The Science of Sweating Out a Hangover

An alcohol scientist explains why hopping on the treadmill helps you power through that morning-after hell.

The Science of Sweating Out a Hangover

Of all the so-called hangover remedies—pounding water, devouring greasy foods and drinking more alcohol—sweating it out is reserved for the bold. Most of us can barely roll out of bed when we’re hungover, let along jog around the block until we’re dripping. Still, some brave souls swear that working up a sweat is the most effective hangover cure. We turned to Dr. Aaron White, senior scientific advisor at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, to find out if sweating really reduces hangover symptoms, and if so, how.

First of all, we are able to sweat out alcohol. “The vast majority of alcohol—95 to 98 percent—is metabolized by the liver,” White explains. “But the remaining two to five percent is excreted unchanged in sweat, urine, feces, breath, saliva and breast milk, so if there’s any alcohol still in our body when we wake up the next day, a little bit of it will be excreted via sweat.”

Unfortunately, this does not mean we’re able to sweat out our hangover symptoms. For one, hangovers result from alcohol that has already been metabolized by the liver, and thus, can’t be sweated out. Secondly, the tiny bit of alcohol that escapes through our pores the day after a night out (just two to five percent, remember) is nowhere near enough to soothe a throbbing headache or an upset stomach. In fact, pretty much all this alcohol sweat is going to do is cause you to smell like an unfortunate combination of whatever you drank the night before.

So why do some people feel better after a hungover workout? The real reason doesn’t actually have to do with sweat at all. As White explains, exercising releases endorphins that improve our overall mood, helping to reduce our morning-after malaise—the sweat is just a byproduct. In fact, overdoing it and sweating too much can add to your alcohol-induced dehydration and make matters worse, so if you’re planning on jogging off your hangover, it’s a good idea to drink more water than usual. Or just forget the whole thing and order a pizza. Come on, you know you want to.