After a night out of drinking, you might be tempted to tell yourself you’re going to hit the gym or the trails to “sweat out” your hangover. Your best intentions at heart, you go to bed with a glass of water and dutifully set your alarm. When the sun starts peering through your window, though, that familiar ache and fog sets in, and you forget all about your fitness goals.
Hangovers tend to foil our best-laid plans. Fatigue, nausea, vertigo, headaches, or just a general sense of foreboding can all rock your body and keep you in bed.
That’s not the only way alcohol affects your exercise and fitness goals, though. While everyone reacts to alcohol differently, these are some ways you may see a lull in your gains due to alcohol.
Lowered inhibitions, lousy diet choices
It’s no secret that alcohol lowers our inhibitions, leading us to make choices we may not otherwise make. These choices extend to breaking our thoughtful eating patterns with greasy, unhealthy foods. In one study, researchers found that neurons in the front of our brains are activated when we start drinking, making us feel like we’re starving even though we’re consuming insane amounts of calories already in the alcohol.
We’re also less likely to remember our long-term goals — like eating healthier, for example — when we’re drinking. Instead of reaching for a kale smoothie, the Taco Bell drive-through ends up sounding much more appealing.
Alcohol’s diuretic properties keep the kidneys from absorbing fluids and causing you to have to run to the bathroom far more often than usual. These bathroom breaks lead to an increased risk of dehydration unless you replenish the lost liquids. That’s what causes you to wake up in the middle of the night ravenous for water.
When we work out, we sweat. If we don’t take the time to replenish those fluids we’re losing, we’re running the risk of making our dehydration even worse. Hydration helps circulate blood to the muscles and heart, which are crucial to a solid workout. If you’re already dehydrated when you dive in, you’re going to have to work your heart and muscles twice as hard.
Most of us have experienced the lack of coordination that comes with imbibing. When we drink, it affects our cerebellum, causing a decrease in energy consumption. The cerebellum is responsible for our motor skills, so when our bodies stop giving it the nutrients it needs, we may have trouble walking or, say, lifting weights.
You can see how this could be detrimental or even dangerous for a workout.
Can I drink and still have good workouts?
The short answer is yes. Moderate drinking with responsible hydration likely won’t affect your workouts catastrophically. If you’re planning on drinking, though, keep these tips in mind to not throw your whole fitness journey off track.
- Write down your fitness goals. When you have a good idea of where you want to be, you’re more likely to keep on track and not overindulge.
- Stay hydrated! Stop drinking 1 or 2 hours before bedtime and switch to water or non-alcoholic choices so you can be ready to tackle your workout the next day.
- Plan your nights out to coordinate with your workout schedule. If you know you have a big event coming up, structure your week to accommodate the recovery time you may need!