Indulging in a few beers shouldn’t stop you riding your bike. We show you how to fend off a hangover so you can ride headache-free the next day
When morning comes after a heavy night partying, the thought of a bike ride seems less appealing. You’d rather lie under your quilt nursing your sore head. What’s the solution? We don’t want to put a halt to your drinking fun. Then again, we definitely don’t want you to stop riding your bike.
The good news is, provided you follow a few salient pieces of advice, and you drink strategically, you should be able to sink a few alcoholic beverages and still be able to ride the next day.
With Christmas approaching, we’ve put together a commonsense guide to dealing with a rough ‘day after’. And, of course, these tips are just as valid all year round…
Let’s start with a few facts. According to www.addiction.com, alcohol consumption in Britain increases 40 per cent in December, with over 600 million units necked. Further, over the Christmas period, 14 per cent of people drink more than they intended. And we haven’t even begun to talk about new year’s eve yet.
With the surprisingly large number of calories in alcohol, the tendency to eat more when we’ve had a few, plus the fact we don’t ride our bikes as much when it’s cold, it’s no wonder we pile on the pounds at this time of year. We come to accept hangovers too. But it needn’t be like this.
The first thing you need to do is change the way you view this time of year. Yes, December is cold, but it’s nothing compared to the onslaught of rain, wind and frost that heads our way in January and February — the really ‘dark’ months. So think again. Regard Christmas as a chance to get some good riding in before the real winter approaches. Don’t see it as an ‘off’ period where your exercise regime goes into shutdown.
Once you’ve altered your attitude, you will start to value your holiday spare time a little more — making the most of it rather than seeing it as hangover-recovery time.
Tell yourself that those two hours in the morning can now be filled by riding your bike instead of hiding away from natural light. If you’re in the pub in the evening, remind yourself that you have an entire morning to yourself the next day. What would you rather do? Go out and get some fresh air, or lie in bed with a head heavier than a sumo wrestler’s backside? The moment your thoughts start to change, so will your actions.
A thumping head…
The question we all want answered is: are we able to cycle after a heavy night on the tiles? Well, the answer is yes, you can — with a few provisos.
For some people, cycling is the perfect hangover cure. Team Sky rider Geraint Thomas was famous for his heavy binges during the off-season. He said that cycling the following day helped burn away his hangover and clear his heavy head.
There’s no denying that getting out in the open air does help if you’re feeling rough. Being stuck indoors, hot and stuffy, only makes you feel worse. Fresh air in the lungs will help wake you up, get the blood pumping and start to bring you back to normality.
Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows brain activity. It also slows down the release of endorphins — feel-good hormones that help regulate mood. Exercise causes the body to release endorphins, which help counteract the effects of alcohol, resulting in a better mood and happier state of mind.
But exercise will only help to a certain extent. Some people wrongly believe that exercise helps ‘sweat out’ toxins and booze from their body, magically restoring full health. Others have even been known to sit in saunas to help cure hangovers. They are kidding themselves; it doesn’t work. Sorry to be a killjoy.
You may ‘sweat out’ a tiny amount of alcohol, but this will have very little effect on how you feel. In fact, it will most likely make you worse.
Alcohol is a diuretic. According to www.drinkaware.com, booze acts on the kidneys to make you pee out much more than you take in. This is why you have to go to the toilet a lot more once you’ve had a few bevvies. Drinkaware.com also states that “alcohol reduces the production of a hormone called vasopressin, which tells your kidneys to reabsorb water rather than flush it out through the bladder. With the body’s natural signal switched off, the bladder is free to fill up with fluid.”
These combined factors lead to dehydration, which may lead to nausea, headaches and a dry mouth.
So if you’re planning on heading out for a few hours on the bike, chances are you’re going to sweat more and bring forward the onset of dehydration. Yes, you may take a bottle of water with you, but that won’t be enough — you’ll be drinking not only to fight your hangover but also to replace what’s lost through exercise. You might feel better while cycling, but that’s probably down to the endorphins being released. The risk is, you’ll feel worse once you get home.
