When the sun finally appears after a long, cold winter, all you want to do is get outside, and moving your workout outdoors is first on the to-do list. Burpees in the park and runs along the waterfront totally put your tired gym routine to shame, but logging all those outdoor miles this season also means something else: allergies. And you can't forget all the antihistamines that go along with them. (Find out How to Run Outside Without Succumbing to Seasonal Allergies.)
It might sound counterintuitive, but according to a new study published in the Journal of Physiology, you should take a pause before you pop that pre-run Claritin. Researchers from the University of Oregon looked at how antihistamines (the drug in your allergy pills that's responsible for nixing your itchy nose and watery eyes) might affect workout performance—beyond potentially making you drowsy and sluggish.
After a particularly intense sweat session, 3,000 different genes work to help your muscles recover and naturally-occurring histamines help relax blood vessels and increase blood flow, which together helps to build and repair muscle. To measure how allergy meds might impact this recovery process, the researchers gave 16 physically fit young adults a heavy dose of antihistamines and then asked them work out for an hour. They took biopsy samples from their quads before the sweat session and again three hours later.
They found that while the antihistamines had no effect on those recovery genes before the workout, they did impair the function of more than a quarter of the genes during the three-hour recovery period post-workout. That means those allergy meds may stunt your muscle recovery process a bit. (Get back at it sooner with these Trainer-Approved Post-Workout Snacks.)
One important caveat to their findings: The people in the study were given about three times the dose you'd get in an over-the-counter allergy pill. So if you're going to be sneezing all the way through your run, popping a regular, recommended dose of your allergy meds will probably only have a minimal effect on your muscle recovery. But if you can make it through a few pollen-filled miles without having a meltdown, try waiting until you hit the showers to take your medicine to ensure you get the most out of your workout and you're ready to take on what's next.