Perhaps you went into last night with the intention of exercising a little bit of self-restraint, determined to leave the happy hour after just a few glasses of wine and at a reasonable hour. Or perhaps discipline was never part of your plan: Your best friends were heading to your favorite dance bar, and after an especially demanding week, you wanted shots, and lots of them. Either way, the state in which you awoke today — well, let’s just say you’ve been better. Or no, let’s just say it as it is: Not only is your head pounding and mouth parched, but your entire body aches after drinking.
If you’ve ever decided to, say, indulge in a number of alcoholic beverages that would horrify your doctor, chances are, you’ve probably woken up the next morning feeling physically sore after drinking. You’ve also, in all likelihood, spent hours racking your brain, trying to figure out how the hell you managed to end up in such a state. “Did I wipe out on the stairs?” you might’ve wondered, or, “Did those six tequila shots somehow cause permanent damage to my muscles?” While no one else can help you put all pieces of your puzzle together (like whom you made out with or how many drinks you ended up chugging), science can reveal several reasons why drinking makes your whole body hurt the next day.
Blame It On The Alcohol
Everyone knows large amounts of alcohol are not good for the body. But according to a study in the journal PLOS One, heavy drinking on a night out can actually cause gut bacteria to make their way out of the stomach and release damaging toxins into your bloodstream. These so-called endotoxins mess with your immune system, and your body starts taking nutrients from your muscles.
So that explains why your arms and legs hurt after drinking. You might feel like you've been hit by a bus, but it's just those endotoxins causing your muscles to feel so tender.
Heels Might Not Have Helped
You knew you would regret strapping on those new black pumps the moment you stepped out of your apartment. But you had to wear them. Your outfit would've looked dumb if you wore flats. And now you (and your feet) are paying the price.
As Live Science notes, choosing to wear high heels every day can actually change the way your feet are formed. (Don’t panic: As long as you save heels for special occasions and weekend nights, this probably hasn't happened to you.) High heels do, however, raise your ankles and force the calf muscles to contract. Just make sure you stretch as soon as you wake up the next morning if you don't want any lasting damage.
Dancing All Night Was A Workout
Due to the DJ's amazing playlist mixed with one too many margaritas, you probably didn't notice the leg workout you were getting on the dance floor. All you cared about was forcing everyone to scream "Wagon Wheel" and avoiding the sweaty person trying to kiss you.
But the dancing, paired with the miserable 20-block walk home, took a toll on your glutes and quads. Dancing is fun, and it can help shape and tone your body — that’s why party workouts and dance classes are super popular. So, even if you missed your morning spin class, at least your butt and legs make it feel like you went?
Alcohol Slows Your Muscle Recovery
Alcohol does more than just make you dial your crush and get in a fight with a bartender: It also messes with the breakdown of lactic acid in your muscles. Ring any bells?
Lactic acid is the stuff your high school soccer coach brought up when everyone complained about being sore during the first week of tryouts. Scientific American points out that lactic acid is produced during demanding exercise, but it isn't the buildup making your muscles hurt. It’s the way it’s broken down.
Did you manage to fit in a long run before the pregame started? Well, those three shots you took in a row are going to mess with how the lactic acid is broken down hours later. Combine this with all the other unfortunate side effects of drinking, and you certainly aren't going to be feeling great the next morning.
You’re Dehydrated From Drinking
Yeah, yeah. You've always been told to alternate your drinks with a glass of water and drink a big glass before you pass out. But I bet you can count on one hand how many times you've successfully managed to do both those things.
Instead, you've probably had eight beers within a span of two hours and gone to the bathroom at least three times during the same timeframe. You kept having to pee because alcohol decreases the amount of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) your body makes. And because you're peeing so much, you're becoming dehydrated.
When you're dehydrated, your muscles aren't happy.
So unless you're down to obsessively monitor your drinking habits, you better have a Gatorade and two massive water bottles next to your bed.
You Might Have A Minor Electrolyte Balance
Let’s say you not only neglected to drink water throughout the night, but you also spent a few hours hugging the toilet. According to Dr. Daniel Kim of the Medical Offices of Manhattan, it’s possible you now have an electrolyte imbalance, which occurs when the levels of electrolytes in your body are either too high or too low, and “can happen as a result of fluid loss and dehydration.” Electrolyte imbalances have been shown to cause muscle soreness and cramps, because electrolytes — like potassium, magnesium, and sodium — help ensure that your body functions properly. One study, published earlier this year in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, found that people who consumed electrolyte-enhanced drinks both during and after exercising — another activity that can throw off your electrolyte levels — were less likely to get muscle cramps than participants who drank pure water.
While electrolyte imbalances can be serious, if you think you’re suffering from one after a night of heavy drinking, you probably didn’t throw off your electrolyte levels too drastically. Just try drinking a Gatorade or another electrolyte-enhanced drink, and that should do the trick.
Your Whole Body Is Inflamed
When your body is fighting injury or infection, you’ll likely experience inflammation, which is part of the body’s natural healing system. However, sometimes your immune system revs up in absence of an injury and illness, and goes on to attack itself.
According to Kim, heavy drinking can exacerbate overall inflammation in the body, and this increase can be the reason behind muscle cramps the following day. Usually, this “depends on the person's ability to metabolize alcohol and it’s toxic byproducts,” Kim says, adding that muscle cramps are a common hangover symptom “if you are not drinking enough water along with the alcohol.” If you’re worried about your inflammation levels, “it is important to replenish all the lost fluids from excessive alcohol intake,” Kim tells Elite Daily.
Once more for the people in the back: The benefits of drinking water while consuming alcohol cannot be overstated!
Lau, W. Y., Kato, H., & Nosaka, K. (2020). Effect of oral rehydration solution versus spring water intake during exercise in the heat on muscle cramp susceptibility of young men. https://doi.org/10.21203/rs.3.rs-96830/v1
Bala, S., Marcos, M., Gattu, A., Catalano, D., & Szabo, G. (2014). Acute binge drinking increases serum endotoxin and bacterial DNA levels in healthy individuals. PLoS ONE, 9(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0096864
Dezman, Z. D. W., Comer, A. C., Narayan, M., Scalea, T. M., Hirshon, J. M., & Smith, G. S. (2016). Alcohol consumption decreases lactate clearance in acutely injured patients. Injury, 47(9), 1908–1912. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.injury.2016.03.007
Epstein, M. (1997). Alcohol’s Impact on Kidney Function. Alcohol Health and Research World, 21(1), 84–92.
Dr. Daniel Kim of the Medical Offices of Manhattan
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