We’ve all done it: had a couple of glasses of wine too many and woken up feeling hideous. And when it comes to how to deal with a hangover, there’s an entire school of thought on the subject: we should drink Sprite, we should eat bacon, we should do nothing but lie on the couch and watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix.
But lately, we’ve been hearing murmurs that the best way to fight a hangover is by working out—which does make a certain amount of insane sense. Like sweating out a fever, perhaps you can sweat out those last two glasses of red? To get to the bottom of this very important wellness question, we consulted the experts: is it better to work out or rest when you’re hungover?
Surprisingly, the answer isn’t one or the other. The #1 rule: listen to your body. “Sleep does better wonders for a hangover than exercise,” says Dr. Scott Weiss, the cofounder of Bodhizone Health and Wellness. “Despite popular belief, exercise cannot, whatsoever, eradicate a hangover.” But if your body feels well rested, there’s no harm in some light exercise. In fact, it has its benefits. By increasing the metabolism, you’ll recover from a hangover more quickly.
If you’re suffering from a headache or nausea, proceed with caution. “Wait until the nausea passes before working out,” says Relin. “I love a good herbal ginger tea to soothe an upset stomach, which also helps to hydrate.” Dr. Weiss also recommends following the BRAT Diet—bananas, rice, applesauce or toast—when your stomach hurts.
Before any type of exercise, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. “The best hydration plan is to prep the night before and either drink water while you’re consuming alcohol or drink a few glasses of water before you go to bed,” says Relin. Forget to do both? Replenish first thing when you wake up by drinking two full glasses of room-temperature water.
While greasy foods call your name when suffering a hangover, go for something light. “Try a smoothie with banana, coconut water, spinach, fresh ginger and some berries. Or eggs and a whole wheat English muffin and either a sports drink or coconut water to replenish electrolytes,” says Mahri Relin, fitness expert and founder of the Body Conceptions method. Dr. Weiss also told us to avoid foods with a high citric acid content, like orange juice, that can irritate your stomach. “And coffee can actually raise your blood pressure, which is not what you want,” says Dr. Weiss.
Throughout the workout, let your body judge the pace and intensity. “If you start to get nauseous while running on the treadmill, switch to something that has less bouncing—like a recumbent bike or a class that focuses on body sculpting,” says Relin. You may sweat more than usual, she warns, but your energy level will increase!
Just don’t go too hard; this isn’t the time to get serious about training for your 5K. Working out when hungover can be very dangerous if done incorrectly, says Dr. Weiss. “People nursing a hangover should avoid strenuous exercise and stick to more light to moderate exercise (30-60 percent of your maximum heart rate.)”
“Essentially, just eat light, rest, stay hydrated, take OTC pain relieving meds if necessary, and perform light to moderate exercise for less than an hour to help speed up the hangover process,” says Dr. Weiss. There’s no magic potion, but you’ll definitely notice a difference.
More from Daily Makeover: 4 Simple Steps to Total Weekend Recovery