Here's What Happens To Your Body When You Work Out Drunk

Booze and exercise might not go together like peanut butter and jelly, but it isn't too difficult to imagine a scenario where you may find yourself considering a workout after a few drinks. Maybe you met the girls for Sunday brunch. The next thing you know, it's three hours and as many mimosas later, and time to head to your afternoon yoga class. Or, perhaps you've indulged in a few calorie-laden mudslides and feel a sudden urge to do a little damage control (even though, as Girls Gone Strong explains, exercise should not be a form of punishment). Should you skip your workout, even if you don't feel particularly intoxicated?


It's no secret that alcohol affects nearly every system within the human body, but what does that mean for physical exertion (via WebMD)? Here's the full breakdown of what alcohol does to your body, what it means for your workout, and whether it's worth it to push yourself to exercise after you've consumed those cocktails, shots, or glasses of wine. 

Your body on alcohol

When you consume alcohol, it is not digested like other food and drinks. Instead, it enters your bloodstream through your stomach and small intestine and travels throughout your body, beginning with the brain. Next, it is processed as waste by the liver and kidneys. The average person's liver will break down one ounce of alcohol per hour, according to MedicalNewsToday. For reference, one shot or a single mixed drink typically contains 1.5 ounces of alcohol, as reported by Wine Enthusiast.


Alcohol slows down the part of your brain that communicates with the rest of your body, negatively affecting your coordination. It is also considered a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production, resulting in rapid fluid loss that can cause dehydration (via American Addiction Centers). Since exercise is a physical activity that requires moving your body parts on command and results in fluid loss through sweat, prior alcohol consumption can put you at risk of injury or dehydration. Therefore, working out is never recommended after consuming alcohol. This is especially true when you have your period, as hormones can affect your hydration levels, too.

Hot yoga, saunas, and hot tubs

Due to alcohol's strong diuretic effect, putting yourself in an environment where you'll be exposed to extremely high temperatures when you've been drinking is dangerous. Both alcohol consumption and exposure to heat cause rapid fluid loss, blood vessel expansion, increased body temperature, and lowered blood pressure. When all these affects are doubled up, the results can be disastrous, as detailed by RealClear Science. A person who engages in high-heat activities while or after drinking alcohol is at risk of heat exhaustion and severe dehydration that can lead to fainting, a coma, or even death (via Olympic Hot Tub).


If you choose to disregard the safety risks associated with working out after consuming alcohol and exercise anyway, be sure to at least skip the hot yoga and avoid attempting to recover in the sauna or hot tub, along with any other activity that rapidly accelerates your body temperature. These options will still be available the next time you work out, without the extreme risk to your health and wellbeing. 

Post-alcohol workouts

Many people swear that the best cure for a hangover is sweating out the previous night's alcohol during an intense workout. Unfortunately, the idea of ridding your body of alcohol through sweat is a myth with no basis in reality. What working out can do for you, however, is trigger the release of feel-good brain chemicals like endorphins and norepinephrine (via Men's Health).


If you decide to hit the gym when you're hungover, be mindful of the fact that there is still alcohol in your system. You're likely to feel sluggish or fatigued and, according to Health & High Performance, you're still at an elevated risk for dehydration. While you don't necessarily need to cancel your exercise session the day after drinking, it's best to take it easy and drink extra water. Save the high intensity workouts for days when you're at your best and show your body some kindness with gentle movement in the meantime.