Why do my legs hurt when I'm hung over?
February 6, 2005 9:17 AM   Subscribe

Why do my legs hurt when I'm hung over? The day after drinking my legs always ache -- they're not sore like they would be from working out, they just ache like they're tired. Any idea why that is? Something related to dehydration I'm guessing?

At first I thought that maybe it was due to prolonged standing at bar all night - but I'm not in that bad of shape. On top of that, it happens even if I get drunk sitting down.
posted by paulrockNJ to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Mine do the exact same thing.
posted by trey at 9:23 AM on February 6, 2005

It could also be from getting less coordinated as you get drunk. I don't know that it is, mind you, but it could be. After all, using muscles the wrong way wears them out a lot faster than using them the right way.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:25 AM on February 6, 2005

i understood it was a lack of electrolytes. Drink some sports drinks, it should help.
posted by petebest at 9:54 AM on February 6, 2005

Alcohol makes your blood acidic. Dehydration makes your body even more acidic. Your muscles break energy stores into components like protons and lactic acid, even more acidic.

Water and oxygen are used to make your body less acidic. When you take water out of the equation, your muscles can't flush waste products like they normally do. Lactic acid buildup causes pain in your muscles.

Drink a glass of water before you sleep off a night of boozing; your body will thank you by hurting less in the morning.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:59 AM on February 6, 2005 [2 favorites]

This is just a guess, but if you're drunk enough for it to affect your balance, when you do have to walk around, I would guess that your muscles are working harder and in ways they aren't used to working to keep you upright.

I also second the electrolyte thing. If my hangover is truly horrible, I'll sometimes drink Pedialyte, which, according to their web site, is an "oral electrolyte maintenance solution...to prevent dehydration due to diarrhea or vomiting. Pedialyte is specially formulated for infants and children to quickly replace lost fluid."
posted by hootch at 10:51 AM on February 6, 2005

Happens to me too. Feels like lactic acid buildup.
posted by yerfatma at 10:59 AM on February 6, 2005

Electrolytes. In particular, pottasium, the condition is called Hypokalemia. One of the signs of it is ache in the muscles, the legs, having large muscles that are used frequently, get it first.

It's esp. common with low carb diets, since these restrict many of the common sources of potassium. One of the reason's cyclists consider bananas to be good ride food is the potassium replacement.

If you are on any heart pressure medication, check with your doctor or pharmcist. Many of them change the rate which potassium is processed, and in some cases, taking potassium supplements would be *extremely* dangerous. Too much serum potassium, and your heart stops.
posted by eriko at 11:40 AM on February 6, 2005 [1 favorite]

I second (or third) lactic acid build-up, though all that stumbling around probably doesn't help.

Interestingly enough, plants have the same sort of structures that produce lactic acid in humans, except in plants they produce ethanol (I think)... isn't that weird?
posted by muddgirl at 2:20 PM on February 6, 2005

The problems with the lactic acid theory.

Lactic acid is created when your burning more ATP than you can create aerobically. While I can see someone reaching that point while drunk, the other kicker is that all the acid will be clear of the muscles after about an hour.

The burn you get the next day after a workout isn't lactic acid, it's damage to the muscle. The burn you get when when your pushing as hard as you possibly can is partially lactic acid and partially lack of oxygen in the muscle tissues. The burn you get when you stop working at that high rate, that's lactic acid.

I agree that Hypokalemia feels like a lactic acid burn, but lactic acid won't be there in the morning, unless you've taken sleepwalking to a new level.
posted by eriko at 4:03 PM on February 6, 2005

I believe muddgirl is correct, for in a biology class I remember the laughter and various contemplation resulting from the revelation we'd all get drunk as we worked out, if we were plants that is.
posted by geoff. at 5:16 PM on February 6, 2005

Yeah, take some potassium supplements.
posted by kindall at 5:20 PM on February 6, 2005

It almost sounds like Gout but, not exactly. Regardless, it's easy enough to get checked for it. I'd see a doctor if I were you.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 6:41 PM on February 6, 2005

i get this too - for me it hits my calves.

i had a flatmate who got what she called 'beer arms', aching arms after a night out on the town.
posted by netsirk at 8:25 PM on February 6, 2005

Speaking as a trained myologist again (haha, I love that):

It's probably hypokalemia. It's pretty clear to me that:

a) Boozing it causes a vigorous aquadiuresis and hence hypokalemia owing to the way the kidney works. This happens to everyone.
b) Hypokalemia causes leg cramps;
c) b) only occurs for a subset of the population. It's probably a genetic ion channel thing.

To fix it, eat a banana before you go boozing, and another afterwards; and/or stick to screwdrivers. (Or gin with real tonic water; quinine sulfate has long been known to be useful to people who suffer these sorts of cramps. I suggest this somewhat facetiously, as I don't really think there's enough quinine in an average night's jynnantonnyxathon to make this work.)
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:34 PM on February 6, 2005 [1 favorite]

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