What happens when you work out with a hangover?

You wake up and immediately regret the drinks you had last night. Despite your intentions of not drinking (too much), you did it anyway. Maybe you gave in to peer pressure. Maybe you just didn’t see another way to make it through that office party sober. We’ve all been there! Your head is pounding a little bit. All you want to do is stay in bed and watch Netflix till it passes, but you promised yourself you were going to exercise today. A good workout may seem like a good idea. What better way to sweat out the last bits of alcohol out of your system, right? Well, before you force yourself to get out of bed and head to the gym, we’d like to tell you what to expect when you decide to work out with a hangover. 

What to expect when you work out with a hangover

#1. You’re already dehydrated before you can even think about working out

Can you remember how much you had to drink last night? For every millilitre of alcohol that you get into your system, you will lose around 8 millilitres more urine than you normally would. So unless you have managed to drink just as much water as you drank wine last night (probably not, eh?), it is safe to assume that you’re pretty dehydrated. If you decide to work out with a hangover, you need to deal with the consequences of dehydration, such as fatigue, a reduced ability to focus and a negative impact on your performance. So, if you’re dead set on working out with a hangover, the first thing you need to do is make sure you deal with your fluid depletion. And even when you do…

#2. You may be able to sweat out a tiny bit of alcohol, but you’ll probably only get more dehydrated

Your body will metabolize around 90 percent of the alcohol that you consume. The remaining 10 percent will leave your body via your sweat, urine and breath. You may assume that working up a good sweat might speed up that process. You should be aware, however, that your kidneys are dehydrated as well. And when kidneys are dehydrated, they basically go into ration mode. In other words, they try to hold on to as much water as possible. This is the reason that after a night of drinking, we sweat less than we normally would under the same circumstances. Ignoring that is not a good idea, because it increases the risk of getting even more dehydrated. And that will definitely not make you feel any better…

#3. There is an increased risk of injury

Remember how you are dehydrated? Well, dehydration also affects your spinal discs, since around 80 percent of them is made up of fluids. The lack of fluids in your body means they are significantly more vulnerable. The last thing you need to do right now, is put more pressure on them by adding weight. Okay, but what if you stick to exercises that don’t but pressure on your spine? Even then, you need to consider the fact that even moderate alcohol consumption affects the quality of your restorative sleep. You’re not as fit as usual, both physically and mentally. This results in compromised coordination, a reduced ability to focus and muscle fatigue. Therefore, working out with a hangover is always accompanied with an increased risk for cramps, sprains and injuries.

#4. Your blood sugar levels are off

Drinking alcohol compromises your liver’s ability to keep your blood sugar levels stable. This is why feelings of fatigue and weakness come on more quickly during physical exertion the morning after a night at the bar. You may even get shaky or dizzy. If you’re prone to drops in your blood sugar levels but are stubborn to skip your workout, it’s best to stick to a low intensity training or some stretching.

#5. Your metabolism is disrupted

Your body’s ability to burn fat takes a significant hit when you drink. Even two units of alcohol are enough to suppress fat burn with 73 percent – and this effect lasts for several hours. Furthermore, your body cannot store alcohol. This means that all other metabolic processes are basically put ‘on hold’ to ensure that your liver can break down the alcohol. The consequence is that your body will have to struggle to access all the nutrients it needs to function. And we probably don’t have to tell you it needs more nutrients when you exercise.

Final thoughts

We get it, you don’t want to sabotage your fitness goals just because you had a drink or nine last night. But you shouldn’t forget that some people simply handle alcohol a lot better than others. If you wake up with a headache, dizziness and/or nausea, you’re not likely to feel better (or make actual progress) when you go and work out with a hangover. It may be better to just sit this one out.

work out with a hangover

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