Should You Exercise With a Hangover?

Woman hungover wearing sunglasses in bed
Woman hungover wearing sunglasses in bed. Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

Drinking too much is probably something most of us have done at least one time or another and, the day after leaves you feeling tired, ashamed and, of course, hungover.

You've no doubt heard about any number of hangover 'cures' and one popular one is that you can sweat out a hangover with a good, hard workout.

There's really no hard evidence that exercise can help, but whether you decide to workout can depend on a number of factors.

So, should you try to hit the gym or just take an extra rest day? Here are some things to think about before you workout.

What is a Hangover?

If you've ever had a hangover, you knew it from the moment you woke up.  Just some of the unpleasant symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches and body aches
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Being thirsty
  • Feeling depressed or anxious
  • A sudden distaste for daylight and loud noises
  • Sweating and irritability
  • Decreased attention and concentration.

You know what causes a hangover - Too much alcohol and the more you drink and the cheaper the booze, the longer your hangover will last. It also depends on whether you worked on staying hydrated with water at some point during the night.

There are probably as many cures for hangovers as there are drinks in the world.  Of course, drinking water is the number one thing to do and there's some truth to the idea that eggs, bananas, and fruit can also help replenish nutrients that the alcohol stole from your body.

And then we get to exercise. Can you sweat out a workout? Is it even a good idea to try? Depending on the depth and pain of your hangover, exercise may not be the best idea.

Exercising with a Hangover

Working out when you're hungover may sound like a good idea, but it may be the worst thing you can do, particularly if you had a lot to drink the night before and you haven't started rehydrating yet.

Some of the biggest problems: 

  • Dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes the body to lose more water than it takes on. It's often this occurrence that causes many of the symptoms of a hangover like dry mouth, headaches, and nausea. Exercising and sweating can actually cause you to dehydrate even more.  If you can hydrate enough to feel better, you may be able to workout later in the day, but don't use exercise as a cure. If you're not hydrated, it may only make you feel worse.
  • Clumsiness. When you're hungover, you may be more uncoordinated than usual and more apt to injure yourself.  Your body may not work very well, leaving you vulnerable, particularly if you're going outside for a walk or run. One stumble and you could end up with a broken bone or, worse, falling in front of a car. If you do decide to do something, keep it simple...walking, stretching, or lifting light weights.
  • Brain fog. One of the side effects of drinking too much is brain fog - Being unable to concentrate on anything. If you're lifting weights or on a machine, you're much more likely to hurt yourself or someone else just because you're not able to pay attention.
  • Feeling bad. Drinking too much puts stress on the body and everything becomes harder, especially exercise. Your body needs time to heal, rehydrate and feel better and a hard workout before you've done that can put even more stress on your body. Plus, working out when you already feel bad isn't going to make anything better.

    Gentle Hangover Workouts

    That doesn't mean you can't do anything. In fact, something gentle might be just what you need to feel a little better, once your stomach has settled down.

    Instead of a hardcore workout, try drinking plenty of water, eating healthy meals and stick with lighter workouts like stretching or yoga. Some of these workouts might soothe your hungover body:

    If you do decide on a harder workout, consider doing something later in the day when you've recovered and pay attention to how you feel.

    You may feel more breathless or fatigued after a night of drinking, which may affect your workout.

    Source:

    Verster JC. The alcohol hangover-a puzzling phenomenon. Alcohol and Alcoholism. 2008;43(2):124-126. doi:10.1093/alcalc/agm163.

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