Updated: Jan 21, 2022
Everybody knows that attempting to drive when we're drunk is one of the worst choices and decisions that we can make for ourselves.
Drinking alcohol causes us to undergo some pretty serious physiological changes that severely affect our ability to drive safely, and choosing to drive when we're drunk is likely to lead to accidents that could prove fatal.
However, what about exercising?
Is it as dangerous as drunk driving?
What are the risks involved?
In this post we'll be going over whether or not it's okay to exercise and work out after drinking alcohol, and what this might mean for you if you ever find yourself in this situation.
First of All: What Happens to Us When We're Drunk
We know, this isn't the kind of information that we usually share.
Why is a fitness blog talking about the effects of drinking alcohol?
However as unusual as it may seem, it's important for us all to understand what really happens to our bodies when we get drunk so that we're able to act on it and make the right decision when we do get drunk.
The effects of alcohol won't always be felt immediately. In fact, you might even feel fine heading into your workout if you do choose to exercise after drinking.
However, it's important for you to know that the effects start to kick in the second you take your first sip, even if it's the smallest one ever.
Alcohol is going to make its way down to the stomach after being swallowed and then get into your blood stream, affecting key parts of your brain, hormones and more.
Some effects of alcohol will not have such a big impact on your ability to exercise or train (such as slowed and slurred speech), whereas some others such as nausea and loss of coordination will make it pretty difficult to do so.
It's vital that you do know what the short term effects of drinking alcohol are, so we'll give you a list of them below.
changes in your ability to hear, see and understand what's happening around you
feelings of relaxation and sleepiness
changes in your mood
rash decision making
loss of consciousness
impaired overall movement and function
As you can probably understand, many of these short term side effects can have a BIG impact on your ability to train safely and efficiently.
They may not last that long, but they still are significant and it still is important for us all to understand that they're there. Otherwise, we're going to end up making decisions that we regret very heavily later on.
There are also some long term effects of alcohol that can have an impact on your fitness journey, and we'll leave a list of them below too.
Constant changes in mood
impaired ability to fall asleep (insomnia)
reduced quality of sleep
weaker immune system
lowered ability to focus and concentrate
changes in bodyweight
All of thee long term effects are going to have an impact on your ability to train and make gains.
For example, an impaired ability to fall asleep at night is going to weaken your ability to recover from your workouts and continue to push hard multiple sessions in a row.
You won't be able to train as hard and will likely find it tougher and tougher to build muscle and get stronger as this drags on.
As for muscle weakness, we don't even have to explain why that's going to have an impact on your fitness.
Another example might be changes in your appetite. Whether you struggle to limit your eating or can't find the will to eat enough, a change in your appetite and food intake is going to throw you off track.
If you're trying to lose weight and can't stay in a caloric deficit, you'll make no progress towards your goals. Similarly, if you're trying to build muscle but can't get yourself to eat in a caloric surplus, you'll find it very tough to put on muscle and get stronger.
Learn more: can you build muscle in a caloric deficit?
There are a couple more long term effects of drinking alcohol, but we'll leave it at that for this post.
You should be able to see that drinking alcohol has some pretty serious effects on the body that are going to affect your ability to do lots of things we normally do in our everyday lives.
So Can You Work Out After Drinking?
This should be pretty obvious, but it's not a good idea to do so.
Remember, exercising requires a lot of balance, coordination and judgements.
If you impair any of those three through drinking, you're going to find it very tough to work out properly and also increase your chances of injury by quite a large amount.
Being drunk could lead you to cause serious injury for yourself or the others around in many different ways.
For example, you could be barbell military pressing and lose balance/coordination during the movement due to being drunk.
If you were to then let the bar drop down onto your face or your collarbone area, you would suffer some VERY serious injuries. You'd probably be out of physical exercise for months.
Or if you were doing some kind of cardio exercise such as running of cycling and you were to fall, you could sustain some injuries that way too.
You could end up spraining your ankle, twisting your leg or even breaking something if you fall hard enough!
The overall quality of your workout and its effectiveness in terms of making gains would also decrease quite significantly.
Alcohol is a depressant, which means it makes your entire body slow down. From your brain to your muscles. Everything is going to be affected.
This is going to have an impact on your ability to train intensely enough to actually make meaningful gains.
Your muscular strength and endurance would take a big hit, as would your aerobic capacity.
This means you're not going to be able to lift as heavy and won't be able to do as much volume over the course of the session either. Both of which are very important factors of muscle growth.
