Have you ever had more drinks than you should the night before a long run?
Maybe one post-run beer turned into three shots and four cocktails, and before you know it, you’re already drunk and calling for a taxi to get you home.
You know what’s going to happen next—the dreaded hangover in the morning.
So should you run with a hangover? Or simply run another day? That’s what we’re going to tackle in today’s article.
Here’s the truth. Running with a hangover is as much as fun as scrapping your nails down a chalkboard. Not. Really. Enjoyable. At. All.
In today’s article, I’ll explain whether you should run with a hangover or not. By the end of the post, you’ll know enough to make a very informed decision.
The Impact Of Alcohol On The Body
Before we get into whether you should be running following a heavy night of drinking, let’s first take a look at the impact of alcohol on your body.
Alcohol is basically a toxin that your body has to neutralize and get rid of.
Roughly 10 percent of booze is eliminated through breath, urine, and sweat. And the rest is actually done by the liver as it’s the primary organ in charge of the detoxification of alcohol.
Once alcohol reaches your liver, the latter releases enzymes that break down the alcohol into ketones at a pace of roughly 0.015 /100mL per hour.
In most people, the liver can process up to one ounce of booze, your standard rink, in one hour.
Understanding this process is key to wrapping your head around the impact of alcohol on your body.
This process takes time, and the longer the toxin stays in your body, the worse your hangover symptoms are going to be.
Take in more, and you will overwhelm your system, forcing the extra alcohol to accumulate in the blood and body tissues until it can be processed.
This is why having too many drinks can cause a spike in blood alcohol concentration that lasts for several hours.
So Can Running Cure a Hangover?
First things first, what’s a hangover?
A hangover consists of a group of nasty symptoms that can develop after consuming alcohol at a faster rate than your body’s ability to metabolize it.
That is not the whole story. Hangovers are also linked to mediocre performance, work conflict, and other troubles.
The rule of thumb is, the more booze you consume, the higher the likelihood you are to come down with a hangover the next day
That said, there is no universal rule that tells us exactly how much alcohol we can safely consume and still avoid a hangover. Everyone is different and processes liquor at a different rate. No suit fits all and all that.
When it comes down to it, the impact of a hangover depends on how your body metabolizes the alcohol (explained before).
The moment you drink alcohol, the intake triggers a host of bodily reactions that can make a hangover worse. These include :
- Frequent urination
- A drop in blood sugar
- Irritation of the digestive tract
- Expansion of blood vessels
- And so much more
Depending on the amount and type of alcohol you consume, your hangover symptoms may include;
- Trembling or shaking
- Fatigue and weakness
- Nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain
- Dizziness, vertigo, or a sense of the room spinning
- Extreme thirst
- Muscle aches
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Dry mouth and eyes
- Mediocre concentration
- increased sensitivity to sound and light
- Irritability and other mood disturbances
- Bad sleep or insomnia
These symptoms, and some more, are triggered by the booze itself and the toxins produced while breaking down the alcohol.
Can Running Help Get Rid of Hangover?
If you’re a runner and have engaged in any form of drinking, you must have already heard exercise might help you “sweat out” hangover after a night of having more than you should of alcohol.
But is there any truth to this? Or just another urban myth that keeps popping up everywhere?
You cannot actually sweat out a hangover.
By attempting to do so, you make it worse, leading to more detrimental symptoms.
In fact, you should avoid any form of high-intensity exercise when recovering from a hangover.
Let’s explain some of the reasons
Alcohol and Dehydration
Alcohol is a diuretic. The stuff stimulates your kidneys to expel more urine than it takes in, which causes dehydration.
This is actually to blame for some hangover symptoms such as headaches, dry mouth, and nausea.
In cases of a severe hangover, running may make your symptoms worse, especially if you had ingested more than you should the night before and haven’t started rehydrating and refueling yet with plain water and real food.
Running makes you work up a sweat which will make your dehydration even worse.
If you manage to restore your body fluids in time, you may be able to exercise later up in the day, but don’t use it as a cure. Being dehydrated will only make you feel worse.
Alcohol impacts your physiology, increasing levels of lactate and creatine kinase in your blood—both of which can negatively impact your muscles and other organs. This increases your risk of all types of soreness.
And you don’t want that.
Now that you have the answer for whether you should run or not following a night of drinking, let’s look at a few measures you can take to help avoid getting dehydrated or sick while drinking so you can make the most out of your training program.
When it comes to dealing with hangovers, the best way way to prevent them is not to have one in the first place.
Any form of excessive drinking will definitely result in hangovers in most people.
Either avoid drinking or drink moderately. If you decide to drink, choose clear alcohols, such as white wine or vodka, which have fewer contaminants but don’t do to excess.
Don’t Run If You’re Dizzy
This should go without saying, but if you’re still feeling drunk or even a little bit tipsy, do not run at all. When it’s the case, your body might not have finished metabolizing the alcohol.
Instead, drink plenty of water, have a full meal, and wait (or take a nap). Make it a rule to only exercise when you’re most definitely not drunk.
Red flags to pay attention to include:
- Increased heart rate
- Dizziness or disorientation
- Throbbing headache
- Hypersensitivity to light
Our body requires a lot of fluids when we run to regulate body temperature and maintain key metabolic processes.
Your cardiovascular and muscular systems also rely on essential electrolytes and minerals to function optimally.
So before you lace up your running shoes, hydrate—otherwise, you’re asking for trouble. Exercising without replacing the fluid and electrolytes drained by alcohol will just make you feel worse.
Are you feeling lethargic? Have a sports drink or coconut water to provide your body an even bigger dose of minerals and electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium.
Keep track of your hydration levels. If your urine is of clear or light yellow color, you’re well hydrated. When it’s not the case, it is time to drink more.
Your diet also helps with your hangover.
To soothe the effects of a hangover, eat something rich in carbs, sodium, and potassium.
Some of the best choices include:
- Whole grain bread with peanut butter
- Oatmeal and fruit
And for the record, the theory that greasy foods cure a hangover is nothing but a myth. So save the bacon and eggs for your post-run meal/breakfast.
Running more miles than you should—or too hard—when hungover can make your symptoms worse.
Going for a long run or performing a series of intense 400-meter intervals while hungover is probably not a good idea. In fact, if you’re still feeling tipsy, intensity can just make you feel worse.
Instead, shoot for something light and easy and short.
20 to 30 minutes is enough to help you get things going, and hopefully, relieve some hangover symptoms, such as fatigue and brain fog.
If you had a quality workout on the schedule, such as intervals or hill work, move it to another day when you’re feeling fresh and ready.
At the end of the day, the answer to whether to run or not on a hangover hinges on you and the severity of your hangover.
All in all, I’d recommend that you avoid exercising following a night of drinking—or at the very least keep intensity very low and pay attention to your body.
But it’s really up to you. I’m only offering suggestions. You call the shots (no pun intended).