There's nothing wrong with enjoying the odd drink or two (okay, sometimes four...), but sometimes the next morning can have you a little worse for wear. Thinking about clearing your head with a run? Think twice...
The signs of a dreaded hangover
The classic signs are instantly recognisable. The early wake up, the dry mouth, the banging headache, nausea… the list goes on. It hits you instantly as soon as you wake up, or, if you’re lucky… leaves you alone for an hour or two and then hits you like a ton of bricks. Ah yes, the humble hangover.
When suffering from the symptoms of a hangover, there are some things you definitely need: water, The Fit Protein, a good movie marathon ahead of you and lots of vitamins and minerals. There is however, one big question that pulls a lot of controversy and debate when it comes to a hangover, and that is “should you exercise with a hangover?”.
That’s the question we’re here to answer.
Before we get into the science of it all, debunk the myths around exercising on a hangover, and discussing those terrible symptoms of a hangover, let’s first get one thing straight: what actually is a hangover?
What is a hangover?
Scientifically speaking, a hangover is more than just a stark reminder of the potential mistakes that you made the night before. The symptoms of a hangover are symptoms of multiple things that are happening in your body and brain. Alcohol consumption affects a huge variety of areas, and this is one of the reasons that hangovers are so complex, and their symptoms so strenuous.
As drastic as it sounds, a hangover is actually a reaction to you poisoning yourself through alcohol consumption. The sheer volume of alcohol and it’s ingredients are being metabolised, and the ethanol in particular when metabolised forms into something called acetaldehyde. The bad news? Acetaldehyde is actually poison, and a carcinogen, too.
This means that your body will experience these symptoms for as long as it takes for your body to break down and rid yourself of this toxin – and that’s why hangovers can linger for an entire day, or even multiple days, if you’re particularly unlucky.
Aside from this reaction, there are a huge number of things happening during a hangover. Your inflammatory response is activated causing the nausea and headaches, your neurotransmitters are overwhelmed causing anxiety and low mood, and your sleep is disturbed, meaning that your energy is zapped.
What are the symptoms of a hangover?
Whilst hangovers and their symptoms can vary from person-to-person, and intensity (depending on how many was too many the night before), there are some pretty common ones that the majority of those who battle through a hangover suffer from:
- Trouble sleeping
- Excessive thirst
- Low mood
Because the symptoms of a hangover can be so unpleasant, many turn their attention and efforts into finding something (anything) to reduce or get rid of them. For those that regularly exercise, workout and visit the gym, one of the first potential remedies that crosses their mind is the gym.
Can exercise cure a hangover?
So, does exercise help hangovers? The short answer? No. Not really.
Exercising when hungover isn’t actually a great idea, and there is some pretty good evidence to demonstrate just why you should avoid this ‘coping mechanism’, too.
Here are some of the top reasons why you should avoid exercising on a hangover:
- Increased risk of injury
- Risk of dehydration
- Greater muscle strain
- Risk of cramping
- Electrolyte imbalances
Whilst the above risks are hugely important to take into consideration, the biggest risk of exercising on a hangover is that of dehydration. The truth is, you can’t sweat out a hangover. And by attempting to do so, you’re seriously putting yourself at risk.
After all, the more dehydrated you are, the more your body is going to struggle. And that’s because your toxins (that are usually rid through urination) become more and more concentrated, leading to more and more detrimental effects for your body.
Don’t just take our word for it either. The director of Executive Health, Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine at the Atlantic Health System absolutely advises against exercising on a hangover and gives everyone the same advice when hungover: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Always.
What are the best alternatives to exercising on a hangover?
The awful truth is, there’s no quick-fix or cure for a hangover. Sorry.
And whilst a heavy workout in the gym is not recommended, gentle exercise on a hangover can be a good way to release endorphins and feel good hormones.
Looking for some alternatives to exercise on a hangover? Try out the below…
- A leisurely walk in the sunshine
- A good dose of some fresh air
- A hearty refuel strategy (water, food, sleep)