Article originally posted on Well + Good by Rachel Lapidos.
After a night out of drinking and partying, you may not be feeling too hot the next morning. After laying around for half the morning, you want to move around and make yourself feel better, without pushing yourself too hard. Turns out exercising while hung over is similar to exercising while sick, which comes with some guidelines.
“Probably the top two detractors from physical performance the day after alcohol consumption are dehydration and feeling terrible,” says Alex Harrison, PhD, doctor of sports physiology with Renaissance Periodization. Besides the dehydrations, you may feel nauseous or have a headache.
“You need a certain amount of hydration for things to work well, and research has shown that even by reducing your hydration by [even one or] two percent of your body weight, it can really, drastically effect your athletic performance,” says Rand McClain, DO, chief medical officer of LCR Health. Your level of dehydration, or other discomforts, can have an effect on your next-day workout.
“Dehydration doesn’t affect strength training very much at all, and you’re more likely to become rehydrated sufficiently by the time you work out the next day to not have any serious deleterious effects hinder your strength performance,” Harrison says. “It definitely affects endurance performance, though.”
This is because even low amounts of dehydration—“which is common 24 hours after drinking more than a couple beverages,” he says—can cause a slightly increased heart rate. Harrison explains that it’s also harder for your body to absorb hydration to make up for the water loss. “It’s a good idea to rehydrate aggressively with salt and water, like with sodium citrate, to help your body fight the diuretic effects of the alcohol and hang onto more of your water.”
If you’re feeling super thirsty, keep the workouts short. “You’re more likely to lose more water [doing] long distance on a bike or [going on] a long run than with a 40-minute long weight workout,” says Dr. McClain, who cautions that doing endurance-type workouts with minimum fluid in your system can lead to you feeling faint on top of a not-so-peak performance. Harrison also suggests easy cardio, as long as it’s not in a hot environment (heat would further dehydrate you). “Spinning, walking, or easy rowing at a conversational pace for less than 60 minutes would be minimally impacted by alcohol-induced dehydration,” he says.
If your hangover causes less dehydration and more nausea, upper body-focused workouts may be the answer. “This would help if you’re having gut issues or a pounding head, since there is less trunk compression and bracing required for moves like a bench press, overhead press, and lat pulldowns compared to squatting or deadlifting,” he says. “The best exercise is one that is rhythmic, repetitive, and one that you can set the level of intensity,” adds Brian Hoke, a sports physical therapist with Vionic Innovation Labs.
No matter which type of workout you choose, be sure to take it easy. “You’re much less likely to be pushing yourself as hard in training,” says Harrison.