Should you exercise on a hangover?
Updated: Dec 20, 2020
At the time of writing this, we are heading into the festive season, & with it often brings late nights & overindulgence of food & alcohol! Now we should remind everyone on the importance of moderation when it comes to drinking, but for those that don't listen, here are our top 6 tips for exercising with a hangover!
Whilst we all know someone that's had the race of their lives after a big night out, let's face it, it's not that common, & drinking copious amounts of alcohol before a race is far from an ideal preparation. You may also have heard someone espouse "sweating it out" is the best thing for a hangover, & you may even ascribe to this yourself.
Firstly let’s talk about some of the symptoms of a hangover that would impair your exercise performance:
Tiredness: drinking alcohol impairs your sleep. Whilst a few drinks may allow you to fall asleep more easily, it unfortunately results in a more shallow & restless sleep, causing you to miss on the deep sleep necessary for recovery.
Pain: many people find their conditions worse after a night drinking. This can be multifactorial, but lack of sleep & alcohol itself can play a role in increasing your pain.
Nausea: enough said here. If you can't venture a few meters from a toilet bowl, you'd best forget exercise until this subsides!
Does exercise "sweat out" a hangover?
No, the reason you can feel better after exercising with a hangover is NOT due to "sweating out the alcohol", but rather the exercise causes a release of endorphins (often called the "feel good" hormone) & also tends to increase alertness (similar to a cup of coffee).
Is there an increased risk of injury exercising when hungover?
Whilst there isn't any research examining the risks of exercising when hungover, with the lack of sleep, decreased cognitive ability & dehydration already placing a high degree of stress on the body, one could extrapolate that exercising on a hangover does place you at higher risk of injury.
Our 6 tips to exercising with a hangover
1. Take it easy!
You might feel like punishing yourself after polishing off that late night souvlaki, but keep your session easy. For runners that would be your easy running pace, for the gym goers this may involve slightly reducing loads for that session.
2. Keep hydrated
Alcohol dehydrates the body, so it's important to keep the fluid intake up during your session. This is especially important for those exercising outdoors on a hot summer day!
3. Be realistic
For the various reasons outlined above, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be setting PBs, so don't put undue pressure on yourself to perform.
4. Keep it simple
Co-ordination is often impaired on a hangover, so keep the exercises simple. Activities requiring high degrees of balance or skill (i.e Olympic lifting) are best performed at another time.
5. Plan ahead
If you know you have a big night ahead, modify your program accordingly to have an easy / rest day afterwards.
6. Take a nap
Because sleep is often poor quality after a big night, don't be afraid to nap the day after to catch up. Remember to keep the nap short (less than 1 hour) & don't sleep past 3 pm to avoid it impacting your ability to fall asleep at night. You may even want to try a nappachino