Tips to Stop Exercise Induced Nausea
Have you ever run so fast you had to throw up? Yeah, me too. I once had a trainer who used to say, “If you’re not puking on leg day, you’re not working hard enough.” Well, clearly I was working very today, because I totally felt nauseous. As a bodybuilder and personal trainer, let me confirm that this phenomenon is totally normal and in most cases preventable.
Common Reasons for Exercise-Induced Nausea
Nausea can be caused by cardio or strength training. There are various triggers for workout sickness including:
- Low blood sugar. Your body is an efficient machine and when you are doing strenuous exercise, the muscles doing the work need more oxygen. Your body responds by pulling the blood away from your stomach to flood your muscles with oxygenated blood. Now if your stomach has used up all its energy stores (i.e. – food) you’re left with an empty stomach save for some acid, so the result is nausea. It makes sense that exercises like running or doing heavy squats will make you feel sick faster than say, bicep curls, because the leg muscles are the largest muscle group in your body and understandably require more blood than your arms.
- Dehydration. During a difficult or long workout when you sweat profusely you can lose a lot of water and electrolytes with it, which can make you dizzy or ill.
- Motion sickness. Ever had motion sickness? Sometimes people close their eyes during a set to focus on the exercise, but in doing so get mini motion sickness, especially if they are doing sit-ups.
- High blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, definitely talk with your doctor before lifting heavy weights. Why? Because lifting heavy can cause a hike in you blood pressure, which can cause nausea.
Tips to Prevent Workout Sickness
If you know you will be exerting a lot of energy during your workouts, do a little preventative maintenance.
- Eat one hour before your workout. Eat a mix of protein and carbs. The carbohydrates will give you an energy boost and the protein will help with muscle recovery. Avoid fat because that takes longer to digest. Try not to scarf down a bagel right as you’re walking into the gym. Give your intestines a chance to do their job without you jostling everything around in your digestive track. A quick and easy meal is a protein shake and 1/2 cup of old fashioned oatmeal (it takes about one minute to make).
- Drink water. Typically I drink a cup of water with my breakfast before working out, followed by 1-2 cups during the workout, and about 1/2 cup on the drive home from the gym. Remember to sip, not gulp. Why? Because when you gulp down too much water all at once your stomach will feel overly full and (you guessed it) you may feel sick. Also, don’t try to be an overachiever and guzzle down two gallons of water in the gym. Not only will it make your stomach full you could also throw off your electrolytes. At the other extreme, if you are sweating profusely, like during a mud run or marathon, chances are likely that you will lose electrolytes. This is where Gatorade comes in to replace them.
- Keep your eyes open. If you are prone to motion sickness, keep your eyes open and focus them in front of you so your brain can understand what your body is doing.
- Control your breathing. Holding your breath is not helpful. Exhale on the heavy lifting motion and inhale on the reset.
I Feel Nauseous at the Gym – Now What?
Relax, it happens to the best of us. You have two main options:
- Throw up. Find a nice trash can or nearby restroom and let it out. You will feel almost instantaneously better.
- Ease up! Reduce the intensity of your workout. If you are doing a squat with 100 lbs., lower the weight to 85 lbs.; if you are running on the treadmill at a speed of 10, back it off to a speed of 6. If you are new to exercise, increase your levels incrementally so your body can adapt.
Hang in there! You can survive your workout. Here’s a video summarizing the main points:
Got any fitness questions? Let me know and I’ll try to answer them.
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Lisa Traugott is a personal trainer, Mom’s Choice Award writer, original cast member of FOX/John Cena’s “American Grit” and has a monthly fitness column on Bowflex.com. She won Ms. Costa Rica Sports Model 2017 and her transformation story was featured in Muscle & Fitness Hers, Good Day Austin, Great Day Houston and Texas Monthly. She blogs at ShesLosingIt.com and is passionate about her clients.
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