Can You Drink Alcohol When Training for a Marathon?

woman drinking beer

Training for a marathon requires months of commitment. You may need to change your diet during your training, including when and how much alcohol you consume. Alcohol dehydrates you and it also interferes with your sleep, so it's not a good idea to consume it the night before a long run or race. But you don't have to give up your beer, wine, or other alcoholic beverages altogether while you're training. It's fine to have some wine or beer on nights when you're not doing your long run the next day. If you're going out and really want to have one alcoholic drink the night before a long run, make sure you're drinking plenty of water, too.

Drinking Alcohol After a Run

It's fine to drink some beer, wine, or other alcoholic drink after a long run or race. In fact, you may find alcoholic drinks served at the finish line of a race. Some runners like to celebrate a hard run or race with a glass of wine or beer.

The American College of Sports Medicine notes that alcohol increases urine output, so it should be limited immediately after exercise when you want to get rehydrated. It's best to wait for a couple of hours or more after a race before you indulge in more than a few sips. By that time you can be assured that you have replenished lost body water and electrolytes. Also, be aware that alcoholic beverages, and especially red wine, can be triggers for heartburn and stomach upset. Beer will usually be a little better tolerated than wine or distilled spirits since it provides more fluid per volume of alcohol.

Be careful not to overdo it. If you abstain from drinking alcohol during your training, you may find that your tolerance to be a lot lower than it was when you started training. If you're taking a drink on the finish line, the dehydration can make you feel the effects of alcohol more quickly. Be sure to take in some food at the same time so you aren't drinking on an empty stomach.

Running With a Hangover

It's unwise to run with a hangover. The main reason why drinking alcohol doesn't mix with running is that alcohol has a dehydrating effect. When you're feeling hungover, you're very dehydrated. If you have a pretty bad hangover at the start of your run, you're already starting your run dehydrated, which is never a good thing. You might be able to get through a short run with a hangover (it still won't feel great), but it's dangerous to try to push through a long training run with a hangover because you could end up severely dehydrated.

You're also probably going to feel uncoordinated and clumsy when you have a hangover, which increases your risk of falling while running.

If you find yourself feeling hungover and still want to go for a run, make sure you drink some water before heading out and bring a water bottle with you. Be sure to keep your run short and easy.

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