The quality of your workout is going to drop significantly and you won't get as much out of it. Most of the time, that tiny bit of extra progress isn't actually worth the heightened risk of injury for most people.
What's more, drinking alcohol prior to exercising can also lead to dehydration.
Alcohol causes you to want to urinate more often. If you don't urinate, you're going to seriously affect your ability to train whilst you're holding it in.
And let's be real. It's probably going to come out anyways, whether you want it to or not.
Paired with sweat from your workout, you'll quite easily find yourself dehydrated and in desperate need of water.
If you're dehydrated, you're not going to be able to train as hard and once again won't be abel to get that much out of your workout. It's probably best to simply leave it and train at another time when you can actually make good use of your time.
Now we know that exercising after drinking is not only very unsafe for ourselves and the people around us, but it's also likely to be less effective at actually stimulating gains and growth in our body.
Essentially, we're going to be wasting time and putting ourselves at unnecessary risk of injury that could've been very easily avoided.
So What Does This Mean For You?
Well, basically this means that if you ever find yourself in a position where you're debating on whether or not you should work out and you've just had some alcohol to drink, you should seriously consider skipping your workout to stay safe and not waste your own time.
It's almost always a better idea to simply skip the workout session and come back at a later time when you're sober.
However, if you do have a little bit to drink and really insist on getting your workout in, you probably could still get away with it.
You just have to be sure to make careful moderations to your workout to ensure that you're not going to hurt yourself or others, and aren't wasting too much energy/effort that's not going to yield any real returns.
We've got a couple of tips below for you to follow.
Keep it light
The most important thing that you have to remember when exercising after drinking is to keep your workout light.
Don't do anything that's going to put your body under too much stress.
Really, we'd recommend only doing some recovery work such as a walk, a stationary bike or some stretching. You shouldn't really be looking to lift weights or place your body under too much stress through intense activity.
You really don't want to put yourself at too much risk of injury and hurting yourself or the others around you.
Instead, it makes more sense to use time like this to allow your body to recover (however much it can) since you wouldn't get too much out of a proper, hardcore workout anyways.
Create as much of a gap between drinking and the workout as possible
It's also important for you to wait as long as possible after drinking before working out or exercising.
This can actually reduce the chances of you heading into your workout feeling the effects of the alcohol.
A standard unit of alcohol typically only lasts 1-2 hours in the body (according to Healthline and Midwood Addiction treatment).
So if you're able to wait that long after drinking before heading into the gym or the training grounds, there's actually a pretty good chance you won't be feeling too many effects of alcohol, if any at all.
Remember, this doesn't mean there aren't any effects to drinking alcohol. There are still some long term effects that can affect your everyday life in the long run.
But the point is, try to wait 2 or more hours after drinking (depending on how much you've had to drink) before heading into your training session.
Drink lots of water
Remember, drinking alcohol before exercising is going to cause you to become dehydrated much faster and have serious impacts on your health and your ability to train.
You don't want to get hurt, waste your time or risk urinating in the middle of your workout on the gym floor. Drink more water and listen to your bladder.
Just play it safe
Whatever you do, your safety (and the safety of the others around you) comes first. No amount of gains is going to be more important than safety.
Always play it safe. if you're jogging on a treadmill and things start to turn ugly, just stop. If you're lifting weights (which you really shouldn't be) and your form starts to break down or the workout feels increasingly difficult (in a bad way), just stop.
Always, always play it safe.
The key takeaway: The best thing that you can do is to simply wait until you're sober again to train. This is going to help keep you safe and prevent you from wasting your time using energy for no reason. However, if you do decide to exercise after drinking, make sure that you're not training intensely and are able to stop at all times. Always make sure that whatever you're doing is safe and try to use this time to do a recovery workout instead. Do not ever train intensely and hard when you're drunk. If there's one thing that you take away from this post, that's it.
Wrapping It Up
Exercising when you're drunk is not something that's recommended by anyone.
If you can, it's probably best to avoid doing so. Just wait until you're sober again before heading into your training session.
There are certain measures that you can take to help reduce the risks of exercising after having a drink, but it's still not a great idea.
Remember, your safety always comes first. Your own safety, and the safety of the others around you.
We hope you found this post helpful and enjoyed reading through it!
If you did remember to share it with your friends so that we can reach more people and help more achieve their goals in fitness!
And if you would like some help with your fitness journey or would like to boost your results for all the hard work you're putting in, check out Gympulsive Pro for full access to the site and access to all of our training programs!