The 'off leash' hangover ride phenomenon (is it actually about carbs?)

I’ve made some interesting N=1 observations about this kind of thing lately and thought others might find it useful:

Sort of a follow on from this thread and the below quoted exchange from an unrelated thread. TL;DR is I’ve begun to suspect that my off-leash hangover performances are often due to all the extra food I eat during the drinking session. I’ve tried eating a bit like I would when drinking but without consuming alcohol and the results are pretty impressive!

As part of an eczema elimination diet I recently cut dairy, wheat, and alcohol out of my diet completely for 8+ weeks. During that time I found I really struggled on 90 minute threshold workouts or Saturday morning group rides. I also found that after a couple of weeks I started having really distinct and specifically timed cravings for pizza or pasta, so I got some spelt pasta and had a friday night ‘blowout’ one week, eating til uncomfortably full. The next morning I felt and rode amazing - almost like I have felt on those ‘off-leash’ hangover days.

It got me thinking about the relationship between drinking and nutrition - if I’m having a big night I would almost always eat pizza or pasta or something else really carb heavy in much higher quantities than would be in a normal dinner. And often there’s a desire for even more carb heavy snacks later in the night if the session keeps going. And that’s all without even considering the carbs in the drinks.

I’d never done this kind of thing without alcohol though so I started to wonder if what was actually going on is I was effectively offsetting my hangover performance by doing a major carb loading session. Eating a pizza gives me a temporary weight gain of like 1-1.5kg which I assumed was mostly water in my gut rather than glycogen in the legs, so I would previously have never been willing to eat like that the night before an important ride unless there was alcohol involved and it became a bit of a ‘f*** it’ session.

To test my theory I started adding a (spelt) ‘pasta course’ after my main dinner on Wednesday and Friday nights (prior to the struggle sessions). Literally just pasta with a bit of vegan pesto from a jar - as simple as can be. And lo and behold, I suddenly found I was firing on all cylinders the next morning. Plus, because there was no alcohol involved I didn’t suffer any negative impacts on my top end (even on amazing hangover rides my anaerobic abilities are usually blunted - it’s really threshold and under that see the benefit).

Enforced Pacing
This is the other part of my theory. My best hangover rides have usually been long days out where maybe I am struggling for the first hour or two, but in hours 4-6 when all my riding buddies are fading fast and unable to keep up with a sweet spot effort I’m still able to turn threshold. I think that’s probably actually the result of strict hangover-enforced pacing in the early part of the day. If I don’t feel well enough to do any sharp efforts in the first couple hours when everyone’s fresh and burning their matches, I’m restricted to a more sensible pace and remain fresh once I’ve ridden out the ill effects of the previous night.

I’ve just looked at meal packaging to get some hard numbers for this and it seems like my normal dinner has about 55-60g carbs. I think I’m adding another 65-70g carbs with the spelt pasta. That’s not terribly surprising, but as someone who thinks about nutrition and fueling a fair bit I’m surprised that it took this long for me to connect the dots on this one.

Maybe others are similar? If so, then my suggestion is to see what happens if you 2x or 3x your carb intake at dinner without drinking any alcohol and see what your power numbers are like the next morning.


I like your thinking, I’m gonna try it. (But I secretly hope against hope that the alcohol is part of it ha ha!)


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I had the same thought back in 2017-18 and did similar.
Had my normal evening meal with the family in the evening and also a portion ~70g (uncooked weight) of rice an hour or so later.

It made the threshold session so much easier, even back to back days, but I didnt continue as I gained a large amount of weight which in the end ended up having a negative effect on performance.

So I would say yes, probably, pretty certain its not the alcohol as there are many studies that say its detrimental.

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that seems really low, but I don’t know your lean body mass. My minimum for a day is 450g carbs. Most of those I consume in the kitchen. After breakfast I’m usually at 120g. I don’t have performance issues on the bike, and I don’t need to gulp a lot of sugar water on the bike.

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Great post.

I have two observations.

Firstly, I totally agree that increasing the carb intake the day before tough workouts can have a really profound effect on both feeling during ride and after ride. This winter I have been working with a coach who emphasizes getting enough carbs both before ride and during ride.

Some of the effects are:

  • Ride RPE is significantly lower with big carb intake evening before
  • I am much better able to do big volume several days in a row
  • I don’t suffer from post-ride drowsiness like I did before
  • I don’t suffer from post-ride carb cravings like I did before

So I think you are right that are huge carb intake evening before ride might have an effect. In hinsight, I have fuelled too little earlier in my career.

Secondly, I have experienced another correlation. When I am in really good shape I find it much easier to do a ride the day after drinking (though not getting completely wasted). Usually, I find that alcohol affects my performance (and sleep) quite a bit. But especially in April or May where I am usually in good shape (but not burned out) I have those experiences of doing 3-4 hour rides the day after drinking with little performance impact.


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Not sure how much you weigh or what you’re eating at other times of day or your training volume. But when I’m doing larger training blocks (like 15+ hours a week), my daily bedtime snack alone is often ~100g of carbs. In order to not lose weight I’d be eating 4-5000 calories a day in that time period. And I’ve often aimed to shoot high during a build so that I’m not undereating, so gaining 2-5lb during a build is good from my perspective.


Alex Dowsett says something similar about day before carbs in this video about making race weight. Fuel for your ride with big lunch and dinner the day before

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Thanks all, some interesting observations here and seems like my carb intake may indeed be chronically low, which would explain why an unintentional carb loading session often yields such impressive results. Probably also connected to the fact that I usually fight some small form of burnout around the second week of February every year - almost exactly 4 weeks into working on cutting the weight I put on over Christmas (which must be how long it takes for it to catch up with me).

I’ve previously monitored total daily calories and total protein intake but I don’t know if I’ve ever looked closely at my other macros. An initial glance indicates that my dinner in particular is too high-fat which is why I’m carb-deficient even if I’m in a bit of a calorie surplus. Will have to try some further experiments and see if I can apply my binge learnings into more consistently healthy habits!

(For reference I’m 172cm and usually come out of Christmas at around 72kg, dropping to 69-70kg by race season. Previous peaks of just over 4w/kg and I’m in my mid-30s)

It’s a pain to track, but doing it for 2+ weeks will give you some insights. I’m using the Lose It! app, here is where I ended up yesterday:

Rough estimate, ended up on target for -500 calorie deficit and carb target. For the first week I was using the scale to calibrate portion sizes, since then I haven’t weighed anything. Still on track with losing weight and eating enough carbs to support performance on the bike.

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For me the perfect week for summer PR is 5 days on, saturday off, but go out on a friday night and get that test boost that comes from young women in tight dresses.

Nice. Looks more straightforward than myfitness pal too.
Does it calculate carbs for you or do you need to know how to do that? It’s based on kg of lean body mass, right? I’ve got a whitings smart scale so should be able to get a number that’s useably close for those purposes…

IMHO so much better than MFP. Adding food items - I simply scan bar codes or search the database. Auto-calculates everything. For ‘bonus’ calories earned I use RunGap to sync Garmin workout data to Apple Health, then its automatically synced into Lose It.

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There is a subreddit r/hangoveffect. For what it is worh i perform best hungover but never eat and am essentially on a zero carb diet