When a box of vitamins claiming to help cure hangovers came across our desk, we cheered. The curse of a fun night out only seems to worsen with age and at this time of the year, the stack of holiday invites isn't going anywhere but up. We called Mike McAdams, one of the founders of Drinkwel, nutrient-packed pills meant to take before and after boozing to help with a hangover.
Real Beauty: So how exactly do the pills help prevent hangovers?
Mike McAdams: They replenish a lot of the nutrients you lose when you're drinking. Minerals like thiamine, vitamin B, magnesium, zinc, and chromium are all depleted when you drink, so we're giving you an extra dose. Our level of vitamin B is higher than the recommended daily allowance, but it's not a big deal. Any extra vitamin B, you just pee out.
RB: So it restores what you've lost when drinking as long as you take it right before falling into bed.
MM: Basically. I take it as my daily multivitamin, but if I'm drinking, I'll take another dose before bed. The serving before bed is what's really important to avoid feeling it the next day. Customer-wise, we have a lot of people who clearly just take it when they're out partying, but we also have customers who order a bottle a month. As a company, we're concerned about the long and short term effects of drinking, so this was a comprehensive answer.
RB: How did you come up with the idea for Drinkwel?
MM: I was raised in a really healthy family. My mom was sort of a health freak before her time like organic baby food before it was a thing. I went to college and was drinking a lot but was nervous about the health effects. By the end of college, I had this handful of vitamins I'd take when I was drinking, and I'd hand them out to friends and stuff.
RB: You were basically like a drug dealer.
MM: Yeah! It was a little weird, but a good way to test out the ingredients. I'd really been testing this product out for years before we actually made it. After college, I was getting older and hangovers were getting worse, and I was tired of my real estate job. I met my current business partner and we put it all together and started selling in May 2010.
RB: Did you get Mom's input?
MM: She had some helpful information but I wasn't super open with her about my drinking. She would send me these really high-quality vitamins in the mail though.
RB: If someone is taking them to help avoid a hangover, when's the ideal, absolute best time to take them?
MM: If you're just having a couple of drinks, taking the one serving before bed is fine. If you're going to a party and are going to get pretty sauced up, I'd definitely take the serving before, too. It's flexible about specific times though. A lot of times I'd say, 'Oh, I'm having my first drink. I'm going to take them now with beer.' The most important thing is just to take them.
RB: Do you think you're more popular with guys or girls?
MM: We though it'd be college guys, but we ended up skewing to the 25- to 40-year-olds with a slight lean toward women. I think girls talk about it more with friends, have worse hangovers than guys, are less stubborn, and more open to health products overall.
RB: Have you picked up any other tricks for making a hangover feel better?
MM: Have a good meal before drinking because it gives your body time to process the alcohol. If you're drinking on an empty stomach, you're hit with a wave, and your body is forced to process it all at once. If you have a meal, it can do it over time. I love having a water or seltzer with lime between drinks, or snacks. Little bar food. Obviously more water before bed, too.
RB: And we're guessing you're not a big fan of the greasy, morning-after meal.
MM: No, and my research shows it's not effective. Maybe it dulls the pain and you're satiated in the short term, but in reality, having fresh juice, eggs, and a banana will put you on a faster path to recover. You're replenishing nutrients through the juice, a banana has electrolytes so you're hydrating. Eggs have cysteine which helps the body process toxins.
RB: So when was the last time you were hungover?
MM: You know, through all this research you become very aware of exactly what alcohol does, so I don't drink a ton anymore. But the last time probably at a bachelor party. I've drank too much before and didn't remember to take the serving before bed, but that's a rare occasion these days.
Drinkwel is sold in packets and bottles, with free samples available on their site here. The capsules can also be opened and poured into liquid if you'd rather not swallow them, although McAdams says don't expect a great taste. "I'm going to be honest with you it tastes earthy. I've tasted it directly, I've mixed it with Gatorade, I've made smoothies with it. I've done everything. It's herbal. Herby. It's not tasty."