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How to Hold Your Liquor

If you're going to drink, these 5 tips may help you avoid overdoing it.

3. Skip the Bubbles

Researchers at the University of Manchester have found that carbonated mixers increase the rate of alcohol absorption in the blood. The theory is that the gas in the bubbles is what speeds up the process. Instead, mix your liquor with fruit juice or water.  

If you are going to drink something bubbly, alternate between alcohol and nonalcoholic beverages, suggests Kim Beto, a sommelier and vice president of Southern Wine & Spirits in San Francisco.

"Order a drink that looks the same as an alcoholic drink -- ginger ale in a champagne glass or Coke without the rum, for example," Beto says. The reason: You still have a glass in your hand and it feels like you're having a "real" drink, but you're not doing the same harm.

4. Pay Now or Pay Later

The saying "you get what you pay for" is often the case with alcohol. Researchers have found a link between drinking alcoholic beverages and congeners, the chemicals that contribute to the taste, smell, and color of alcohol.

In that study, people drank either bourbon or vodka with the same alcohol content. The next day, both groups reported hangovers, but the bourbon drinkers reported feeling much worse than the vodka group. The researchers attribute the difference to congeners -- bourbon has 37 times as many congeners as vodka.

In general, clear or light liquor contains fewer congeners than darker drinks, but that's not a hard and fast rule. The best rule of thumb, according to Woodford: Drink more expensive brands. The cheaper booze tends to contain higher levels of congeners than pricier versions, he says.

5. Put Your Mouth to Work

"Having a conversation is an easy way to pace your drinking," Brick says. If you're chatting, you're not guzzling, so you're slowing down the rate booze hits your blood.

But one of the best ways to occupy your mouth and reduce the odds you'll have a hangover: Eat something. "Eating slows down the absorption of alcohol so you have more time to metabolize what you're drinking," Brick tells WebMD.

What should you eat? "Fats and carbs will line the stomach and replace sugars that the body needs for fuel," says New York City nutritionist Keri Glassman, RD. The best options are whole grains and polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in certain fish -- including salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines --and some nuts and seeds (including walnuts and flaxseed).

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Reviewed on March 17, 2010

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