Should you Train with a Hangover?

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man hungover

Not exactly #fitfam?

There are many times in life where you find yourself to be horrifically, almost cripplingly, hungover. And the last thing you’ll want to do is train.

But if you are more hardcore than John McClane in Nakatomi Plaza (can you tell this being written around Christmas), then you will definitely want to train. But should you?

Here are the pros and cons…some scientific…some not.

The Pros

brain workout

Give your endorphins the workout they crave?

This is the most scientific pro of all, so we’ll start with this.

When you exercise, you release endorphins, which in short, make you feel better. Whatsmore, the main function of endorphins is to limit the amount of pain you feel. So if you have has a bump or two the night before then you may feel some relief, albeit temporary.

Get drunk, feel hungover, workout, feel better? In principle that’s the idea, but don’t see it as a foolproof cure.

Exceed your usual performance
When hungover, you are usually still under the influence of alcohol. Hence why it isn’t a good idea to drive first thing after a heavy night; also the same reason you see more police out than usual on Boxing Day.

Being under the influence does have one possible benefit though. When you’re drunk, you do things that you wouldn’t, and sometimes couldn’t, usually do when sober.

So you might see an increase in your deadlift, you might not. But theoretically still being under the influence could well be a new form of powerful pre workout.

Sober up
Two of the ways to “get rid” of alcohol are to sweat it out, and to breathe it out. When you workout, you invariably do those two things. Even if you only go for a small workout.

It is often said that you can “sweat it out”, whether that’s a cold or a hangover. So logically, it could well be surmised that if you do hit the gym, your hangover recovery will speed up.

The Cons


Image source: Lazarus Training
Guinness urine is a sign of something very wrong.

The diuretic effect
Alcohol is a diuretic, and that means you will lose essential electrolytes, namely sodium and potassium.

If you are dehydrated, then you won’t be able to perform properly as you cannot metabolise properly, which will lead to a drop in performance and possibly illness.

Not knowing when to drink
Thirst is not a good way to judge how much water we need. Though of course, as an urge it does guide us, as a feeling, it is not a foolproof way to stay well watered.

You might not feel thirsty, especially after 9 pints the night before, but the chances are you need fluid. If you do feel thirsty and you drink, you are probably not negating the diuretic impacts of the alcohol.

So this false confidence in your own aqua reservoirs, could well lead you to becoming even more dehydrated when working out.

Thermoregulation (part 3)
When you have alcohol in your system, your ability to thermoregulate dips. This basically means that your body won’t fully know what temperature it is at, and the likely impact on that, is additional sweating of key electrolytes.

Of course, a named positive of a hangover workout is that you sweat out the alcohol. But before that, you could well lose the sodium and potassium your body needs, and this could again lead to illness and a drop in performance.

You may well feel that a poor workout is still a workout; but that just isn’t true. If you are going to do something that could make you ill and put you off exercise, then what is the point?

Oxidative stress
Alcohol increases oxidative stress. In this context, that is especially bad as when you do any kind of strenuous exercise, you release free radicals, which in simple terms “eat away” at muscle – or catabolism as you may well know it.

Of course, protein powders like micellar casein are well known for helping to combat catabolism, but there is only so much they can do.

Serious risk of injury
You probably won’t be thinking right, nor will you be moving right. Whether drunk or hungover, alcohol is well known for impacting on balance. So imagine a deadlift with a cider headache or a Guinness belly?

For technical movements such as squatting or anything to do with Olympic lifting, you really need to think about what you are doing. If instead, you are thinking about that 8th shot of chilli vodka, then the chances are you will get something wrong. Potentially, badly wrong.

The Verdict

If you have read all of this, then it is pretty clear what the verdict is. Just don’t bother. If you want to ignore us, and you really must do something, then keep it simple. And with that in mind, here are three tips for working out when hungover.

1) Don’t get drunk if you want to workout the next day.
2) If you do get drunk, don’t workout the next day.
3) If you do want to workout when hungover, then drink plenty and take it slow. And don’t blame us if you get ill or drop a kettlebell on your head.

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