Workouts mostly blend together, but I’ll always remember my worst one. It was an outdoors Pilates class and the sun was beating down on my face. It should have been fine, except that I couldn’t do any of the moves I’d been practicing for months. Each move made me nauseous and I felt like I was going to faint. Then, I realized the culprit: drinking alcohol had affected my workout. The night before I had a few glasses of wine and it had a huge impact on how I was working out the next day.
But besides just the effects of an obvious hangover, I wondered if alcohol could affect or hinder workouts in other ways. Most importantly, I was curious about how long I’d need to wait after drinking alcohol to restart my workout routine again. Could I go out on Friday and rally by Saturday’s sunset yoga?
To find out more, Playbook spoke with Dr. Rachel Eva Dew, a double board certified doctor of natural and integrative medicine and co-founder and CEO of ModiHealth, an online platform that offers virtual healthcare and programs. Dr. Drew cleared up our questions about mixing booze with booty burns (and made us rethink our weekend plans).
According to Dr. Dew, the short answer is no. “I am a big believer in approaching all things in a balanced way, however when it comes to mixing a few alcoholic beverages and exercise, these two things do not go well together in a balanced way at all.”
Dr. Dew explains alcohol increases dehydration and drains the immune system of much-needed strength to not only endure the workout itself, but to quickly recover as well. “When working out with a depleted immune system, the increase in stress that exercise places on the body can further drive down immune function when coupled with alcohol,” she says.
Furthermore, alcohol can impact your brain function, even if you drank the night before. This can cause coordination to decrease while you’re working out and increase the risk of injury.
“It also impacts your muscles and leads to muscle weakness and even cramping,” says Dr. Dew. “Additionally, alcohol can increase blood pressure and affects the circulatory system which impacts the way your body pumps blood throughout your entire body.” When your blood isn’t pumping efficiently, it doesn’t have a healthy amount of oxygen — a crucial element for a comfortable workout.
If you do push through a workout while you still have alcohol in your system, Dr. Dew says the effort is not totally lost. “You can still make some gains under less-than-optimal conditions, however it is not ideal and in fact becomes counterproductive if alcohol consumption is consistently high, especially without proper amounts of time to process it out of your system before exercising,” she says.
So what is the golden number of hours you should wait after drinking before working out again? According to Dr. Dew, the majority of alcohol is processed out of the body within 12 to 48 hours. But, wildly enough, some traces of alcohol can still be found in the body up to 80 hours after you take your last drink.
“That being said, I am not recommending that you completely avoid [workouts] or alcohol for 80 hours after drinking alcohol,” says Dr. Dew. “A safe bet is waiting 24 hours and making sure that during that time you properly rehydrate and eat plenty of nutrient-dense foods including protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.”
About the author
Brittany Leitner is an award winning poet and journalist who specializes in health, wellness, beauty, and travel writing. She previously held editorial positions as the senior lifestyle editor of Elite Daily and the managing editor of DoctorOz.com. She's currently based in Brooklyn, New York.