What is a Fitness Hangover?

24th August 2019

We all know what it feels like to wake up with a pounding headache after one too many drinks, but did you know that you can also get a fitness hangover from going to the gym?

According to a recent study around 25% of people have missed a day of work due to the aftermath of a tough workout. 55% reported a ‘fitness hangover’ so bad, that they had to stay inside all day. It’s more than just muscle soreness and fitness lovers can often feel exhausted, nauseous, and even anxious.

Superleague netball player Laura Malcolm explains the phenomenon, “I usually get a fitness “hangover” when I’ve doubled up on sessions, or finish a hard training session late in the evening. Sometimes I train for four hours with little or no break and this usually includes lifting to my max in the weights room followed by a beasting on the netball court.”

“If I give it my all in both sessions as well as getting home and into bed late, I know I’ll wake up the next morning with that hangover feeling. I’ll be lethargic, spaced out and have to peel myself out of bed”.

What’s causing it?

So what’s causing this feeling the day after we work out? GP and medical advisor at Medexpress, Claire Morrison says that there is actually a scientific reason behind it, “It is quite common to feel rough after a tough workout … strenuous exercise causes blood to be diverted away from the digestive system, to the muscles, heart and lungs. ‘If you eat a rich meal shortly before exercise, it won’t be digested properly, potentially causing nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea”

“In addition, exercise uses up glucose, and glycogen stores, leading to nausea, headaches and shakiness. ‘Because blood vessels dilate during exercise, and fluid and salt is lost in the form of sweat, it is common for blood pressure to drop after a heavy exercise session, triggering light-headedness and weakness”.

How to avoid a fitness hangover

If you do find yourself suffering from a fitness hangover, you’ll be glad to know that there are a couple of things you can do to speed up your recovery. The first is to drink a sufficient amount of water to try and rehydrate, be careful not to drink too much water however without eating a little salt -this can cause confusion, headaches, cramps, and nausea. Try and eat some crackers, salted nuts, or even a broth, ideally 30 minutes within finishing your workout.

“Eat some unrefined carbs to top up glycogen stores, and lean protein to help repair tired muscles. For example, a good post-workout meal would be wholemeal toast with scrambled eggs, or tuna and brown rice”, adds Dr Morrison. Bananas can also be ideal as they’re an excellent source of refined carbs and much-needed potassium. One of the most important tips is to avoid alcohol and caffeine which can make you even more dehydrated and upset your stomach or you can try CBD to relax your body. So unfortunately there’s no hair of the dog for this type of hangover…

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