Few feelings can replicate the satisfaction that comes with crushing an intense workout. The sensation of accomplishment is simply invigorating.
However, there exists a fine line between testing your physical and mental limits and going overboard in your workout.
We’ve all taken things a bit too far in the gym, and the inevitable feelings of nausea creep up, making us feel as if we might lose our lunch (or pre workout shake).
Why do some workouts make you feel like throwing up, and what can you do to prevent it from happening?
What Causes Exercise-Induced Nausea?
First off, realize that getting nauseous during or shortly after a workout is not an indicator that you are somehow unfit. Many things can induce feelings of nausea during training, including:
How Much & How Soon You Eat Before Training
What you eat, when you eat, and how much you eat has a huge impact on how you feel and perform during your workout.
Essentially, the larger your meal is as well as the more protein, fat, and fiber it contains, the longer it will take to digest.
Why is this important?
Well, when you eat, blood flow is directed to the GI tract to support digestion and nutrient absorption.
If you’ve eaten a particularly large meal or a slow-digesting one too close to training, your body will not have fully digested the meal. However, since you started exercising intensely, the body shunts blood from the GI system to your skeletal muscles. This slows digestion, leaves you feeling “heavy” or “weighed down”, and causes discomfort.
Another side effect of the blood flow redirect is an increased feeling of dizziness, nausea, and you upchucking your pre workout meal.
How Much You Drink During Training
Along the same lines, the amount of liquids you ingest shortly before and during training can (unsurprisingly) have a fairly significant impact on your performance. While consuming enough fluids is necessary to support optimal performance and avoid dehydration, you also don’t want to over do it and consume too many fluids.
First off, drinking too much water right before your workout can lead to the sensation of water “sloshing” around your stomach. As you might imagine, this feeling doesn’t pair too well with high intensity efforts like box jumps, sprints, battle ropes or high-rep squats.
Second (and more important) drinking too much water dilutes electrolyte levels, leading to hyponatremia. One of the side effects of hyponatremia, is nausea.
The takeaway here is that you need to be sufficiently hydrated to perform well mentally and physically in your workouts. But remember, hydration is a 24/7 process. Slamming a bunch of water before your workout won’t have nearly as great of an impact on your hydration levels as drinking enough fluids and consuming enough electrolytes every day as part of your nutrition plan.
How Hard You Exercise
Believe it or not, just pushing yourself to the limit in your workouts is enough to induce nausea is certain individuals. When you train hard and push yourself to the brink, you can become overheated, which may lead to feelings of nausea.
Temperature of Your Training Environment
Building off the previous point, even if you’re not training particularly hard, if you’re training in a hot environment that’s not well ventilated, you (again) can become overheated and develop heat exhaustion.
As you likely surmised, one of the side effects of heat exhaustion is nausea.
Other symptoms include:
- High body temperature
- Excessive sweating
- Decreased urine output
How to Avoid Exercise-Induced Nausea
Warm Up & Cool Down
Jumping into your workout head first without a proper warm up or abruptly ending your workout and avoiding a cool down/stretch can easily lead to feelings of nausea. The reason for this is that abrupt changes in your physiology (such as going from 0 to 100 at the start of a workout, or vice versa) can be very stressful to our CNS, muscles, joints, ligaments, organs, and circulatory system and lead to feelings of nausea as the body has not been properly “primed.”
Remember, the human body is a high performance machine. As such, it needs to be properly warmed up and cooled down if you want it to last a lifetime.
Carefully Plan Your Pre Workout Meal
If you’re someone who does not like the sensation of having a full stomach during training, you can avoid eating entirely in the 2-3 hours before training.
However, realize that if you’re not used to training fasted, it could take a bit of getting used to, and you might be at a heightened risk for muscle breakdown due to being in a fasted state. To help offset this, you might want to consider an intra workout shake containing some fast digesting carbohydrates (like those found in Tri-Carb) along with some amino acids to support protein synthesis and guard against protein breakdown.
If you are someone who needs to have some food in their system before training, you need to consider your food choices as well as how far apart from your training that you eat. Foods high in fat, fiber, and protein take significantly longer to digest than simple carbs, fruit, or fast-digesting proteins (like whey protein).
As such, if you want to have a pre-workout meal, yet still avoid feelings of nausea, consider having an easily digestible meal of a banana and whey protein shake, such as 1UP Whey Protein.
Another option (if you want to consume a bigger meal) is to consume your pre-workout meal 90-120 minutes before training. If you’re eating this far from your workout, you can work in some more complex carb sources like oats, sweet potatoes, or whole wheat bread.
The same goes for hydration -- make sure you’re consuming enough water each day. Do not try to make up for low water intake by slamming a gallon of water pre-workout. More likely than not, you’ll end up expelling that water all of the gym floors.
We all like to train hard, but not every workout has to leave you gasping on the floor, lying in a puddle of your own DNA.
You can still train hard and not make yourself nauseous.
Remember, a great physique isn’t built in one PR-shattering workout. It’s built through years and years of training using progressive overload. An extra rep here, another 2.5 pounds on the bar consistently will do far more to further your performance and physique goals than a single workout where you try to pulverize your muscles.
On the days you’re feeling great, don’t be afraid to push it, but on those occasions, you’re feeling less than 100%, don’t be afraid to temper your expectations and adjust intensity accordingly.
Feeling nauseous during and after training is something we’ve all experienced before. With some minor adjustments to training intensity, nutrition, and hydration protocols, you can do a great deal to help avoid feeling nauseous from training.
Use the tips in the article to help structure your training and nutrition programs and be on your way to nausea-free training!