you work hard your metabolism will not slow much at all as you get older.

If you are interested in learning how to eat to preserve lean muscle for your body, schedule an appointment with me at Club La Maison! Many insurance plans cover up 6-10 nutrition sessions per year at 100% with a dietitian including Independence Blue Cross, Highmark Blue Shield, Aetna, AmeriHealth, and Administrator plans. If interested in scheduling an appointment, please email me at:


1. National Dairy Council Webinar on 7/23/14: “Aging and Muscle Loss: Too Young to Worry? Think Again!
2. Paddon-Jones et al. 2004; Kortebein et al. 2007
3. Cruz-Jentoft Age Aging 2010;39(4):412-23; Burton et al. Clin Interv Aging. 2010; 5:217-28. Review
4. Roubenoff, 2003
5. The Journals of Gerontology, August, 2012
6. Dr. Gabe Mirkin's Fitness and Health e-Zine, July 24, 2014,
7. Picture Source: