The Motherboard Guide to Day Drinking
Science and technology, helping you drink your day away without dying.
Images: Derek Mead
Summer is the season of excess. For better or for worse, jeans turn into jorts, doing any sort of real work becomes an increasingly distant possibility, and the days beg for beers. The allure of day drinking only seems to rise with the temperature, but if you don't know how to handle yourself, you'll be tossing your eggs benny and nodding off on a patio before you know it. You don't want to be that person. We don't want you to be that person.
There's no One Weird Trick to keep you on the straight and narrow during a day-long session. Drinking to excess means, believe it or not, that you're going to get drunk and experience all the accompanying effects. Doing so in the heat of midday can be especially dangerous because alcohol increases the risk of heat stress and the loss of important vitamins and nutrients through your peehole.
But don't freak out, fellow diurnal drinker; science and technology are on our side. Here are a few Motherboard-approved tips to help you make it through the boozy days of summer without killing yourself.
By the time four in the afternoon rolls around, you're going to wish you had a better gauge of how much you've had to drink than simply how sick you feel. Before you head out the door, it might not be a bad idea idea to strap on some wearable tech and load up some apps.
As Motherboard's Nicolas Hausdorf showed during his quantified night out in Berlin, apps like BAC Calc that track your blood alcohol content throughout the day can keep you aware of how wasted you're getting. A Nike Fuelband on your wrist could be a good idea if you're concerned about packing on the pounds after a day of binge drinking and, let's be real, slamming down burritos. To keep you on-budget, look at Mint, even if it scares you.
Of course, by doing this you run the risk of facing glasshole-esque social shaming—and perhaps you should, you shameless Silicon Valley acolyte—but when it comes to your health, a little social awkwardness is probably worth it.
Eat Brunch (Just Eat in General)
Wake up late, head on over to your favourite brunch joint, and buckle down for the most important meal of the day because you're going to need some complex carbohydrates and fats before you start drowning your liver in mimosas.
As the US National Library of Medicine's own guide to responsible drinking says, "Alcohol gets into your bloodstream quickly. The amount and type of food in your stomach can change how quickly this occurs. For example, high-carbohydrate and high-fat foods can make your body absorb alcohol more slowly."
A big meal before boozing won't "soak up the alcohol," despite what your college friend Ricky told you. It will, however, help keep the spins at bay since those whole wheat waffles and pork belly are perfect for sitting in the small intestine, where alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream, for long periods of time. This tactic won't keep you from getting drunk—once booze is in your belly, it's going to do its work—but it will keep every drink from hitting you at once.
But what about that brunch champagne? There's nothing more enjoyable than bottomless juice cups of cut-rate bubbly, but if you're looking to make it past noon, you might want to pass. As the same NLM guide says, "Certain types of alcoholic drinks get into your bloodstream faster. A carbonated (fizzy) alcoholic drink, such as champagne, will be absorbed faster than a non-carbonated drink."
Brunch is also a good time to stock up on some of the minerals and vitamins you're going to be wizzing out for the rest of the day. Bananas are a great source of potassium, for example. Eat up, and eat well. You've got a big day ahead of you.
Drink Water, and a Lot of It
Alcohol is a diuretic, which is a fancy way of saying what most of us already know all too well: it makes you pee a lot. Alcohol suppresses the antidiuretic hormone in the human body, resulting in excessive urination and eventual dehydration. Dehydration, by the way, is one of the main causes for the next morning's head-splitting hangover.
Dehydration can be very unpleasant, and actively dehydrating yourself in the hot sun isn't a very good idea. Unfortunately, you're always going to be playing catch-up with the pints passing through your organs. One study from 1990, in which subjects drank whisky for breakfast, found that the diuretic effect of drinking is most pronounced for an hour or two after drinking; if you're drinking all day, that effect won't go away.
Another study, this one from way back in 1950, found that after 147 ml of 86 proof whiskey (roughly three shots, depending on how heavy your hand is), test subjects' urine output peaked at more than three times that of the control group. The long and short is what you already know: Drink a lot, and you pee a lot. But it is important to remember that you're not just peeing out what you've drank; that alcohol is actively working to dehydrate you as well.
