Why alcohol leads to dehydration and hangover?
For some insight into how much alcohol dehydrates the body, consider that consuming around 330ml of beer will cause the body to produces around 500ml in urine.
According to Dr Karl, writing for the ABC, this effect applies to all alcohol – beer, wine or spirits.
Generally, one shot of alcohol will see you urinate an extra 120ml of urine on top of your normal hourly urine output, which is roughly 1ml per kilogram – so 60ml for a 60kg person and 80ml for an 80kg person.
This additional urine output means that dehydration and the dreaded hangover is all but guaranteed if you’re drinking more than a few alcoholic drinks.
Why does this happen? Given that beer comprises around 95 per cent water and 5 per cent alcohol, and the liver converts that 5 per cent into approximately the same amount of water.
The reason is because alcohol affects the brain, specifically the part which regulates the amount of water in our bodies, known as the pituitary gland.
The pituitary gland generates an anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) called vasopressin.
What does that mean? Well the job of ADH is to stop you urinating, according to Dr Karl. When you are dehydrated, ADH is released to tell the body to reduce urine production and conserve water.
Alcohol decreases the production of ADH, which then increases the production of urine. Because alcohol affects the brain very quickly, urine production also increases very quickly after drinking alcohol.
Drinking water and electrolytes will help, but not completely:
Drinking 120ml per shot of alcohol consumed – or around 170ml per beer – will help stave off dehydration and hangover, however it will not eliminate it.
Dr Karl says you only retain around half or even one third of the extra water you drink.
“Most of it will go out in your urine, and you’ll still end up dehydrated at the end of a night of drinking,” he says.
That said, drinking a glass of water with every alcoholic drink will certainly help you minimise dehydration and hangover.
However, increased urination also depletes the levels of electrolytes in our bodies, including sodium, magnesium and potassium.
This can lead to an electrolyte imbalance which has been linked to other hangover symptoms such as headaches, nausea and body aches.
Consuming a drink such as THORZT with its blend of electrolytes and amino acids that have been formulated to offer optimum hydration and replaces lost minerals will help to keep that hangover to a minimum.
Other effects of alcohol
All the water or electrolytes in the world won’t prevent the other negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption.
Long term it increases the risk of cancer, liver disease, heart disease, stroke and mental health issues.
Short term problems include slower injury and exercise recovery, disturbed sleep, impaired decision making and an increase likelihood of a poor diet.
For the industrial worker – where high levels of alcohol consumption are common – this can contribute to absenteeism, presenteeism, interpersonal problems, job turnover, injuries, disciplinary problems, poor job performance and reduced productivity.
Excessive alcohol consumption is also associated with impaired coordination, judgement and the ability to perceive and respond to hazards – increasing safety risks.
Education, training and cultural change is a critical part of the solution.