Nausea after a workout is something that can happen to even the most dedicated gym-goer. One minute you’re sprinting faster than Usain Bolt and lapping up the endorphins; the next minute you’re doubled over trying to hold back breakfast.
Feeling nauseous after a workout can definitely take the edge off a good training session, but it’s usually nothing to worry about. If you’re feeling sick after your workout, it could be because you’re working out too hard, not warming up properly, or eating the wrong foods too soon before exercising.
Here’s what’s going on and how to prevent nausea after your next sweat sesh.
There are a few reasons why working out could make you wanna spew. But, more often than not, it’s because of less worrisome things. Here’s a rundown.
During exercise, you can feel nauseous because the blood that normally flows to your gut is diverted to your muscles. Digestion then slows down, which can make you feel uncomfy. So, eating right before exercise can make you feel sick.
Diminished blood flow to the intestines and abdominal organs is actually one of the main causes of exercise-induced nausea. Blood flow to the abdominal organs can drop by up to 80 percent during exercise, which can cause stomach pain, vomiting, or an urgent case of the runs.
What you eat right before exercise matters too. If you opt for something high in fat and protein like beef, hard cheese, or nuts, it’s gonna take a lot longer to digest than options like toast, white rice, or bananas. So even if you ate 2 hours ago, you could still feel nauseous or even vomit.
Drinking too much water
Another thing to watch for is drinking too much. You obvi want to stay hydrated during exercise, but if you overdo it, you can dilute electrolyte levels, leading to low blood sodium (aka hyponatremia). This can make you feel like you’re going to yak.
Forgetting the warm-up
You need to warm up before working out anyway, but here’s a reminder. Warming up helps increase blood flow to your muscles, which reduces the chances of injury and can also help you feel less nauseous. How? It’s all about that blood flow.
Warming up gradually allows your body and organs to adjust to the sudden increase in activity. This means the blood can flow more easily, and your organs are less surprised by the sudden jiggling and jarring of a workout.
Type of workout
Unsurprisingly, the type of exercise can contribute to feeling nauseous. If you’re a fan of HIIT or exercise trampolines, bouncing around may cause any food remaining in your stomach to get jumpy too.
Exercising in the heat
Heat makes your sweat glands release more sweat and dilates your blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the skin. Both processes transfer heat from your skin to the environment for a cooling effect. Ahhhh.
But if you’re sweating buckets and not replenishing fluid levels, dehydration and low blood pressure can make you feel lightheaded, dizzy, and sick.
Working out too hard
If you’re feeling sick after a workout, you may be trying to push yourself too hard when your body isn’t used to it. Pushing yourself way beyond your limits is a recipe for disaster. You’re talking injuries, sprains, strains, and of course, hanging out at the porcelain palace.
Although moderate exercise doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on how quickly your stomach empties — high intensity exercise can slow it right down, leading to nausea and other digestive nasties.
Sick of feeling like you’re gonna hurl during your training sessions? You may need to experiment with various foods, drinks, schedules, and workouts to see what doesn’t cause nausea.
Here are a few tips to prevent nausea after exercise:
- Ease into a new workout routine. This can help your body become accustomed to the new level of activity, and reduce your chances of feeling nauseous. Try starting with lower intensity workouts and gradually build up as your fitness improves. Yes, you can push yourself, but listen to your body’s cues.
- Don’t eat right before. Try to leave a 3-hour window between eating and exercising.
- Avoid slow-digesting foods. A fiber-rich diet is great but avoid high fiber foods before exercising. Skipping foods rich in protein and fats before exercising may also help gastric emptying and prevent nausea.
- Hydrate, but don’t overdo it. Stay hydrated by sipping water, but leave the gallon water jug at home so you don’t go overboard on the H₂O.
- Opt for lower impact workouts. If all that moving and jumping around makes you wanna hurl, try less jumpy exercises, like walking or cycling.
- Take breaks if it’s hot. Moments of chill can help you regroup your lunch. You can also opt for workouts like HIIT that alternate intensities and give your body regular breaks.
- Avoid OTC pain relievers. Skip aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) when exercising since they can make GI issues worse.
The best way to treat nausea after a workout is to prevent it in the first place, but there might be some ways to combat nausea if you’re in the thick of it.
A 2014 review noted that peeps could reduce nausea after a workout with drinks containing carbohydrates like glucose and fructose.
The authors of the same review also noted taking supplements that help your body make nitric oxide might help too. In theory, this may help boost blood flow to the abdominal organs and help prevent nausea. But there’s not enough research to confirm these effects.
Other folks swear by walking after a workout or doing Legs-up-the-Wall Pose to get the blood flowing to your tummy.
Although feeling like throwing up really sucks, generally, it’s not something to worry about as nausea and other digestive symptoms after exercise usually pose no health risk.
If you’ve had a go at changing your eating and drinking patterns, warming up and cooling down like a pro, and opting for more chill workouts, and nothing helps, go see your doc.
And call your doc ASAP if you’re experiencing serious symptoms like blood in your poop, vomiting blood, or severe stomach pain. In rare cases, nausea after a workout can be caused by underlying conditions like:
- gallbladder problems
- hemorrhagic gastritis
- ischemic bowel disease
- kidney failure
Nausea after exercising is pretty common and usually nothing to worry about. It’s often linked to eating or drinking before exercising and the intensity of your workout. For most peeps, changing your pre-workout nutrition and dialing down your exercise intensity can do the trick to ward off nausea.
If you’re struggling to figure out what works for you, or have severe symptoms, speak with a healthcare professional.