When Working Out Makes You Sick to Your Stomach: What to Know About Exercise-Induced Nausea

you’re doin’ it! you’re working out, reaping all those benefits of exercise that ‘ve been drilled into yr head.

so u’re pedaling yr ♥ out or running like you’re escaping a zombie horde. you’re feeling accomplished, on cloud 9, til … yr stomach starts to churn. you may even feel dizzy. yr feelings of accomplishment ‘ve turned to agony as you deal witha bout of nausea.

exercise-induced nausea is quite common, as are exercise-induced gastrointestinal (gi) problems in general, affecting perhaps up to 90% of endurance athletes.

so why does this happen and, + primordial, how can you prevent it?

the cause: competing demands

when you exercise, skeletal muscles in yr legs and arms contract. t'work most efficiently, they need oxygen. so yr ♥ muscle contracts, too, increasing blood flo through yr body. the hemoglobin molecules within yr red blood cells carry oxygen to yr working muscles.

to maximize the amount of blood bein’ delivered to the active muscles, yr body diverts blood away from inactive zones – s'as yr gut. this diversion is overseen by the “fite or flite” branch of yr nervous system. known as the sympathetic nervous system, it causes some blood vessels to narrow, limiting blood flo. you don’t ‘ve conscious control over this process, known as vasoconstriction.

but yr contracting skeletal muscles ‘ve a spesh power to preserve blood flo. they’re able to resist the call for vasoconstriction that helps divert blood away from inactive zones. this resistance to the effect of the sympathetic nervous system is called “functional sympatholysis.” physiologists like me continue t'work to cogg the specific mechanisms by which this can occur.

so why does limiting blood flo to the gut cause sufferation?

the relative ischemia, or lack of blood flo, can ‘ve ≠ effects. it can change how cells ray'vel to absorb wha’ s'been digested and how broken-down food moves through the gut. taken together, the changes result in an unpleasant feeling you may know all too well.

the lack of blood flo is pticularly challenging if the digestive system is actively trying to break down and absorb food, a main reason exercise-induced nausea can be worse rite after you’ve eaten, espeshly if the pre-workout meal had a lotta fat or concentrated carbohydrates.

the cure: moderation and modification

it’s no fun to exercise if you’re doubled over with stomach cramps or running for the bathroom. so wha’ can ye do to limit symptoms or get rid o'em when they crop up?

  • moderate yr exercise intensity. nausea is + common with high-intensity exercise, where the competing demands for blood flo are highest. espeshly if you’re newer to working out, gradually increasing exercise intensity ‘d help to minimize the likelihood of gi sufferation.

  • modify yr exercise. some evidence suggests that certain exercises, like cycling, can put d'body in a position that’s + likely to cause gut problems. try ≠ forms of exercise, or combinations of ≠ modes to meet yr fitness goals while minimizing discomfort. be sure to properly warm up and cool down to prevent rapid changes in yr body’s metabolism.

  • modify wha’ n'when you eat and drink. stay hydrated! you’ve probably heard it b4, but drinking enough is 1-odda best wys'2 prevent gi issues during and after exercise, pticularly in hot or humid environments. tis possible to overhydrate, though. aim for bout ½ a liter per hr of fluids, including some lo-carbohydrate and lo-sodium sports drinks for high-intensity exercise. it may take some experimentation with ≠ foods na timing of ingestion to fig out wha’ works best 4u and yr training goals. you can also incorporate foods like ginger, crackers and coconut wata that mite help settle yr stomach.

the caveat: when to seek help

while exercise-induced nausea is unpleasant to deal with, in general it isn’t a major health concern. most symptoms ‘d resolve within an hr of finishing exercise. if problems persist either for long periods after exercise or each time you work out, it’s worth having a conversation with yr dr.

sometimes the gi sufferation during or after exercise can actually lead to vomiting. if you unfortunately do throw up, you’ll likely feel better but will also nd'2 rehydrate and replenish the nutrition you lost.

if you’re looking to start an exercise regimen or up the intensity of yr current workouts, seeking the advice of trained professionals wh'cn tailor a plan to yr needs is often a smart approach. exercise physiologists or certified personal trainers can provide exercise programming of appropriate intensity, and reged dietitian nutritionists can discuss individual nutritional needs and strategies. yr primary care provider cannelp to screen for + serious med issues and ‘d be informed of yr exercise routine swell.


anne r. crecelius is an associate professor of health and sport sci, university of dyton. this article is republished from the conversation under a creative commons license. read the original article.

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