How to thwart that hangover

If you must partake of alcohol, heed these tips to prevent unpleasant morning after

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Just for the record, I'm not suggesting that you ever overindulge in alcohol. I believe in moderation, and anything in excess is not a good idea. But I also recognize that come Labor Day, people just seem to want to let loose and celebrate the end of the summer season.

So here are some tricks to ensure you're not paying the morning after.

• Eat before you drink. Food will slow the absorption rate of alcohol and give your body more time to deal with it.

• Drink water before you drink alcohol. This will also slow the absorption rate of alcohol.

• Drink 1-2 glasses of water for every alcoholic drink you consume. This will help to avoid the dehydrating effects of alcohol (which is associated with those morning-after headaches) and the water will help flush the toxins out of your system before they accumulate and cause problems the next day.

• Don't mix your drinks. It's harder for your body and stomach to handle and will most likely cause upset.

• Prepare your body. Some people suggest drinking milk or taking a Milk Thistle supplement (available at health food stores) before you attend a party to coat your stomach and prepare your liver.

• Do not drink coffee. Although commonly used to help "sober" and "wake" people up, it actually makes things worse because caffeine poses a dehydrating effect, which is one of the culprits to begin with.

• Avoid extra sugar. The sugar content in many cocktails and wines is associated with those screaming headaches the next day, so avoid overdoing it with more sugar found in deserts.

• It's not a competition. Don't try to keep up with others around you. We all have different tolerance levels depending on our size and gender. Know your body and your limits and stick to them.

• Play sports or get on the dance floor. By participating in other events, it will help to keep your focus away from pounding back another drink. Plus, it will help you sweat out the toxins. Just be sure to drink lots of water, too!

• Stay out of the sun. Look for shaded areas to hang. The dehydrating, fatiguing effects of the sun will make you feel pretty bad, pretty quickly.

• Don't succumb to peer pressure. There's no reason why you should feel you have to drink just because you're in a social setting. Be high on life, not drugs and alcohol. If you don't want to appear like the party-pooper, there are wonderfully tasty nonalcoholic versions of drinks, wines and cocktails.

• Remember your health and fitness goals. A hangover will definitely put the brakes on any scheduled next-day workouts. Is a night of getting crazy worth one to two days of misery?

• Think ahead if you are planning to drink. Leave your car at home, arrange for a designated drinker or camp/sleep where you're going. There's nothing worse than a hangover, that is, except a hangover in a jail cell!

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver. She can be reached at www.nwPersonalTraining.com or www.ShapeupwithSherri.com.