You may have heard that going for a run will help your hangover.
Running to “sweat out” a hangover is one of the oldest tricks in the books and recommend by many.
But does it actually work to get rid of your hangover symptoms?
In this article, we’re going to look at whether running will help you feel better after a night of drinking, or if it’ll do more harm than good.
How does alcohol affect the body?
To see if running helps hangovers, we first need to go over how alcohol affects your body.
It’s fair to say that the problem starts after drinking more alcohol than your liver is able to metabolize, which is typically around one drink per hour.
However, it’s important to mention that how fast you metabolize alcohol depends on factors such as your weight, age, and sex.
With that said, there are a few main causes of a hangover:
Dehydration – Alcohol is a diuretic, therefore, it makes you lose more water and can lead to dehydration.
Toxic by-products – Acetaldehyde is one of the main by-products of alcohol metabolism which is thought to be responsible for the inflammation caused during a hangover. Furthermore, congeners in alcohol are also known to make hangover symptoms worse.
Sleep disturbance – Alcohol disrupts your normal sleep cycles by preventing you from reaching the REM stage.
As a result, you end up with hangover symptoms which include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- muscle aches
- high heart rate
- lack of energy and focus
Does running help a hangover?
If you’ve had a big night out, chances are, your body has been through the works. You’re likely to be dehydrated and levels of inflammation in your muscles are higher than usual.
As a result, your resting heart rate is increased compared to normal.(1)
Going for a hangover run will further increase your heart rate and exacerbate dehydration.
On the other hand, running increases the release of endorphins in your brain which improves your mood and energy levels.
In summary, if you’re very hungover and not feeling great in the morning, running is unlikely to help. In fact, it may even make you feel worse.
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What about “sweating out toxins”?
Well, unfortunately, this hasn’t been backed up in research studies. Although there is some evidence that sweating can help you get rid of heavy metals like lead and mercury from your system, these are unrelated to hangover symptoms.(2)
By the time you’ve woken up with a hangover, the damage caused by alcohol’s toxic by-products has already been done.
Therefore, there isn’t anything left to “sweat out” apart from more water which will cause dehydration.
In summary, sweating out toxins or alcohol when hungover is a myth.
Are there any dangers?
Ever heard of holiday heart syndrome? Well, it’s definitely not a holiday romance story.
Holiday heart syndrome is the name given to arrhythmias that develop after binge drinking in people who don’t have an underlying heart condition.
Elevated stress levels and dehydration are thought to be the likely cause of Holiday heart syndrome.(3)
As you can imagine, going for a hangover run after last night’s tequila shots will only add to your body’s stress levels. Long-distance running or sprinting should really be avoided when hungover.
Hangovers are also associated with reduced concentration and focus which has been shown to increase the risk of accidents.
Recreational skiers have been shown to be prone to more accidents when hungover which you could have probably guessed.(4) Although this is less likely with a hangover run, it’s still important to be aware that hangovers can slow down your reaction times which may be more relevant if you’re running in a busy city.
Drinking alcohol after a run
After intense exercise, your body will have used up its glucose stores and switches from aerobic to anaerobic energy production as muscle oxygen levels drop.
Drinking alcohol after a run has detrimental effects on muscle recovery and repair. The reason is, your body will use alcohol as an energy source just like everything else you consume.
As you can imagine, alcohol is far from an ideal source of energy. Your muscles require carbohydrates and protein after a run to restore and rebuild fibers.
Therefore, drinking after a run can hinder your recovery time which has been shown in research studies.(5)
Anything else to consider?
Hangovers are a sign from your body that you’ve been drinking too much alcohol for your liver to handle. Going for a run to help your hangover is the wrong approach.
Preventing hangovers from happening should be your first priority. Drinking less alcohol, keeping well hydrated, and eating before going out is all that’s required in most cases.
Does running help hangovers – Final verdict
That brings us to the end look into whether going for a run when hungover is a good thing to do.
Hangovers are caused by drinking more than your body can handle. As a result, it puts significant physiological stress on your organs.
Going for a run can add to this pressure by increasing your heart rate and exacerbating dehydration.
On the other hand, running can also increase “feel-good” neurohormones that may make you feel better.
Overall, it may be a better idea to rest up and rehydrate before deciding to go for a run when hungover.