Working Out Hungover. Yay or Nay?
Written by: Coach Slater
Workout hungover, they say. You’ll sweat out the toxins, they say.
Not so fast.
Working out to get rid of a hangover isn’t a terrible idea, but let’s discuss why, so you can sound smarter than the bro science guy. The root of hangovers isn’t that the body lacks water or electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, etc…) after a night out. A hangover hurts because chemicals like acetaldehyde are produced when your body breaks down alcohol and these are toxic and pain-inducing. Basically, high levels of alcohol cause inflammation in the brain.
When you consume an alcoholic drink, the alcohol moves directly into the bloodstream without being metabolized in the stomach. It only takes five minutes for alcohol to become detectable in the bloodstream, where it then travels to the liver to be metabolized. For most people, it takes about two hours for the liver to metabolize a single drink. If you continue to drink alcohol faster than your liver can metabolize it, the excess alcohol is carried by the bloodstream to the brain and other areas of the body. For those taking insulin – a hormone which regulates glucose in the blood – this can problematic because the liver is busy removing alcohol from the bloodstream rather than regulating blood sugar levels.
Hopefully you drank some water or some non-alcoholic decaffeinated drink before going to sleep, or at the very least, you’re drinking it now. If you vomited last night, then hydrating becomes even more important, but don’t look to Pedialyte as a miracle cure to your dehydration and possible low blood sugar. Research shows that neither Gatorade nor Pedialyte are any more effective than plain old water at easing hangovers, and your body does indeed need fluids right now. When drinking, an anti-diuretic hormone is suppressed, so your water balance is thrown out of whack by the frequent bathroom breaks. Plus, Pedialyte isn’t going to help with the inflammation that’s causing your body to feel like hell.
So, depending on how much you drank last night (since you’re reading this article, you probably drank a lot), restrict your workout to a half-effort. You will inevitably get a slight endorphin rush from the workout, which will make you temporarily feel better. But, if you aren’t rehydrating before/during/after this workout, then you may be doing yourself a disservice by further dehydrating your already aching body. Use the workout to slightly raise your heart rate and get your muscles working to stimulate the release of those endorphins and even adrenaline. You’re not going to “sweat anything out” though. By morning, all of last night’s alcohol has already passed through your system.
Afterwards, get back on track by having a normal meal with carbohydrates and more water, or possibly a Sprite. The taurine in Sprite-like drinks are effective at reducing that pain-inducing acetaldehyde chemical in your body. Then get some rest. You need it.