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Food & Nutrition

Gym & Tonic: Can Booze And Fitness Ever Be Friends?

Vodka and coke is a smashing combo, but what about booze and fitness? All your tipsy workout questions answered... *hic*

After a long, hard week, there’s no better way to chill than a few cheeky beers with friends (well, for us anyway). But if you end up with a sore head the morning after, is exercise a good idea, or is it true that you booze, you lose when it comes to fitness? Should you workout after drinking alcohol? Unbound got the lowdown from some hooch-loving* experts…

If you go OTT on a night out can exercising the next day help your hangover?

Running with a hangover feels remarkably like dragging a 20kg weight along the floor

Peter Cobby specialises in helping celebs shape up and ‘create camera-ready physiques in minimal time’ – so he’s probably used to seeing clients with ‘work hard, play hard’ lifestyles.

A workout can perk you up if you have a mild hangover

“Exercise is an easy way to increase endorphins – the happy hormones – so a workout can perk you up if you have a mild hangover, plus sweating can help rid the body of toxins,” he says. “However, you must load up on water. Alcohol dehydrates you, as does perspiring – if you don’t rehydrate properly your symptoms may actually get worse.”

Marcus ‘Lord’ Veda agrees, sipping plenty of H2O is essential. An internationally famous DJ, he’s partied harder than granite in his time, but he now teaches at Rocket Club Yoga and will be appearing at the upcoming Exhale UK Yoga Festival.

DJ and yoga pro, Marcus Veda

“Doing yoga can help with a hangover psychologically as well as physically,” he reasons. “Lots of people who come to my early morning weekend classes tell me they would have wasted their day languishing in bed with a hangover if they hadn’t booked.

“Yoga can help with that guilty, depressive feeling that sometimes accompanies a hangover, getting you back in a positive mindframe. “Plus all the deep breathing assists in getting your blood pumping and flushes out your system. Avoid any full-on twists or upside-down moves, though…”

What if you have a post-work pint with colleagues, is it OK to head to the gym afterwards?

Stay hydrated you say? Do gin cocktails count?

Short answer: nope. “Alcohol can give a false sense of confidence,” says personal trainer Anna Reich. “It can trick you into thinking that you can lift gargantuan weights or perform moves beyond your skill level. And it can make you dangerously clumsy to boot.”

“Booze hampers judgement and co-ordination,” agrees Peter. “It’s strongly linked to injury in sports. For your own safety, and the safety of those around you, drink has no place in the gym.

“Additionally, because having a tipple negatively affects your body’s ability to transport glucose – meaning you have less energy – and decreases the amount of amino acids your muscles use – meaning lower gains – any workout you do when drunk will hardly be worth it.”

What happens to my body if I get supremely hammered after, say, a Tough Mudder event?

Ha ha ha, he’s rolfing his guts up

“If there’s no food lining your belly, and you’re dehydrated – both very likely after a challenging obstacle course like TM – booze will enter your bloodstream quickly and at a high concentration… which means it’ll hit you like a freight train,” says Andy Seach, a gin specialist who runs drinks event company Barfly UK.

“Your liver will be working overtime to break the alcohol down putting extra strain on an already worn-out body,” he continues.

Dehydration gets worse and any muscle injuries you may have picked up will be slower to heal

“The ethanol in alcohol supresses vasopressin: a neurotransmitter that tells your kidneys to keep hold of water. The result? The water is let go, and you piss like a racehorse, losing precious electrolytes like sodium, potassium and chloride along with the liquid.

Dehydration gets worse, and any muscle injuries you’ve picked up will be slower to heal.” Ugh, so much doom and gloom! “I know!” Andy laughs. “So if you do want to celebrate after a big race, don’t go overboard; drink water too; and avoid caffeinated mixers like cola as they are a diuretic that’ll make you pee even more.”

*Disclaimer: they don’t really love the hooch

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