Hangovers and Exercise

If you’ve ever had a big night out before a race or a game, or even just an early morning spin class or gym session, you may have noticed that you were unusually tired after you were finished exercising. It would be easy enough to blame a late night and lack of sleep, but could it be that a hangover actually causes you to become more fatigued when you exercise? Well, that’s what one recently completed clinical study by Toast! scientific advisor Dr. Joris Verster recently found.

While prior studies had shown that a hangover did not seem to have any effect on strength or short term endurance, no study had previously explored the impact of a hangover on long term endurance. In Dr. Verster’s study, just under 300 people completed a 10 mile hike, with about 75% of those individuals having drunk alcohol the night before, and nearly half of the total participants reporting a hangover. 

Among the non-drinkers, drinkers, and hangover sufferers, there wasn’t any particular difference in the time it took to complete the hike, nor in how frequently or how long they took breaks. Nor was there much difference among the hungover crowd; no matter how hungover someone was before, during, or after the walk, their results were pretty much the same across the board. 

What was different was how tired they reported being. Hungover hikers reported significantly more fatigue after completing the hike than did either the non-hungover drinkers and non-drinkers. Even correcting for factors like age, physical condition, sleep, and other potential issues, the hungover group still reported more fatigue than other groups. 

Interestingly, this study also reinforced the findings of another of Dr. Verster’s recent studies, which showed that hangover symptoms are frequently reported despite alcohol intake significantly below that commonly believed to be required for a hangover (on average, the hungover participants in this study only had three drinks). Predominantly made up of middle aged adults on vacation, three drinks constituted half the normal weekly intact for these individuals, suggesting that “tolerance” is more important than the raw quantity of alcohol.