Working out with a hangover: is it a good idea to exercise after a night of drinking?

Posted by for Wellbeing

Have you ever heard of “sweating out” your hangover? Strong Women fitness trainers debunk the myth. 

The festive season comes with all sorts of perks. Whether it’s Christmas jumpers, favourite holiday films or delicious food, there is plenty to look forward to when the most wonderful time of the year rolls around.

A lot of us tend to enjoy a tipple during Christmas, too, with free-flowing cocktails and warming mulled wine likely to accompany our family catch-ups and Zoom office parties. But as much as we might enjoy having a drink or two to celebrate the season, they all too often come with a downside: hangovers. 

Hangovers can cause dehydration, fatigue and low mood.

Hangovers can be nasty things, and can cause everything from fatigue to low mood and anxiety. But while there is a persistent myth that exercise can help you to sweat out a hangover, you might be relieved to hear that, actually, there isn’t all that much truth to it.

We asked Strong Women fitness trainers Emma Obayuvana and Janine George to fill us in on the facts, to find out once and for all whether working out with a hangover is ever a good idea. 

Why might a hangover make it harder to work out?

One of the major symptoms of a hangover is dehydration, and the reason we feel so dehydrated after a night of drinking is that alcohol is a diuretic, “which means it causes the body to lose more water than it takes in,” according to verywellfit.

But it’s important to remember that our bodies are at least 50% water, and because of this, “we need to be hydrated to feel well,” says Emma. “Dehydration when working out is tough,” she continues: not only does it make the exercise itself feel harder, but you also lose even more water as you work out, “further worsening dehydration.”

In addition, Janine says that when people experience a hangover they very often also suffer from “dizziness, headaches and nausea,” which “can make it very challenging to negotiate exercise movements.” So, as well as having the potential to make some symptoms worse, working out when hungover is likely to “restrict you from giving your best,” too.

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Is an intense workout a good idea if you have a hangover?

Janine explains that “for an intense workout to be sustainable, you would need substantial energy reserves and to be hydrated.” However, “this is not the case if you are suffering from a hangover.”

Rather, when hungover, “we are physically and mentally fatigued and less coordinated than usual,” says Emma.

“People often think they can sweat out the hangover,” Janine acknowledges, “but by doing so you cause further dehydration and fatigue to the body.” She continues: “The last thing you want to do is push the body to extremes when it is already low,” because this can make you “more susceptible to injury.”

Can gentle exercise help hangover symptoms?

So sweating it out clearly isn’t the way forward. But Emma explains that more gentle exercise can “certainly help alleviate symptoms,” and she recommends “a walk in fresh air or some gentle stretching.”

This is Janine’s recommended mode of training for those suffering with a hangover, too. In fact, she says this sort of exercise is even preferable to “sitting down all day with the attempt to nurse the symptoms,” because it will “allow your body to reconnect mentally and physically.”

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Images: Getty

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