The school season is upon us, and we all know that often it comes with an upswing in going out, to parties, or to the bar. What does this mean for someone training for a marathon? 

Not only does it mean more calories and extra weight to carry out on our runs with us, but alcohol also means hangovers, and very few people enjoy running on a hangover. In short, alcohol as part of a balanced diet with healthy foods and plenty of water won’t be harmful to your fitness plans. But, we thought it’d be interesting to take a closer look at the effect of alcohol, and how we can reverse any negatives. 

It's a Diuretic

A diuretic is anything that increases the production of urine in the body, so it increases the level of water removed from the body. The more water you lose, the more dehydrated you get which can cause multiple issues for runners. Dehydration can increase the risk of muscle cramps, strains and pulls. It also increases general feelings of fatigue, making it harder to get out for the run in the first place.

So, if you’re heading out on a long run the day after a big night out, just make sure you are well hydrated to prevent any injury or unwanted tiredness. A top tip would be to alternate your drinks with a glass of water, or at least go for a light beer.

It Changes Your Sleep

Drinking more than one or two units of alcohol can leave you feeling exhausted. Alcohol makes you fall straight into deep sleep, skipping the first stage in the sleep cycle - Rapid Eye Movement (REM). A night or two of a disruption to your usual cycle can throw you off for many more nights to come leaving you feeling exhausted. Ultimately, meaning you have less energy to head out on a run let alone complete it.

So, a top tip would be to try and space your nights out amongst nights of normal sleeping. It'll make all the difference if you are simply only having one night of no REM.

It Changes Resources Distribution

When your body is exposed to alcohol, it invests the majority of it’s energy into removing the toxin from your body. To do that, it takes time and resources away from other processes usually occurring in our bodies such as the conversion of glucose into our blood. Runners need blood sugar to be at a constant, with plentiful supplies of sugar. Overall, drinking, lowers blood sugar and you’ll have less accessible energy to tap into when you’re out on your run.

A tip here would be to make sure you have plenty of food alongside your alcohol, and plenty of things to keep your energy levels up on your run. 

As we're sure you're aware, alcohol can be a dominant part of the student lifestyle.

When it comes to running, the occasional drink won’t make too much of a difference but a big drinking session a couple of times a week will. High levels of alcohol consumption can essentially wipe out all the hard work you have been doing. We aren’t saying cut out alcohol altogether, but it is wise to cut down and considering not drinking alcohol before long runs.

However, despite all this talk about alcohol being bad for you when marathon training you will be glad to hear that certain types of alcohol, in moderation, can actually be beneficial. Red wine for example contains a chemical, resveratrol, which reduces your blood pressure and as a consequence protects your cardiovascular system.

Can I run with a hangover?

So you go for a catch up drink with friends, and one drink turns into two and before you know it the wine is being poured far too freely and you wake up the next morning feeling a little delicate with a decision: to run or not to run? We do not recommend running off a hangover. However, many runners do it all the time - and hats off to them!

If you choose to run after drinking, don’t expect to run a PB. If you are even struggling to sit up without feeling sick, forego the run. Rest, hydrate and take on the run later in the day or the following day.

Before hitting the roads make sure that you have hydrated your body like mentioned earlier with water and/or an energy drink, without this you will feel very sluggish on your run as you won’t have replenished they electrolytes that have been sapped up by the alcohol. You will know that you are hydrated when your urine is clear or a light yellow. Also when running, drop your pace and your distance.

Bottom line:

You don’t have to cut out all alcohol when you’re training for a marathon, but it’s a good idea to limit your consumption generally, and abstain before running days.