Whether fueled by guilt or the pressure to pack in a full day, for some adults, hitting the gym after happy hour is not uncommon. The Houston Press conducted a poll and of 25 male and females ages 27-42, 13 admitted to having worked out under the influence of alcohol.
For some, it was the motivation of a long-term goal be it training for a marathon or getting fit for a wedding. Others felt obligated to attend a workplace happy hour beforehand while at the same time maintain a regular work-out routine. Avoiding trainer or class cancellation fees also weighed in on the decision to just go and get it over with. A few even believe that 30 minutes on the elliptical erases that half-bottle of chardonnay and two mozzarella cheese sticks consumed beforehand.
Although half of the people polled admit to working out under the influence, none of them do it on a regular basis—it’s all pretty happenstance. One 28-year-old woman who like the other exercisers in our poll didn't want to be named, says, “Yeah, I’ve gone on a run after two beers, I was training for a marathon, but also had a work happy hour and felt obligated to go.” A 35-year-old woman agrees, “My work happy hour ran long and I had already committed to a gym class and paid, so I wanted to try and go, but it wasn’t pretty.” A 42-year-old woman tells us: “Yes, not my best workout. My motivation was to make room for more cocktails in the future, without adding the rolls.”
Jess Archer, a personal trainer and yoga instructor says, “If they’re going to happy hour beforehand, obviously they’re going to have a terrible workout.” She said she’s had sessions with clients that had imbibed beforehand and noticed them start to feel awful after a matter of minutes. “They didn’t want to cancel and miss their session—I did have to stop one lady after ten minutes who had had margaritas beforehand.”
Jocelyn Britton, concierge membership director for the The Core Houston, has 25 years in the fitness industry and doesn’t think one drink at lunch throws off the productivity of a work out later in the day. “If you are in a maintenance phase living an active lifestyle at a healthy weight, I don’t see one lunch margarita hampering your workout four or five hours later.” She says, however, that because of the alcohol and sugar it can be detrimental for those looking to lose weight or gain muscle.
Many years ago at a previous position, Britton recalls one client with alcohol challenges attempting to exercise. “From a safety standpoint, a trainer is absolutely liable for a client’s safety if they perform or continue a session knowing or noticing the client has had two or more drinks.” In this example, they had to inform the trainer and cease the session.
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The consensus about working out under the influence of alcohol is that it’s not advised, though it’s easy for a person to justify the action. One 29-year-old man explains his reasoning: “A number of times when I’m tipsy, running doesn’t feel as boring, I sweat quicker and get tired quicker.” According to the Irish Nutrition + Dietetic Institute—the effects of alcohol on sports performance include; dehydration, interference with how energy in the body is made, and a slowness of coordination and reaction time. Pretty much all things needed when the body is in a state of organized exertion.
Other health effects the Institute named were; weight gain due to caloric intake of alcohol, poor muscle growth from disrupted sleep patterns, altered heart rate, and slow healing after injury.
Some people choose to work out the morning after a heavy night, and due to low water hydration, the results are about the same. James Hall, owner of SPENGA Montrose, a fitness program that incorporates spin, high-intensity interval training, and yoga, has 30 plus years in the fitness industry and says he’s never noticed clients coming in under the influence—hangovers on the other hand, yes. He noted, “From personal experience, [working out the next day] is a good way to get rid of a hangover.”
Dean Theriot, owner of Timberline Fitness Studio, also has 30 years in the fitness industry and agrees he’s never worked with clients while they seemed under the influence. “I think clients would try to hide that from me. It’s more a case of people being hungover from the night before.”