Biohack The Festive Season
The holiday season is aright around the corner and we look forward to Parties, fun, sun, laughing, joy and celebration! But the celebrations are usually shortly followed by headaches, shaking, nausea, diarrhoea, dizziness, fatigue, dry mouth, bad eating guilts, weight gain and a brain that seems strangely emptied of all knowledge.
Biohack hangovers and silly season madness
No matter how healthy your lifestyle is, I’m sure that most of us have at some point or another said, “never again!”. Only to succumb again once the last encounter is a distant memory!
You feel less than stellar after a night of indulgence due to dehydration, hormonal changes, toxicity and inflammation. The good news though is that there are things we can do to mitigate the impact of another helping of trifle or a month-long boozing binge that was simply “unavoidable”.
Key to all of this is to have a strategy and stick with it! This article is certainly not meant to encourage drinking or eating more, and the fact that you’ll feel better implementing these measures doesn’t mean that you can indulge until nothing helps anymore! But following some of these simple rules will mean that you can have your cocktail and drink it too!
Party Snack Pack Survival Guide
The best advice when it comes to indulging over the festive season, because let’s face it, it’s largely inevitable, is to manage your blood sugar response. This might sound boring, but we generally eat more carbs and more calories than we normally would. In addition, we go to restaurants more often or get invited to parties where the menu is largely out of your control.
So, your best bet: manage the way your body responds to the food that you eat by managing your blood sugar response to food. The best ways to achieve this is through cold exposure (daily cold plunges or cold showers), weight training, consistent sleep and Glucose Disposal Agents (GDA).
GDA’s help mitigate a blood sugar spike and subsequent crash after eating a meal heavy in carbs. You simply take them just before your meal and this goes a loooong way to mitigating weight gain from consuming a carbohydrate heavy meal (simplistically, blood sugar spikes = inflammation and insulin resistance = weight gain).
Here are the top GDA’s:
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Not the tastiest shot of the holiday season but right before a meal, an absolute winner for controlling your blood glucose response. Try Goli Apple Cider Vinger Gummies for an alternative.
- Ceylon Cinnamon: A teaspoon or three included in coffee and smoothies goes a long way to keeping your blood glucose regulated
- Bitter Melon Extract: Popular in supplements for blood glucose control
- Bitters: A couple of drops in your favourite drink does wonders for the taste and your blood sugar!
- Berberine: Berberine is a famous GDA and works very well to regulate blood sugar. However, dihydroberberine (a more biologically available derivative of berberine) is the popular new kid on the block due to its profound impact on blood glucose and ability to be better absorbed
- Metformin: Prescription medicine often given to diabetics but very useful in controlling blood sugar
No one is advocating for popping a pill (GDA) over lifestyle factors like exercise, cold exposure and good sleep, but the above have a profound impact and are particularly helpful in conjunction with the above to mitigate the damage that the silliness of the silly season brings with it.
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Drink, Drink, Drink!
As Esther Blum so beautifully puts it: going from “glam to slammed” in no time at all has happened to the best of us. And let’s face it, South Africans are known for indulging a little more in alcohol than most.
So, whether your poison of choice (it really is poison) is Corona, Cabernet or a Cosmo, the below tips should have you covered this Festive Season! This is no endorsement for drinking more and biohacking your way out of it, but when I saw both Mark Sisson and Ben Greenfield set out the below drinking survival guide, I felt it is worth trying and sharing here!
Without further ado, here is the masterclass on how to approach the silly season’s alcoholic indulgences:
-The Pre-Party Days-
- Maximise sleep: a key to good sleep hygiene is a consistent going to bed and waking time. Highly unlikely during party season, so try to bank as much sleep before a big party as you can. Studies show that this may somewhat mitigate the effects of losing sleep at a later point and it strengthens your overall system.
- Eat the right oils: Omega-6 fats, especially from oils like sunflower and canola oil (polyunsaturated fats or PUFA’s) have been shown in research to increase liver damage when ethanol (alcohol) is present. The opposite is true for stable fats like coconut oil, butter and olive oil (saturated and monounsaturated fats) and will actually protect against liver damage when exposed to ethanol. If you do eat Omega-6 fats, make sure to get them from whole foods like nuts and seeds.
-Day of the Party-
- Time to train: you want to work out relatively hard on the day of a party. Because exercise up-regulates antioxidant activity it’s been shown to actively reduce alcohol damage. We’re talking HIIT training, weight training or brisk walks. Strength and HIIT training also improve your glycaemic response to carb-heavy feasts, so prioritise this strategy!
- Choline, choline, choline: When faced with alcohol, your liver burns through its choline stores to mitigate damage, so you want to do all you can to replenish them. Best options: eat as many egg yolks as possible, eat liver or take liver tablets, or supplement with choline.
