Devlin Brown at the water cooler: Do’s and don’ts of going to the gym with a hangover
Sweating it out is a myth, and your smell will not be appreciated
Q: Is it possible to have a proper training routine after a big night out? In other words, should I train with a hangover?
A: There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that the water cooler is exactly where you should be. That bad news is that this column is probably not for you.
Let’s start at the beginning. Even before you’re able to exit the bed — if that’s where you are — you usually reach for your phone to check the time and decide whether to train.
The horror you feel when you realise you’ve been tagged in five new photos from last night pales in comparison to the throbbing head. Yes, I’m the throbbing voice in your head telling you that you are dehydrated, your body is screaming for lost minerals and while you’ve been snoring like a lumberjack your liver has been working all night to rid your body of the toxins you inexplicably slammed down while walking 500 miles with the Proclaimers.
Pal, never mind the miles, walking just 500 steps is going to hurt this morning. So, can you train hungover? It would be irresponsible not to say this first: you should not be binge drinking as the negative effects on your body, family and those around you far outweigh any positives.
Alcohol in excess is dangerous. If you do this often you are killing yourself. There are mixed feelings out there as to whether it is, in fact, safe, or advisable, to exercise while hungover. First, alcohol is a diuretic. Exercise induces perspiration. If you sweat while dehydrated, you are walking a fine line to serious health problems. Rehydrate properly.
Drink plenty water during and after your drinking session, and be sure to drink enough before even thinking about exercise. Make sure you eat something wholesome and healthy. If you can’t stomach it, then have it in liquid form to replenish minerals, electrolytes and a sense of dignity. Without going into detail, various effects from prolonged and heavy drinking have a real impact on your organs. Life-threatening stuff.
Short-term, you’ll be lethargic, have sore muscles, possibly have diarrhoea, headaches and the shakes. It is widely reported by exercise scientists that “sweating out” a hangover is a myth. From our vantage point, it is also inconsiderate.
Do you know what you smell like on the treadmill? While you are increasing your metabolic function during exercise, don’t get excited that you’ll get a buzz again, it will be the toxins without the singing impulse that courses through your veins. If it is important to you to stick to your routine, there are certainly tips to making it more bearable. By all accounts, keep the exercise mild to moderate. Exercise is good at all times but at this time, your vital functions are especially important.
Listen to your body. Where is your heart rate? Yoga may be a good idea if you’re wanting to move but not throw up, but perhaps downward-dog pose is not the best idea unless you enjoy face-planting into the floor. Take it easy on the stationary bike or treadmill, and hold on. Don’t go do heavy weights — that’s just stupid because you may still have alcohol in your system, and you probably will hurt yourself. The increased lactate and muscle soreness won’t help.
Can you stomach a light run? Your performance after drinking will be underwhelming, and so what you’re doing is not going to improve on a personal best. However, anecdotally on various fitness forums, and based on personal experience — if you are hydrated and keep it light, you probably will emerge feeling better than when you walked in. But don’t do this often. Alcohol may be fun but it is also dangerous.
An anecdote in the rugby book The Jersey speaks about a bunch of hungover All Blacks spewed over the lawn outside a famous Johannesburg hotel. That indignity spurred a decade of dominance. Maybe this is your moment.