Managing a World Cup hangover

PHOTO: Managing a World Cup hangover

SINGAPORE - Hands up if you are a football fan who have been - no thanks to the 11-hour time difference - going to work bleary-eyed from pulling all-nighters to watch your favourite teams battle it out on the pitch.

In order not to miss out on the action, you might want to watch your health during this period.

This is especially so for people who still valiantly persist with their regular exercise routine, even as the late nights take a toll on the body.

Change exercise strategy

While research shows that one day of sleep deprivation does not affect the performance of endurance athletes, working out when you lack sleep does increase your heart rate and perceived exertion, despite exercising at the same intensity.

It also slows down your recovery rate after exercise, said exercise physiologist Ray Loh, who works at the sports medicine and surgery clinic at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

In fact, for those who intend to stay up several nights in a row, Mr Loh advises sticking to a different exercise plan for that period - one that focuses on maintenance.

This is because, according to studies, reducing training to just two days a week, but at the same physical intensity, may be enough to maintain one's aerobic capacity (VO2 max, or the maximum amount of oxygen used during exercise) for up to two months.

"Intensity is the most important factor," said Mr Loh. "Pre-planning and rescheduling your training session smartly is crucial to maintaining your fitness."

Start the day with protein

Football fans may want to make sure they eat a breakfast packed with protein after staying up late.

This is because people who temporarily lack sleep tend to eat more afterwards, with studies showing that they can chomp down 22 per cent more food than usual, feeling ravenous mainly before breakfast and dinner, said Mr Loh.

"Protein affects our metabolism, appetite and energy expenditure. Taking food with a high protein content makes us feel full for a longer time," he said.

Some suggestions include cereal with milk, eggs and yogurt.

In addition, it would help to have five or six small meals spread throughout the day, instead of the usual three square meals.

This is because the thermic effect of food during digestion helps to speed up metabolism as well.

This allows the body to have a constant supply of energy while avoiding lethargy caused by eating a big meal, said Mr Loh. However, one must make sure that his total daily calorie intake does not increase.

Moisten the eyes

Staying up late and watching television is a double whammy for the eyes. They can get fatigued and strained, said Dr Johnson Tan, a consultant opthalmologist at National Healthcare Group Eye Institute at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

First, a lack of sleep can lead to dilation of blood vessels in the eyes, making them look red.

Tear production may decrease, causing symptoms such as itchiness and blurry vision. Eyelids may also become puffy from water retention.

At the same time, keeping your eyes glued to a television screen can strain them. "Normally, the eyes blink about 18 to 20 times a minute, which helps to distribute tears on the cornea surface," said Dr Tan.

"But if you are engrossed in the game, the eyes blink less."

One may experience blurry vision and pain when the tear film dries up.

To counter these problems, Dr Tan recommends short breaks every 15 minutes, so that the eyes can relax.

Also, use lubricating eye drops regularly to moisten the eyes.

If possible, get some shut-eye before the match starts, he added.

This article was first published on July 03, 2014. Get a copy of Mind Your Body, The Straits Times or go to for more stories.