Can running help a hangover?

Author: Juliet McGrattan

Read Time:   |  July 12, 2022

It's a common question that splits opinions: can running help a hangover? We talk to Dr Juliet McGrattan to find out if we should run the morning after drinking

We’ve all been there: we planned to get up early for a long run, but we had a few too many glasses of fizz the night before. So, we’re faced with the question – do we reschedule our run for another day, or do we head out and sweat the hangover out? Some of us swear that a run can help us feel better after a night on the town. But is that scientifically true or just a happy coincidence? We asked GP Dr Juliet McGrattan to separate fact from fiction when it comes to running with a hangover. Read on for what she had to say…

Can running help a hangover?

Sadly, you cannot “sweat out” alcohol. The work has to be done by the liver. Fresh air and gentle exercise can definitely help clear your head though. And, of course, you’ll burn off the excess liquid calories. The runner’s high you get may also counteract some of the post-drinking blues, but you have to be sensible about this. Assess how you truly feel and how much you really drank before setting off.

Can a run be bad for us if we’re hungover?

If you’ve only had a few drinks, a run is unlikely to harm you.

Do we need to do anything before we run with a hangover?

It’s a good idea to rehydrate as much as possible, so start drinking water as soon as you wake up. A sports or electrolyte drink can also be helpful. I also recommend eating before you run, even if you feel that you ate a lot of indulgent food the night before. Take water with you to keep sipping. Abandon any hope of a PB or fast intervals, and warm up slowly. This is definitely the time for easy miles. Finally, listen to your body – if you feel lightheaded, dizzy, sick or just plain awful, you may have to head home.

Are there better alcoholic choices you can make if you know you’re running the next day?

It doesn’t matter what type of alcohol you drink. It’s the level of the alcohol itself in your bloodstream that triggers the extra urine production and it doesn’t matter what volume that’s in. Keep track of your units, not the type of drinks you have. A good tip is to alternate alcoholic and soft drinks – this helps to keep you hydrated.

Is there a hangover cure?

While there is no magic cure for a hangover, you can reduce the severity in advance, by improving the body’s ability to process alcohol. Here’s a list of preventive measures and cures as suggested by Nutritional Therapist Daisy Connor. Try them for yourself and decide which work best for you:

  • Milk thistle before drinking, before bed and in the morning
  • A protein-rich snack before bed (such as peanut butter on wholegrain toast)
  • Eggs for breakfast
  • Increasing antioxidants with fresh fruits and vegetables or a supplement, such as vitamin C
  • Reducing dehydration with coconut water in the evening and throughout the next day – it contains electrolytes and it’s alkalising; the perfect post-alcohol and post-exercising drink
  • Taking an electrolyte drink like Emergen-C, which provides electrolytes, B vitamins and vitamin C. These are all depleted by alcohol consumption

Juliet McGrattan

Health expert, author, keen runner and busy mum

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