Well, recent research finds that you might be able to have your drinks and work out, too. The findings, published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, reports that overall dips in performance were not seen after a night of heavy drinking. Of course, it’s important to note that the study looked at physiological markers of people who were already working out. This doesn't take into account the considerable determination you must summon to head to the gym when you're dealing with a hangover and headache.
For the study, a small group of male rugby players had their performance measured on the vertical jump, lower body strength, and sprints. Then, they went out — hard — and had a night of heavy drinking, where they consumed at least six drinks each. Then, researchers measured their performance the next morning and the following day.
You’d think that the drinking plus lack of sleep (the players reported roughly five hours less sleep) would result in performance decreases, but researchers only found a dip in the player’s vertical jump. All other measured markers were normal. “Other studies have shown a similar effect on jump height,” says co-author Matthew Barnes, PhD, of Massey University in New Zealand. “It may be due to a decrease of the central nervous system’s ability to send a signal rapidly to the muscles.”
But apparently, how often you drink comes into play. “This shows that if you are a regular consumer of high levels of alcohol (like those in our study), then your performance in short-duration, high-intensity exercise is unlikely to be affected by very heavy alcohol use,” Dr. Barnes says. The rugby players showed signs of full recovery two days after drinking. Although, as he points out, it may have happened earlier, as performance was only measured at 24-hour intervals. However, if you're not a regular drinker, then it's possible your recovery time might be slower than this.
Of course, for the non-athlete weekend warriors, the lack of sleep + hangover may not translate to a stellar workout. “If anything, the reductions in performance people associate with the day after is due to feelings of illness/nausea rather than any physiological disturbance,” Dr. Barnes says. So, if you're going to have a night out, maybe push your workouts until later the following day.