Minimise the effects of alcohol on your running with these handy tips
How to beat the booze this festive season. Moderation is key, but we have some tricks that will also help
Too much booze leads to hangovers. No prizes for knowing that one, but it’s important to be aware of the other ways alcohol can affect your health and running performance
Firstly, drinking can compromise your sleep and temporarily reduce your body’s ability to store glycogen, which is vital for endurance. It could also make you more prone to injury, as alcohol can lead to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which slows down the repair process. So how can you minimise the effects of those festive drinks on your running?
Alcohol acts as a diuretic, reducing our levels of the antidiuretic hormone (ADH) and increasing urine production. Increased fluid excretion raises the risk of dehydration, which can affect your run. Drink plenty of water before and after drinking alcohol. Alternating alcoholic drinks with water can make a big difference to hydration levels, as well as to how you feel the morning after.
Opting for healthier drinks helps you avoid consuming excessive sugar and other ingredients along with the alcohol itself. Choose dry wines, which have a relatively low sugar content. Avoid regularly drinking beer, cocktails and alcopops – too much sugar can lead to blood sugar fluctuations, which result in energy dips, cravings and lack of concentration, none of which will help your running. Or your conversation skills…
Supplement your recovery
When you’re drinking more than usual, add milk thistle (Silybum marianum) to your supplement regime. This herbal supplement acts as an antioxidant and has been shown to protect the liver from damage. In Germany, where the government regulates herbal-medicine use, milk thistle has been listed for the treatment of liver cirrhosis and liver damage, so it’s worth including it in your festive regime. Try: Nature’s Answer’s Milk Thistle Seed tincture. £8.49, victoriahealth.com.
Water is vital for limiting dehydration, of course, but electrolytes also play a role. Alcohol promotes excretion of these nutrients, which are essential for fluid balance. It’s worth taking a tube of electrolyte tablets out with you and dropping one into a glass of water every couple of hours. If that’s not practical, have one before you go out and leave a glass next to your bed to have when you get home. Coconut water is also a good, naturally electrolyte-rich recovery drink (see below).
Line your stomach
Eating before you drink will help slow the release of alcohol into your bloodstream, so have a little food before taking your first sip or, ideally, drink with a meal. Eating early is also a much better option than drinking on an empty stomach and then feasting on fast food before bed.
Kick the kebab
If you do need to eat after a night of drinking, choose something that’s nutrient-dense, rather than processed foods like pizza or a kebab, which can disrupt your sleep even more. Go for a couple of slices of rye toast with coconut or almond butter, which will give you a healthier fatty fix. If you are planning to run the next day, choose a morning-after breakfast that’s rich in healthy fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates to help your body recover. Poached eggs with avocado on wholemeal toast is a great way to fuel your run. Kim Pearson is a qualified nutritionist with more than 10 years’ experience. She loves running and pasta in equal measure. kim-pearson. com; @kimmypearson
TRY THIS NAKED COCONUT WATER Coconut water rehydrates and it also provides the electrolytes potassium, calcium and magnesium. Naked coconut water contains half the amount of sugar of other brands. £3 for 1 litre, ocado.com