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How Long You Should Wait to Exercise After a Sesh

If you've just consumed a load of stuff that makes your heart beat faster, presumably it's not a good idea to immediately do a load of activities that make your heart beat faster?

by Tom Usher
15 January 2020, 12:44pm

Left: Emily Bowler. Right: Charlie Kwai

If you're like me – and I hope to God you aren't – you've lost count of the times you've forced yourself to play football after a night getting on it. When that quiet Saturday cold one led to another couple of cold ones, which led to a bag and a 6AM bedtime, ahead of a Sunday League game you can't pull out of last minute, because every single person on your team will know exactly why you're not there.

So you play, with all the grace of an injured Andy Carroll on disassociates, and you feel like you’re running through quicksand. But at least you made it.

Thing is, surely that's not a good idea. Have you ever wondered just how bad running around like an injured Andy Carroll on disassociates is for your health? Does it increase your chances of having a heart attack, or just make you even more shit at football than normal?

"When I played professional football I only drank very occasionally and had never taken drugs – this allowed me to perform to my maximum," explains former Bristol Rovers pro, Mitch Harding, who now works as a personal trainer. "But I would give your body at least two days of general daily activity and healthy nutritional intake before training after doing hard drugs. So: no – no line before your workout."

"I'd say it depends on the amount they did and the intensity of the exercise, but probably wise to leave it 24 to 48 hours," agrees personal trainer and ex-MMA fighter, Max Cotton. "I did once start smashing someone on cardio on a Monday a few years back – he went white as a sheet and had to sit down, so I asked what was up and he said, 'I did a lot of cocaine at the weekend.' So I stopped the session right there and then."

So: doing coke or MDMA and rolling into the gym the following morning clearly isn't the best idea. But counterpoint: what about the idea of sweating out the previous night's excesses with a 45-minute HIIT class?

"With the exception of alcohol, most drugs have a fairly fixed rate of elimination from the body in a chemical sense, but that doesn't mean the way a person feels couldn't be changed by taking certain actions," explains Guy Jones, a senior scientist at drugs testing company The Loop. So, some light exercise, a day or two into your comedown, "will help work up an appetite to get some vitamins into you, get blood flowing, reduce fatigue and speed up one's metabolism – so it's definitely a good step to take even if it isn't strictly increasing the speed at which drugs are eliminated from the body".

"It does feel great to get a huge sweat on and eat some healthy food," agrees Max. "I also think it helps with energy levels, getting rid of a headache and getting ready to get back on it – but in terms of being able to 'sweat it out', there's no truth in that whatsoever. Alcohol is processed through the liver in its own time, and all detoxing takes place there. You can't accelerate the process."

It's fairly obvious that taking any drug before exercising is a bad idea, but hypothetically: what's the worst?

"As a one-off, alcohol is probably pretty terrible, because it greatly increases the chance of accidents and injuries," explains Guy Jones. "In terms of causing hidden or unexpected problems, I would expect cocaine to be the worst, because of the risk of your heart rhythm going out of sync. Amphetamine has been banned as a performance-enhancing drug for many years, and in small doses it's not going to cause a totally healthy person to suddenly keel over – but again, if someone eats a gram of speed before running a marathon, then the risk of complications is very different to eating a single Ritalin tablet before lifting some weights."

Lastly, just asking for a friend: which drugs could I get away with taking before exercising?

"Probably just weed, but then – do you really want to 'get away' with it, because what's the point?" says Max Cotton. "I've 100 percent trained people who have come in high, and you wonder why they're paying for my time. They definitely weren't at their best. Just keep the two things separate."

@tom_usher_

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Drugs