Hungover, But Want To Go Train Today For That Upcoming Race? Here Are Some Smart Tips To Help you Out!

Planning a workout today after laying on a little heavy last night for New Year’s Eve? Here are a few things to consider before you try to hit a PR on the bike or run today.

  • Your body will be at subpar performance-
    • Basically- don’t shoot for a PR. If anything, stay home, hydrate, and rest. Studies tell us that after drinking alcohol, several important systems athletes rely on are impaired even the next day or two. These include
      • Post-exercise repair of skeletal muscle that you put under stress during the workout will be reduced. Don’t expect the typical muscle adaptation to the workout. This could lead to injury at worst, and poor gain from the workout at best.
      • Injury risks on a day or two after drinking can lead to ~54% higher risk of injury and decreases performance by ~ 11% (O’Brien, Sport Medicine, 2000,May:29 (5), 295-300.
      • Alcohol has been shown to increase cortisol levels (this can cause protein breakdown) and decrease testosterone (ultimately decreasing muscle building, and…well, you know…). In a small study, the anabolic response ( to build up after a workout) was shown to greatly diminished according to muscle biopsy even if you down a beer or two AFTER exercise. (Parr et al, 2014,PLoS One 9(2):e88384. A mush bigger study needs to be done before this can be really generalized to all athletes, but it makes you wonder about the beloved post-race brewskis at the finish line (we know you’re doing it. Ok, maybe I did it after Ironman.)
      • You’re aerobic capacity itself is diminished. You’re body won’t be able to kick out the same about of glycogen and your lactate levels will increase more than usual.
      • You’re sleep cycles will be impaired, so you will go into the work out with less muscle recovery from the day before and poor mental reflexes. If you’re out they ere cycling, that could spell disaster. We have enough risk we take on the road these days, without adding slowed down brain function to the list.

If you are one of those Tri-Geeks that simply must go out to train today, here are a few tips to try to make it as successful as possible:

  • Hydrate ’til you pee clear. 
    • Alcohol causes dehydration. Get hydrated BEFORE you go do something.
  • Get some electrolytes in. 
    • The jury is out, and everyone has their special formula. It doesn’t really matter. Make sure to get a mix of electrolytes ( so just a handful of pretzels is not the best choice). Try NUUN, Pedialyte, Base Salts, or use SaltStick- just couple it with good fluid intake. The electrolytes will help the fluids absorb and rebalance what you did to your body last night.
  • Get some carbs in.
  • DON’T take an NSAID unless you have food in your stomach. 
    • We see a lot of GI hemorrhage in the hospital ER from people eating NSAIDs like candy. Each time you take one, you get some stomach irritation. Coupled with the alcohol tissue irritation in the stomach, this can cause bleeding. Long term, it can cause serious erosion (even just NSAID use without alcohol does this). Padding the stomach with some food helps decrease, but does not get rid of, that risk. (Case in point- I had to have my stomach scoped last year, and I knew to take NSAID with food).
    • Also, hydrate before taking any NSAID to protect your kidneys. Please.
  • Go on an easy swim or run. 
    • Try a light 30 minute workout to get your body metabolizing what you put in it.  According to the American College of Sports Medicine, some doctors suggest getting out on a light run, after good hydration and electrolyte replenishment. A light run is less likely to cause tissue breakdown that you have poor reserves to repair today.
    • Stay away from the bike, or anywhere that some impaired reaction time could be the difference between a workout and the ER. If you must bike, try the wind trainer. I mean honestly, you have football to watch or a good movie. It can’t be that bad.

Happy New Year, folks! I hope whatever your plan is today for a workout or rest, that you make it as successful as possible. Me? I’m done hydrating and off to the gym to do some core.

See you at the starting line.


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