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Is Working Out after Drinking Bad? We Investigate.
twenty20

Picture it: It’s a beautiful fall day. We’re talking pre-daylight savings, so it’s still light out at 5:30 when I leave work to grab a drink with a few friends. Since it’s the middle of the week and we’re not planning on going out out, I book a spin class for 8:30 that night.

After two glasses of Sancerre, I say au revoir to my pals and head to my favorite studio (hey, Peloton). Here I’ll note that I drink as much as the average 27-year-old and am an athletically-built six feet tall, so, I feel very fine after two glasses. I shimmy into my spandex, clip into the bike and spin my heart out to ‘90s pop jams for 45 minutes. 

If you’re familiar with Peloton, you know that your performance is tracked, so you can monitor how you’re doing during class and afterward. That particular day, I didn’t get my best score of all time, but I came close. Maybe it was the wine, I mused during my sweaty subway ride home.

There was only one way to know for sure: I decided to check in with Dr. Robert Segal, a New York City-based cardiologist and co-founder of LabFinder.com, who could confirm (or dispute) my hypothesis. 

And dispute he did. I’m not sure what caused my near-peak performance that night, but it wasn’t the vino. Why? Because I got an emphatic, “NO, PLEASE DON’T DO THAT,” when I asked Dr. Segal if working out post-drinks was OK.

What the Experts Say

Per Dr. Segal, “Drinking before working out is not ideal—whether it’s wine or any type of alcoholic drink.” Noted. Why though? “Alcohol causes dehydration because it makes our kidneys produce more urine,” he told me. “On top of that, when we exercise, we also sweat a lot, adding to the dehydration.” I get it, I get it. “Drinking also increases the likelihood of unusual heart rhythms that significantly increases during exercise,” he added. 

Still, I prodded, specifically asking, “Should I stop doing this immediately?” Dr. Segal’s to-the-point response? “You should.” I appreciate the honesty. “If you want to make the most out of your workout, do so when you are 100 percent sober and in full control of all your bodily functions like focus and balance.”

OK, fine. But what if I booked a boot camp that I can’t cancel without being charged and I’m unexpectedly offered a drink a few hours before? Here’s where timing matters. According to Dr. Segal, “If you really have to work out after a drink or two, give it some time. One hour after consuming one glass and two and a half hours after consuming two glasses.” Roger that.

It’s settled: Pregaming workouts is unhealthy, full stop.

Besides, in hindsight, it was probably the “Baby One More Time”-era Britney jams that inspired me on that fateful night.

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