This Is Why Your Hangovers Get So Much Worse As You Age

why hangovers get worse as you age

Flickr/Mislav Marohnić

When it comes to hangovers, 30 is definitely not 21. The older you get, the more your head throbs, your stomach churns and your body aches after a night of alcohol-related debauchery. Most of us know that the day-after pain experienced from drinking one too many adult beverages only gets worse with age, but do you know why? Here are four science-backed reasons that could be to blame.

1. You have fewer liver enzymes.

We recently learned from Brooks Powell, the designer of after-alcohol aid Thrive+, that when you digest alcohol, your liver is tasked with breaking down a toxic compound called acetaldehyde. Your liver has bioavailable stores of aldehyde dehydrogenase enzymes that are responsible for breaking down this toxic compound. But as you age, the amount of this enzyme you have available naturally decreases. So your body ultimately takes longer to fully digest alcohol, leaving more of the toxins floating around in your body, which are what make you feel like total trash the next day.

2. Maybe you aren’t as fit as you used to be…

No fat shaming here — your body composition legitimately shifts as you age, leading to your storage of more fat. You have to work that much harder in the gym and eat that much cleaner in the kitchen to maintain the same amount of muscle mass and tone (and lack of fat) you once had in your early 20s. So when those scales tip and your metabolism starts to slow, you no longer burn through alcohol as quickly. Instead, it has to navigate additional fat stores, which contain a lot less water than muscle and make the digestion process that much slower.

why hangovers get worse as you age

Unsplash/Gaelle Marcel

3. Your natural healing processes slow.

You might think you’re a superhero, but your DNA says otherwise. Growing older means that your body takes longer to heal and regenerate and, in many cases, it doesn’t return to its formerly 100 percent functional self. Workout injuries are more likely to lead to lifelong mobility issues, it can take you twice as long to get over catching the seasonal flu virus and — yep — your body needs a larger time cushion to handle all of those toxins you just poured into your body via that six-pack of beer. It also doesn’t help that your natural water content in your body decreases as you age, too, which is what helps you process and flush out toxins more quickly.

4. You’re probably not drinking as often.

Ahh, the question of alcohol tolerance. You figured this one would come up, right? The reality is that as you approach your ripe adult years, life responsibilities are ultimately prioritized over bender weekends. You work longer hours, you have more friend and family obligations that don’t revolve around wine and you kinda care about taking care of your body for the long haul rather than poisoning it every chance you get in the name of fun. So when you do finally pick up the glass, your body doesn’t know what to do with it anymore. It’s a shock to your system, and that toxin overload then takes that much longer to be remedied.


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