Of course, if you had only a few drinks the night before, a ride will certainly make you feel better. Just don’t fall into the trap of thinking that cycling will cure extreme hangovers.
Can we cheat alcohol?
Drinking less really is the best way to reduce the severity of tomorrow’s hangover, allowing you to ride your bike. But that’s not what you want to hear, is it? After all, we all want to have our cake and eat it.
However, there are a few effective ways to reduce the effects of alcohol. Firstly, eat a meal before you start drinking. It will slow the absorption of booze and should lessen your hangover. If you eat a large meal, it will feel heavy in your stomach and maybe slightly uncomfortable, so avoid heavy meals like curry before you start drinking.
Not only are these foods high in calories but also harder to digest. Heavy food sits in the stomach; all it takes is one dodgy shot and it’ll come straight back up — not a good look. Go for something lighter — perhaps a bowl of pasta or a pizza. OK, it’s not the healthiest of meals, but it’s light enough and will do the job of soaking up the drink.
Also, drink water between alcoholic drinks. It may look a little sad or square, but a glass of water between lagers or wine helps dilute the brew that is sloshing around in your stomach. Not only that, it will slow down the rate at which you are drinking alcohol and decrease the risk of dehydration.
Another very effective way to reduce the intensity of tomorrow’s hangover is to drink a large glass of water before you go to bed. It may be the last thing you want to do, but it really will help lessen the dehydration and the subsequent headache and dry mouth when you wake up.
Dealing with dehydration
If you forget the above tip and wake up with a mouth dryer than a camel’s foot, sometimes water isn’t enough. Drinking pint after pint of H2O could make you feel bloated and even worse — your body is not able to use it all, which could lead to vomiting.
Instead, use rehydration sachets. Cyclists who ride vast distances in extreme heat, losing a lot of fluid in sweat, use electrolyte drinks. Electrolytes are vital for general functioning of the body and they need to be replaced when exercising. They may also help hangover victims. One 500ml bottle of water with an electrolyte mix should be enough. It might help reduce dehydration, even if it doesn’t lessen your headache.
CNP’s Pro Hydrate is great. One scoop into your bottle, give it a quick shake, and it’s ready to drink. There are also others that work just as well, such SiS’s Go Electrolyte and PowerBar’s Isoactive.
Remember, prevention is better than cure: the only reliable way to ensure you have fewer hangovers this Christmas is by moderating your alcohol intake.
But if you do overindulge, our top tip is: kill the hangover before your bike ride rather than attempting to kill it with a bike ride.
What’s your tipple?
Lager One of the most calorific drinks, coming in at around 190 calories per pint. This may not seem a lot, but if you’re in the pub for a few hours, you could consume six or seven pints. That adds up.
Wine Any good meal needs a bottle of wine to accompany it, and many fall into the trap of thinking it’s a healthier option than lager. While this is largely true, you still need to be careful. An average bottle of wine comes in at between 600 and 750 calories. What’s more, a large glass can hold up to nearly a third of a bottle; so just two glasses of your favourite vino could add up to 400 or 500 calories each time.
Cocktails Derek Trotter swears by them, but with an average 40 per cent alcohol by volume shot containing 60-80 calories, before mixers are added, a cocktail or two can see you consuming more calories than are contained in some meals. Did you know that a classic pina colada trumps a Big Mac in the calories stakes?
Shorts They’re great to finish the night off, but just a small measure (35ml) of brandy or similar adds an extra 80-odd calories. It’s not weak, either so any more than a couple of glasses will cause your head to spin.
Cycling: A hangover cure
Tim Hall Beneficial. Gets rid of the hangover.
Barry Eggleton I sometimes have my best rides with a hangover.
Tristian Brewer Don’t get a hangover; only have two or three. Then you can ride properly.
Fiona McMurray I find it cures a ‘mild’ hangover.
Matthew Burton It has to be a myth. How can making you even more dehydrated make it better?
Noel Gallagher No, it only puts it off. You suffer from it later on.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.