-Hour or so Pre-Party-
- Oil-up: From the inside that is. Glug 5-15ml each of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and avocado oil. They contain polyphenols that protect against alcohol-induced oxidative stress and the monounsaturated fats in these are liver protective. Also grab a handful of sunflower seeds or almonds for their high Vitamin E content while you’re at it, for the same benefits as above.
- Line your tummy: The old advice to eat something before drinking is quite right: a light to medium meal before drinking slows the absorption of alcohol. It is true that if the liver doesn’t have any glycogen (from not eating) then the fructose in your favourite tipple can be converted into liver glycogen more readily, but for anticipated heavy drinking, slower absorption is still your best strategy! Flooding your body with too much ethanol too fast due to having an empty tummy will overwhelm your antioxidant defences. Rule of thumb: include the above oils in your meal and don’t make it a big meal resulting in calorie overload when combined with your drinks!
- Polyphenol-rich plants & spices: Think turmeric, ginger, dark chocolate, berries and beets. These are good for alcohol metabolism. Something as simple as sprinkling turmeric over scrambled eggs or grabbing a handful of dark chocolate with berries is going to help you a lot in this department.
- Glycine: You can’t go amiss with sipping on some bone broth or collagen, as the glycine in these combat antioxidant depletion in the liver.
- Green tea and matcha: Green tea isn’t the tastiest thing for everyone, but it’s worth it considering all the tasty tipples in your future. Again, the polyphenols protect against ethanol-induced oxidative stress. The L-Theanine in green tea even helps with slow-release energy for a longer night of fun! Check our PRIMESELF's PrimeBurn product which contains green tea and is definitely also going to help with weight management from party food exposure!
- Supplementation: Great supplementation suggestions include:
Imagine a smoothie of berries, NAC, magnesium, EVOO, collagen, green tea powder, berries and dark chocolate right before your party. Winner central!
-The Main Event-
- Quality matters: Organic wines and the best quality spirits you can afford are inevitably better quality than the plastic bottle variety. Sorry! Best options include gin or vodka mixed with sparkling water and bitters or some fresh lime juice. Tasty and satisfying.
- Dilute your drinks: Hold on, hold on, before I lose you. I know this isn’t a popular choice and might defeat the object of consuming your drink in the first place, but where possible, add some sparkling water to your drink, it’s great for additional hydration.
- Electrolytes and salt: Robb Wolf created a drink which combines quality tequila, lime juice, sparkling water and salt. Surprisingly yummy, can be substituted with other clean-burning spirits like vodka and gin and is a super smart drinking option. You could always pop a sugar-free electrolyte tablet into your drink or consider options like REVIVE to make up your own cocktail!
- Hydration is key: If you’re not into diluting drinks or sparkling water cocktails, the old advice of having a glass of water (with a touch of quality mineral salt) is all the more important. I tend to forget the water between drinks, but on the nights I DO remember, man does it make a difference in the morning!!
- Stay active: You want to be standing and dancing and (if the party allows) doing 40 squats in the bathroom queue! You metabolise snacks and alcohol much better, so don’t be a couch potato party pooper!
- Fun cocktail recipe: Combine your chosen spirit with cacao, mushroom powder, astralagus, coconut milk, ghee and cinnamon! Massively good for immunity!
This part is key but often forgotten post-party, so best to pre-plan your strategy: combine ½ t salt, juice from one lemon and 15ml molasses in a cup of water. Ideally, add 200mg magnesium and 3mg melatonin. Glug 30 minutes before bed, hopefully you have time to wee before you go to sleep!
Another good tip is to take activated charcoal, which while it doesn’t absorb alcohol, it does absorb toxins from the excess sugar and party food and will help you feel better in the morning. If you need a midnight snack, your best bet is a banana with salty nut butter.
-The Morning After-
You should be feeling like a rockstar! If, however, you REALLY overdid it and you’re not feeling your best, have another cocktail (sadly not a mimosa) like the one you had before bed, as well as more activated charcoal.
Go for a walk (I’m of the view that an intense workout is the worst thing you could do to a battered body but for some people this works) and if your stomach allows it, have a breakfast with eggs and liver capsules (choline) and healthy fats.
I initially thought the above strategy sounds like more hard work that it is worth. But once you have a little checklist and just start doing it, it’s easier than expected. It works like a bomb and certainly manages the guilt from a night of excess! Give all or some of it a go and bring on your best party season yet!!
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- Thea is the founder of Neolaia – Biohacking SA and passionate about all things biohacking, functional medicine, holistic and ancestral wellness. She enjoys the occasional triathlon, is fanatic about yoga and the gym and loves n=1 biohacking experiments more than anything else! Learning about the latest in scientific research for health and wellness and applying this knowledge is what makes her happiest!
This information does not serve as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is for informational purposes only and does not provide a comprehensive explanation of the different compounds. Always consult your doctor first when making any changes to medication or supplementation.