Ha! A great question for the festive season. Even the most motivated and focused of us enjoy a night out every now and then but what about the day after the night before? Is it ok to exercise with a hangover? Is running with a hangover dangerous? Should you miss your gym workout if you’ve drunk too much? Will exercising with a hangover actually make you feel better? All good questions that I’ve been asked, so here’s the run down on exercising with a hangover.
How much did you drink?
It’s common sense that the more alcohol you drink and the later into the night (or early into the morning) you consume it, then the bigger the effect it’s going to have on your ability to exercise the next day. Alcohol is cleared from the body by the liver and it can only work so quickly. The standard guidance is that it can clear one unit of alcohol per hour. So, do a quick recap in your head about how many units you drank and how many hours have passed. Check here for advice on how many units drinks contain and what safe limits are. If you can’t remember, then you have your answer – a lot.
How bad do you feel?
How much alcohol affects you and how quickly your body clears it depends on many factors including the type of alcohol you drank, whether you’re male or female (women generally break down alcohol more slowly than men), your weight, metabolism and whether or not you ate anything while you drank. Are you just a bit thick headed or do you feel dizzy, nauseated and very unwell when you get up? If you’re struggling to wander around the house, your heart is racing and you can’t face eating or drinking anything, then exercising is clearly not a good idea.
So you plan to go?
You’ve decided that you’re going to exercise. This might be to ease the guilt, because you’d made plans to, don’t feel too bad or because you hope it might make you feel better.
Here are some tips for exercising with a hangover:
- Wait and rehydrate. Do you need to go right now? Can you wait a couple of hours and take some time to rehydrate? You’re almost guaranteed to feel better later than you do first thing. A sports drink with electrolytes is a good way to rehydrate, mix up a pint of this and leave it an hour. If you haven’t passed urine or your urine is really dark in colour then you’re dehydrated and should delay exercising. You can’t ‘sweat’ alcohol out of your system
- Feel your pulse. If your heart is racing along then it’s a sign of dehydration and that your body is under strain. If you’re someone who regularly takes their resting heart rate, then this will give you a good guide. Exercising whilst you’re already tachycardic (heart going faster than normal) isn’t a good idea and alcohol can put you at increased risk of abnormal heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation
- Eat first. Alcohol lowers your blood sugar so it’s sensible to have something to eat before you go, to avoid it falling further and making you feel faint and unwell
- Take it easy. Leave that hard training session you had planned and do something more gentle. A walk in the fresh air is never the wrong thing to do and will help to clear your head. Whatever you choose, just start gradually and see how you feel. Many people say exercising with a hangover makes them feel better but go easy on yourself, there’s always tomorrow
- Take a drink and your phone. If it’s not working out and you feel rough, then having some fluid with you is a good plan. Similarly, having your phone to call someone to pick you up is always wise. Don’t be stubborn, head home, rehydrate and rest and you’ll be back on form soon enough.
What’s your experience? Do you exercise with a hangover? What are your tips for avoiding a hangover in the first place? What hangover remedies do you swear by?
There are more answers to questions like these and lots of health information to help you lead a happy and active life in my book Sorted: The Active Woman’s Guide to Health.
Disclaimer: I can’t give personal medical advice and as always with health advice, reading something online doesn’t replace seeing your doctor who knows your medical history and can assess you in person. So, if you are unsure then always seek the opinion of a health care professional.