Should You Run With a Hangover?


Man with a hangover

Visiting the bar seemed like a great idea last night. The next morning, though, it’s a different story. Some people might think the solution is to get out and start exercising. So, is it bad to run with a hangover?

It’s best to avoid running when you have a hangover. Your fluids are already depleted. If you’re not careful, you could end up seriously dehydrated. Also, a hangover can cause worse performance and will make it harder to focus. The best thing is to rehydrate and recoup before attempting any physical activities.

A hangover is enough to ruin anyone’s day. Let’s take a closer look at how alcohol can impact your running.

Should You Go Running With a Hangover? 

Running with a hangover isn’t recommended. To understand why we need to look at the way that alcohol affects the body.

Alcohol is a diuretic. This means that the alcohol will remove fluids from your body at a faster rate than other liquids. This is what makes you so dehydrated.

If you want to reduce how quickly you get dehydrated, there are a few things you can try. First, you’ll need to make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water. It’s also a good idea to avoid drinking on an empty stomach.

The other issue is how alcohol affects your decision-making. Most of us remember doing something stupid when we were drunk. If you’re running on public roads, you need to be able to focus on what you are doing. If not, it’s a recipe for disaster.

What Happens if You Run While Hungover?

Now that we know how a hangover can affect you, we can start to see some of the risks of running while hungover.

The biggest problem will be dehydration. At the start of the run, you’re already dehydrated. Throughout the run, you will lose more fluids through sweat. This will get more dangerous the longer your run is.

There are a few signs that you might have severe dehydration. For example, you might have skin turgor. This is a measure of how long it takes the skin to snap back after you pull it. The more dehydrated you are, the longer this will take. Even mild dehydration can cause you to develop a headache.

If you choose to ignore these symptoms, the consequences can be severe. In some cases, dehydration has been known to lead to brain damage. This occurs because the body is pulling water from your brain to keep the other organs working properly. In extreme instances, it has even been known to cause death.

When you have a hangover, you often won’t be thinking clearly. When your brain is still fuzzy, there is a greater risk that you will make silly mistakes. This can include forgetting to stretch before you start running. You will also be more uncoordinated. This increases the odds that you will fall over when you are running.

Alcohol will build up the amount of lactate in your blood. Because of this, your muscles become sorer. Because of this, you will be at greater risk of getting cramps. This can turn your run from relaxing into painful.

With all this in mind, it’s no wonder that you won’t be getting your best performance when you are hungover. In fact, studies have shown that alcohol can reduce sporting performance by 11.4 percent.

Will Running Cure Your Hangover?

Many people think that running can help cure their hangovers. They believe that, through exercise, they will be able to sweat the alcohol out of their system. So, does running help a hangover? Sadly, the answer is no.

This idea is based on a faulty premise. You can’t sweat toxins, like alcohol, out of your body. In fact, overnight all the alcohol will likely have metabolized in your body. The symptoms that are associated with being hungover are likely caused by dehydration, rather than the lingering effects of alcohol.

Because of this, your priority should be dealing with your dehydration levels. This will determine whether or not you should be going for a run. The best way to decide whether you are seriously dehydrated is by looking at your pee. Though it sounds gross, it’s an effective tool. If your pee is a dark yellow color, you need more water. If it’s light or clear, your dehydration isn’t too severe. Because of this, you will be able to go for a run.

While running won’t cure your hangover, it can help your mental health. It has been shown to put you in a happier mood. This can be good after drinking a lot of alcohol, which is a depressant.

How to Prepare For a Run When You’re Hungover?

Sometimes, you won’t be able to put off the run. If this the case, you will need to take a few preparations to avoid total disaster.

First, you must start drinking plenty of water. This will help you start to build up the number of fluids in your body. You can speed up this process by using electrolytes. You can get these from sports drinks. Alternatively, they come in packets that you can mix with water.

When you’re trying to hydrate, be careful about what drinks you are using. Energy drinks can seem like a good idea. But they often have a lot of sugar and salt. This can further dehydrate you.

It’s also important to start waking up and clearing away that fuzzy feeling. Coffee is a great way to do this. It can help you clear away a headache that has been fueled by alcohol. However, coffee will also dehydrate you, so make sure to balance it out with plenty of water.

When you are ready to start running, you will need to get in touch with a friend. Ask them to run with you. This will help ensure that you don’t hurt yourself. It’s also a good idea to go for a shorter run than normal.

How Long Should You Wait to Consume Alcohol After Working Out?

Alcohol is a popular way to celebrate a successful workout session. It’s important to make sure that you are giving your body plenty of time to recover after a hard workout session.

When you are in recovery, the first hour after you work out is the most important. However, alcohol can impact how quickly your muscles will recover. Because of this, you should avoid alcohol for at least one hour after a run. During this period, you should be focusing on replenishing fluids by drinking plenty of electrolytes.

It’s also important to think about the amount of alcohol that you are consuming. It’s generally best to try and keep it below two glasses of beer. This doesn’t have any impact on liver protein synthesis, so your body will be able to absorb it easily. Try to avoid drinks that have high alcohol content. These will dehydrate you at a faster rate. If you’re planning a bigger night, drink plenty of water and have a big meal before you head out. 

Final Thoughts

Alcohol and exercise generally aren’t a good match. A hangover will impair your decision-making skills and leave you dehydrated.  Because of this, running probably isn’t a good idea. If you can’t avoid it, you’ll need to drink plenty of water and take a buddy. After your workouts, you’ll need to leave at least an hour before you start drinking.

Mark Norman

I've been running for over 6 years and now try to balance it with life as a dad to two young kids. I'm not super quick, I just try to run consistently, not always easy! I'm lucky enough to have run the London Marathon twice along with countless other half marathons and 10ks. I'm also one of the Run Directors at my local parkrun.

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