Women in a pub garden drinking beer in the sunshine.

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” the alcohol? Let’s debunk the myth of exercise as a hangover cure.

With salons, pubs and gyms reopened in England, getting your workout and your socialising in is somewhat of a balancing act. Hands up who’s ended up with a diary full of plans, from pub garden drinks in the evening to early morning workouts with your gym buddy

But after a night out, should you really be heading to the weights room? There’s a common myth that ’sweating it out’ is the best thing for you on a hangover, with many swearing by their morning-after run or HIIT circuit. For others, the thought of even leaving bed is a challenge. 

Hangovers can cause dehydration, fatigue and low mood.

What’s the truth – is exercising off your post-alcohol tiredness or taking it easy the best option? 

Does a hangover make exercise harder?

One of the major symptoms of a hangover is dehydration. That’s because alcohol is a diuretic, causing the body to lose more water than it takes in.

Given that our bodies are at least 50% water “we need to be hydrated to feel well,” says Emma Obayuvana, trainer from the Strong Women Collective. “Dehydration when working out is tough. Not only does it make the exercise itself feel harder, but by sweating you’re causing even more water loss, worsening dehydration.”

Personal trainer Janine George points out that when people experience a hangover they very often also suffer from dizziness, headaches and nausea. “This can make it very challenging to negotiate exercise. As well as having the potential to make some symptoms worse, working out when hungover is likely to restrict you from giving your best and could risk injury.” 

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

“For an intense workout to be sustainable, you need substantial energy reserves and to be hydrated,” says Janine. “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, but the last thing you want to do is push the body to extremes when it is already low.” 

Research supports this: a 2020 study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found that “hungover participants experienced significantly more exhaustion when performing physical activity at the same level as non-hungover participants.”

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. A walk in fresh air or some gentle stretching can feel good when you feel run down.”

This is Janine’s recommended mode of training for those suffering with a hangover, too. “A walk might be preferable to sitting down all day with the attempt to nurse the symptoms as movement allows your body to reconnect mentally and physically.”

As alcohol is a physical stress on your body, activating your immune response, being gentle to your body is key to improve your hangover symptoms and have the most effective workout. 

Follow @StrongWomenUK on Instagram for the latest workouts, delicious recipes and motivation from your favourite fitness experts.

Images: Getty

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