Can you still step into the squat rack after drinking enough to sink a battleship?
Ah, booze. That giver of false confidence. That taker of decency. I don’t feel like I need to be a preachy nutritionist here. You know full well that binge drinking isn’t a good idea for your health. I could blab on about moderation until I’m blue in the face, but we both know that every now and then, you’re going to get hammered. However, you still have this whole fitness thing going on, and making progress in the gym while looking your best is still a priority. You just also want the flexibility to drink your bodyweight in vodka every now and then.
Your problem isn’t only the potential health detriment of drinking until you fall over, it’s what happens the next day. The dreaded hangover. Suddenly, you who never missed a training session, find yourself on the sofa watching the Princess Bride on repeat. Instead of the usual breakfast of greek yoghurt, whey protein, and fruit, you eat two tubs of hummus and a bag of pork scratchings until your vision is fully restored. In stark contrast to last nights hashtag frenzy, there will be no #fitnessmotivation posts today.
In some sports, being drunk is probably a bonus. You know when you get on the pool table after five pints it’s going to be lit. A certain amount of alcohol seems almost necessary to perform optimally at darts. But where squats are concerned, acute or previous intoxication is almost certainly a hindrance. A headache, the shakes, nausea and diarrhoea might not be the best start. But, fatigue combined with decreased occupational, cognitive, or visual-spatial skill performance is particularly unhelpful where a 3 rep max attempt is concerned. In short, a hangover is going to make your performance worse.
Before we get into it, the best bet is probably to rest and sit around licking your wounds the day after drinking. But, I know you likely think that’s quitting, and moderation is for wimps. The question is then; is there anything you can do to avoid the hangover from hell so you still function the day after boozing? Let’s have a look.
When you drink, alcohol is treated as a toxin and has to be transformed into acetaldehyde and then to acetate. Your body does this through oxidative and non-oxidative pathways. It’s the acetaldehyde that seems to lead to vomiting, headache and fatigue. This stuff has the potential to be so nasty in fact that the World Health Organisation International Agency for Research on Cancer has actually deemed it a 2B carcinogenic substance. In reality, other than not drinking that much in the first place, there really isn’t a lot you can do about its effects. I know. Boring.
One of the more well-known symptoms of overdoing booze is dehydration. If you’ve ever woken up with a mouth like the Pit Of Carkoon, you’ll know what I mean. By inhibiting the effect of antidiuretic hormone on your kidneys, alcohol induces diuresis that is out of proportion to the volume of liquid you’ve ingested. The more you drink, the more antidiuretic hormone you’ll produce. The more antidiuretic hormone you produce, the worse your hangover. Drinking water on top of all that booze might help a bit, but there’s a high chance that it’ll come straight back out again due to the induced diuresis. To beat dehydration, you need to retain the fluid you drink. Simply peeing it out again is not much help. To retain fluid, it needs to contain electrolytes.
Here’s where you can make a difference. To stay one step ahead of dehydration, try to take care of the problem before going to bed, rather than when you wake up. Either eat foods that are high in sodium while drinking water or drink fluids containing electrolytes. According to Maughan et al. hydration will be improved the most by drinking milk. If you can handle that without throwing up, a pint of the stuff right before bed might take the edge of the dreaded hangover the next day.
Drinking alcohol moderately is totally fine. But you think moderation is for wimps. In order to avoid a hangover so you can still set foot in the gym the next day, the depressing truth is that you probably need to avoid getting smashed in the first place. Avoiding dehydration as best you can by eating salty foods along with water, or drinking milk before going to bed is your only real hope of avoiding some of the symptoms the day after.
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