Why we get nauseous during a workout and how to avoid it


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Ever feel like you're about to puke all over your sneakers in the middle of a workout? You're not alone. It happens to people of all fitness levels. Luckily, you don't have to stop your workout routine because of it — just tweak it. With the following tips, you'll stay in the game AND be nausea-free! (Remember to always talk to your doctor if you experience workout-related health issues!)

First, let's explore why we get that urge to purge during a workout. If you’re new to exercise, the feeling of nausea could be brought on from training at a level too intense for what the body can tolerate. If this is the case, lower the intensity of your workout!

“One way to avoid getting sick during exercise is to make sure your workouts are at an appropriate intensity, explained personal trainer Dwayne Davis from Fitness Together. "The body adapts to anaerobic conditions four to eight weeks after starting an exercise program. Choosing a slowly-but-surely approach to training will create an easier adjustment. Remember: Getting nauseous is not the marker of a great program; it's more a marker for way too aggressive programming, which will not work to your benefit."

According to Davis, you can also become nauseous from exercise due to an improper buffering of lactic acid causing a lower blood and muscle pH. Lowering the pH in blood and muscle puts the body in an acidic state, which lowers your power output.

Pip Taylor, professional triathlete and sports nutritionist, said that chemical and hormonal influences, including anxiety and exercise stress, can also cause nausea.

"Stress hormones are often linked to feelings of nausea and may also hamper nutritional plans. Both hot and cold weather can also further stress the body. Your energy needs may be increased in very cold weather as your body tries to conserve heat, so try to stay warm as long as you can, even if that means planning on taking old throwaway clothes to the start line and ripping them off at the last moment," Taylor said in an article published on Triathlete.com.

Another way you can get stomach issues during exercise is by eating at the wrong time.

"Exercise is a sympathetic activity, which brings about blood flow to exercising muscles," Davis said. " If the body is digesting food — which is a parasympathetic activity during exercise — the lack of blood flow for digestion may cause some [gastrointestinal] discomfort, which can lead to vomiting."

Avoid stomach issues by monitoring your eating before exercise. Steer clear of fatty greasy foods, especially when it's too close to exercise time. Davis recommended having a light, low-glycemic index meal that can help bring energy into the workout (e.g., toast, peanut butter and granola). Having a light meal about one to two hours before exercise is optimal but can range for individuals.

Click here for more pre- and post-workout nutritional tips.

So what should you do if you feel nauseous? According to Davis, you should stop the activity immediately.

“Obviously you are exercising at an intensity that is much higher than your body can tolerate,” he said. “The ‘Puke Index’ is not a valid marker of a good workout. In fact, it is an example of poor progression in the stress level of an exercise program.”