When you wake up with the telltale splitting headache and debilitating nausea of a hangover, you may be willing to try nearly anything to get rid of the symptoms. Among the endless hangover "cures" out there, you may be tempted to try "sweating out" last night's alcohol.
And while this theory may seem foolproof, there's no actual evidence that supports exercise as a hangover cure — and in fact, it may leave you worse off. So before you hit the gym and potentially put yourself at risk, here's what you should opt for instead.
Symptoms of a Hangover
If you've had one too many drinks, you may experience a hangover the following day. Unfortunately, there's no formula for how many drinks you can have without experiencing a hangover the following day, according to the Mayo Clinic. So, drink safely and in moderation.
Hangovers typically last about 24 hours and begin as your blood alcohol level begins to drop towards zero, according to the Mayo Clinic. Depending on how much you drank, you may experience symptoms like fatigue, headache and muscle ache, increased light and sound sensitivity and mood disturbance, among others.
As a diuretic, alcohol causes more frequent urination, which can result in dehydration. Typically, dehydration is paired with symptoms like extreme thirst, dry mouth or dizziness. This is why it's important to hydrate both as you drink alcohol and after you've had a few.
Exercising to Cure a Hangover
From green juices to spin classes, there are countless mythical hangover "cures" out there. But just like a green juice won't undo a night of drinking, there's no solid research that supports the theory of "sweating out" the alcohol, according to a November 2013 study published in Clinical Liver Disease.
The reason why some people may feel better after working out with a hangover probably has more to do with the positive effects of exercise itself. Alcohol is a depressant, which means that it slows down neural function, affecting your mood and emotion, according to the Addiction Center. Even the hangover aftermath can actually make you feel more stressed or anxious.
Exercise is the extreme opposite, though. Physical activity causes your body to release endorphins (your body's natural painkillers), which help boost your mood and can help reduce stress and/or anxiety, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Not to mention, exercise can also help lower inflammation in the body, another hangover symptom.
Risks of Exercising with a Hangover
So, while it may feel as if your sweat session cured your hangover, it's probably just the overall benefits of exercise positively affecting your body. But before you strap on your sneakers and hit the pavement, it's important to consider some of the potential risks behind exercising with a hangover.
In most hangover cases, dehydration doesn't stretch much beyond a dry mouth and maybe a little dizziness. But when you throw sweating and exercise into the mix, the effects of dehydration become more risky.
Fluids help regulate your body temperature and blood pressure, according to the American Council on Exercise. In some cases, dehydration can cause blood pressure to drop, which can lead to dizziness or fainting, according to the American Heart Association.
Exercising with a hangover can also lead to injury. When you're hungover, it's common to experience fatigue, lightheadedness or increased sensitivity to light, according to the Mayo Clinic. You're also likely to experience issues with dexterity and focus while hungover. So, it's no surprise that you may be a little more clumsy while hungover, which means it's not the best time to be lifting heavy things or navigating cardio machines.
Exercising while hungover can lead to dehydration and irregularities in body temperature and/or blood pressure. If you're feeling symptoms of a hangover, it's best to skip the gym and opt for some rest and fluids instead.
Getting in some movement (think: walking) while hungover can be safe, but it's definitely best to skip a high-intensity training session. Instead, opt for low-impact exercise that you can even do right at home. Yoga or pilates are great options, as they don't cause you to sweat too much, emphasize relaxation and are generally slower in pace.