Because of this, drinking water is absolutely crucial, and doubly so when you're sweating under the sun. Drinking one glass of water for every glass of alcohol that you consume—feel encouraged to mix in the occasional Gatorade as well—should keep you from experiencing severe dehydration. This will also have the added bonus of forcing you to pace yourself. This is a marathon, not a sprint, champ.
Stay Cool, Be Cool
As I previously mentioned, alcohol dries you out and, when paired with extreme heat, it can lead to heat exhaustion. Another, often undiscussed, factor that contributes to heat stress while imbibing is that being drunk can make you act really drunk—slow, stupid, and avoidant of cooling behaviours.
Take the same precautions that you would any other time you're in the sun for long periods. Stay in the shade when you can, wear clothes that breathe, drink plenty of fluids (that aren't alcohol), and wear sunscreen. Seriously, wear sunscreen—it smells funny and it reminds me of being nine years old, but it's also key to avoiding a painful burn and awful tan line. And don't forget your shades.
Oh, and remember that lunatic behavior is less accepted during the daytime hours, so stay chill. Since everyone has their own definition of chill, and they're all cool in their own right, we'll sum this tip up like this: Don't be a drunken idiot. The last thing anyone wants to see is some dude who's so hammered and sunburned that he's hallucinating while stomping around the beach like a lobotomized gorilla. Don't be that guy.
Skip the Whisky, Hemingway
Whisky is the unmistakable mark of someone who really knows how to drink. It oozes amber authenticity; it's the drink of big, burly men and badass women who are in touch with their feelings. But on hot days, you should skip it, especially in mixed drinks.
Drinking whisky and other hard liquors don't necessarily get you drunk quicker—alcohol is alcohol—but there is the risk of drinking more of it more quickly. Sipping a pint usually takes longer than downing a double whisky ginger and lime.
In fact, just skip mixed drinks altogether. As previously mentioned, carbonated beverages like soda or sparkling wine also contribute to alcohol being absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly by speeding up its passage from the stomach to the small intestine.
Beer does the same thing, sure, but working on a sixer of a nice, crisp Pilsner or other low ABV beer is going to get you into less trouble than trying to hold back from sucking down six gloriously tart gin and tonics.
Need a recommendation? We'd suggest starting with this Beer Advocate list of top American Pale Ales (or this one of Pilsners, or this one of steam beers, or… you get the idea) and finding something with an ABV of 5.5 percent or lower.
We all know the snobs and shitbirds who think either high-alcohol beers, beer bongs, or margarita enemas are the only "real" way to party, but let's not be a jackass here. Remember, day drinking is a game of stamina and endurance.
Prepare for the Next Morning
Like some sort of cruel law of the universe, a fun-filled day of drinking often brings with it a crushing hangover. Since hangovers are likely caused by many intertwining factors, including mild alcohol withdrawal, dehydration, gastrointestinal inflammation, sleep interruption, low blood sugar levels, and more, there's no surefire way to avoid one. Most of the tips I've already mentioned will serve to mitigate the effects, but you always want to be ready for a bad hangover just in case it comes.
Drinking a tall glass of water before going to bed can offset some of alcohol's dehydrating effects. Eating lots of fruit and bland foods that contain complex carbohydrates like toast or crackers can replenish vitamins, especially the B and C complexes, and even out your blood sugar levels. Copious napping can help ease the fatigue that comes with a restless night of drunk sleep. Also, pizza.
While all of these suggestions are recommended by doctors and various national health bodies, the only surefire way to avoid a hangover is not to get drunk. But, since you're reading this, that's probably not going to happen. Thankfully, bona fide hangover cures are on the horizon, thanks to a variety of brain-pain-hating researchers.
Getting tipsy during the daylight hours is an indisputable joy of summer, but please, be smart. After all, you don't want to miss the steamy night that comes after the late afternoon nap of a boozy day because you died on a lawn somewhere.