Headache, nausea, dizziness, and a rapid heartbeat: are you feeling the effects of last night’s party and all the alcohol you drank? Of course, the best hangover tip is to avoid getting one in the first place. But what can you do once you have one?
In fact, a light workout the next morning can help ease or even get rid of the unpleasant side effects of a hangover. You should keep the following three tips in mind if you’re working out hungover:
1. Replace lost fluids and minerals
The alcohol you consumed has robbed your body of important fluids and minerals.(1) Since your body requires additional fluids when you exercise to cool itself and maintain vital metabolic processes, and your muscles and cardiovascular system rely on essential minerals to function properly, you should fill up your stores before starting to work out. Ideally, you should remember to supply your body with some minerals before going to bed in the form of fruit, water or magnesium, calcium, and potassium tablets. If you happen to forget, then you should simply start your day off by drinking a lot of water, tea, or a glass of warm lemon water with ginger to replace the fluids and minerals lost the night before.
2. Get your circulation going
The detox process puts a lot of strain on your circulatory system and often makes exercising in the morning unthinkable. Still, you should try to get your blood pumping. One good way is to take a lukewarm or cold shower to stimulate blood circulation. Contrast showers (alternating between hot and cold water) can also work wonders. Afterward, your body is up to speed, and you won’t overtax your system by starting out cold.
3. Lace up your running shoes and go
Of course, a night on the town with too much alcohol is not the ideal starting point for a new personal best. A short and easy run in the morning to sweat out the alcohol, however, can speed up the detox process and help your body recover more quickly.
Be careful: Exercise activates your metabolism, which means that it will flood your system with the toxins contained in alcohol. In the short run, this can make your hangover worse. However, stimulating your circulation and getting some fresh air is good for your overall well-being.
Can I still work on improving my performance when I’m hungover? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Under these conditions, it’s almost impossible to achieve any training effect or performance gains. Your body is too busy metabolizing the alcohol you consumed the night before.
What is a hangover exactly?
Nausea, headache, and dizziness: these symptoms are caused by the alcohol itself and the toxins that are released in the process of breaking down the alcohol. In addition, alcohol stimulates your kidneys to excrete more urine, which leads to dehydration. This loss of fluids strips your body of essential minerals and electrolytes and thus interferes with important metabolic processes.
Do you want to improve your performance but like to drink? We’ll tell you why alcohol and fitness are not a great team.
Alcohol contains lots of calories
Alcohol is an often underestimated source of calories: 1 g of alcohol = 7 calories. To compare, consider that carbohydrates and proteins contain 4 calories/g, and fat a whopping 9 calories/g. This means a half liter (17 ounces) of beer has more than 200 calories. A piña colada weighs in at nearly 400 calories due to the cream. To work off this amount of calories, you would have to run for about an hour.
What’s more, people tend to eat hearty, high-calorie foods when they drink alcohol. Since your liver is busy metabolizing the alcohol (with the help of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase), the extra calories are stored directly in your fat cells. What’s the result? You gain weight.
The US Center for Disease Control recommends moderation on days when alcohol is consumed:
- 1 drink or less per day for women
- 2 drinks or less per day for men
Daily consumption of alcohol is discouraged. Even moderate consumption increases your risk of cirrhosis of the liver and certain cancers.(2)
Alcohol slows down your recovery
You are definitely not doing yourself, or your body any favors if you drink a beer after your workout. The alcohol delays the process of restoring your glycogen stores (carbohydrate reserves). This has a negative impact on your recovery after intense physical exercise.(3)
Alcohol dehydrates your body
Alcoholic beverages promote the excretion of water via your kidneys.(4) Valuable salts are lost due to this increased need to urinate. This can really wreak havoc on your mineral balance and increase the likelihood of muscle cramps.
Rule of thumb: Whenever you drink a glass of wine, follow it up with a glass of water. Or go with a wine spritzer.
Alcohol impacts your sleep
Consuming large quantities of alcohol has a negative impact on the quality and quantity of your sleep.(5) A good night’s sleep is crucial for athletes looking to improve their performance because it gives your body the time it needs to rest and recover.
Want to improve the quality of your sleep?
Our sleep cycle calculator will show you when you should go to bed to wake up feeling refreshed.
Alcohol weakens your immune system
Are you often sick? The regular consumption of alcohol can weaken your immune system.(6) Plus, it stimulates the release of the stress hormone cortisol. As the polar opposite of testosterone, this stress hormone breaks down muscle and inhibits the burning of fatty tissue.
At the same time, alcohol blocks the release of growth hormones. These are particularly important for recovering from a workout, torching fat, and building muscle.(7)
All these factors contribute to a drop in performance. Have you ever tried non-alcoholic beer? It is a good alternative and a perfect electrolyte drink after a hard workout. Most non-alcoholic beers are isotonic, which makes them ideal for replenishing lost electrolytes and fluids.
Alcohol is considered to be a luxury good and should be enjoyed in moderation. If your goal is to maximize your performance, you should abstain from alcohol entirely because it will hold you back. If you overdo it once in a while, exercise can help you recover from a hangover. A morning run won’t totally cure a hangover, but it will definitely help!