What Is A Fitness Hangover & How Can You Prevent It?
Have your muscles ever been so sore after a workout you’ve struggled to pull up your jeans? Perhaps you’ve struggled to walk up stairs? You might have been experiencing a fitness hangover.
So, what is a fitness hangover and how can you prevent it? Let us explain.
What is a fitness hangover?
A fitness hangover is the result of overtraining, and essentially pushing yourself too hard.
A fitness hangover can leave you feeling fatigued and your muscles and body aching. (And that’s just the start).
Symptoms of fitness hangover
As the name would imply, a hangover isn’t exactly good (or fun) news…
There are many reasons why a fitness hangover is bad for your health. Let’s explore them.
Overtraining can result in a nervous system or hormonal system overload and in turn, can impact your sleep.
When you’re asleep, your body produces hormones that facilitate muscle recovery. If your sleep quality is poor, your body will produce fewer recovery hormones and instead produces stress hormones like cortisol.
Not to mention, poor quality sleep has been linked to mood swings, increased irritability, shortened attention span, reduced alertness, poor memory, poor judgement and a lack of motivation
Poor quality sleep can also compromise your problem solving and decision-making capabilities.
A lowered immune system
When you overtrain, your body is in a catabolic state (that is, in a state where you’re body is breaking down fat and muscle).
Because your body is in this state, it’s not able to repair damaged muscle tissue, and your body can’t recover in full — this is when your body’s immune system is impacted.
Low immunity levels can increase your chances of becoming ill and make overcoming an illness really difficult.
Prone to injuries
Overtraining consistently time and time again can potentially make your body more prone to injuries in the long run.
Simply put, when you train too hard and don’t allow your body enough time to recuperate your body isn’t in it’s best physical state when you start your next workout.
How to prevent a fitness hangover
Prevention is the best cure, so how can you avoid a fitness hangover? Keep these tricks and tips up your sleeve.
Don’t skip your warm-up
Warming up your muscles and body, and getting your heart rate up before working out is so important. Did you know by warming up and activating your muscles, prior to working out you can prevent overstretching of the tissue during the workout itself?
Importantly, a proper warm-up can reduce the severity of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and decrease the risk of injury.
And don’t skip cooling down
Equally, as tempting as it might be to skip cooling down after a workout, don’t!
A cool down doesn’t need to be complex or take a long time. Just 5-10 minutes on a treadmill (walking or jogging) will help your body to cool down after a workout.
You might also like to complete some static stretching as part of your cool down, where you hold a single position for ten seconds or longer. The result? A deep and slow stretch.
Static stretching also works to lengthen your muscles with the aim of increasing your flexibility and range of motion.
As for the benefits? Think relief from cramping, improved range of motion and a reduced risk of injury. Yep, definitely don’t skip cooling down.
Rehydrate after working out
Staying hydrated around the clock is important, but it’s especially important after a workout.
Once you’ve finished working out, aim to drink one and a half times the fluid you lost while exercising.
How do you determine how much fluid you lost during your workout? Follow this formula.
- Weigh yourself in as little clothing as possible, as close to the start of exercise as possible (this is your initial weight).
- Complete your workout.
- Note the volume of any fluid you consume during your workout (fluid).
- Weigh yourself again at the end of your workout, in the same clothing as before (this is your final weight).
- Your weight change during exercise, plus any fluids consumed equals your total fluid loss for that session.
To work this out:
- Subtract your final weight from your initial weight.
- Add the weight of fluid (in kg) that you consumed while exercising.
- To make this into an hourly rate, divide it by the number of hours you spent exercising.
Rehydrate over the next two to six hours following your workout to lessen the chances of suffering from a fitness hangover.
If you find it hard to stay hydrated, try adding some fresh fruit to your water or drinking herbal teas, such as green or peppermint.
Have a post-workout snack
Post-workout, opt for a snack that includes both protein and carbohydrates to help replenish glycogen stores in the muscle and help you to recover faster.
A protein shake is a great way to go, or a protein ball can equally do the trick.
Schedule rest days
Rest days are important as they allow your body to recover after working out. Be sure to factor them into your exercise plan and see them through.
Put simply, if you want to see results in the gym, you need to schedule rest days. If you don’t, you run the risk of finding yourself with a fitness hangover.
Follow a progressive workout program
Following a workout program that is structured in a progressive, gradual and safe way is a safe bet when it comes to preventing a fitness hangover.
Combined with the above tips (warming up, cooling down and taking those rest days), you’ll find yourself minimising the risk of overtraining.
How do you survive a fitness hangover?
If you find yourself suffering from a fitness hangover, there’s a few things you can do to minimise the pain and get through the phase sooner rather than later.
Ensure you rest
If you find yourself experiencing a fitness hangover, make rest and sleep a priority.
A fitness hangover is your body’s way of telling you it needs to rest, so listen up.
Take up active recovery
Foam rolling can be an excellent (and gentle) way to help your body recover from a fitness hangover.
Foam rolling works to massage and release muscle tightness, while increasing blood flow and oxygen to the muscle tissue to aid recovery.
Alternatively, if you’re feeling up to it, take up a spot of low-intensity cardio training, such as a walk or swim.
When you’re trying to get through a fitness hangover, drink more fluids.
Water acts as your body’s natural lubricant and helps all of your internal organs, systems and their associated functions work efficiently and effectively.
Simply put, drinking water when you’re dealing with a fitness hangover is key to overcoming it.
Choose nutritious food
When you’re experiencing a fitness hangover, there are a few foods you can eat that will help.
First up, get your hands on some excellent sources of protein, such as chicken, salmon or tuna. Consuming protein will provide the essential nutrients and amino acids needed for muscle recovery and repair.
Secondly, opt for loads of fresh fruit and vegetables. Most fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense and contain high quantities of essential vitamins and minerals necessary for muscle repair. Citrus fruits, leafy greens and berries are particularly great thanks to the vitamins and antioxidants they contain.
Take care of your body
Like most things in life, hangovers pass!
Remember, prevention is always the best cure, so know your limits, follow a healthy diet (including plenty of water and protein!), don’t skip warming up or cooling down and stick to your rest days.
If you do find yourself suffering from a fitness hangover to prioritise your health and rest! We each only get one body and it’s so important to treat it with the respect it deserves.
Do you have any tips about how to survive a fitness hangover? Or perhaps how you prevent a fitness hangover in the first place? Comment below!
* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.