Waking up with a hangover is hard enough, with the trembling and the nausea and the jackhammer that somehow got loose inside your skull. So working out probably isn’t high on your priority list—but maybe it should be.
Plenty of hangover victims, athlete and couch potato alike, swear by a morning workout as a remedy for a bad hangover. But can you really “sweat out” the effects of a late-night drinking sesh? The answer is yes-ish. Here’s how exercise can help exorcise your hangover.
Running Helps Your Brain
You may have heard that drinking kills brain cells (technically it weakens mitochondria in your hippocampus), but two new studies from the physiologists at the University of Louisville and researchers from the University of Houston suggest aerobic exercise can mediate those negative effects. Dr. J.L. Leasure of the University of Houston explained to The New York Times that the scientific community agrees that running promotes neurogenesis—the creation of new brain cells—which could counteract the cells lost in the wee hours at the bar. So even if the idea of a morning jog makes your insides twist, it might be a good idea to hit the track regularly.
Exercise Makes You Happy
When you hit the gym your brain is flooded with feel-good endorphins, along with adrenaline and norepinephrine. As Dr. Katarina Borer of the University of Michigan's School of Kinesiology explains, exercise acts as an antidepressant, making you feel better instantly.
A natural depressant, alcohol lowers endorphin levels, so restoring them the morning after seems like a no-brainer. But the blissful halo that endorphins impart as you crank out deadlifts may make you think you’re recovering faster than you actually are—setting you up for a nasty shock after you leave the weight room, or worse yet, causing you to overexert yourself. So enjoy those endorphins, but take it easy on the reps.
Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
The “one drink, one glass of water” rule is a great way to ward away a hangover while out. But hydration is equally important the next day, especially if you intend to work up a sweat, and in the groggy light of day, you may not be as cognizant of your thirst. Make the water fountain your home base at the gym and you won’t have to worry about sweating out the good along with the bad.
Working Out Helps Work Out the Toxins
If you’ve gotten enough sleep, the alcohol you imbibed the night before has likely already passed through your system (and if it hasn’t, you should wait until you’re sober to exercise safely anyway), so you’re not “sweating out” the liquor as you might imagine. But exercising does increase your metabolism, which helps your body to process any leftover toxins and take advantage of all that hangover-busting food you’ve been eating (you have been, right?).
Easy Workout > Hard Workout
Here’s an obvious tip: Listen to your body. If it’s crying out under the strain of your usual dumbbell routine, adjust your lift accordingly. A high intensity workout will only make a hangover worse. Nausea is bad, but vomiting all over the elliptical is worse. A light workout will make you feel better and help you process the booze. So maybe skip Crossfit today.