Winning the Battle Against Workout Nausea


By: Sammy Cusimano

“Push your body to the limit” – this quote has been stated in a myriad of different ways over many years to help inspire fitness enthusiasts to stay the course, when facing the physical, mental and even emotional challenges that working out entails. While it is pivotal in a workout program to give 100% to accomplishing any given goals, there is a fine line of going too far. Self-awareness of your own body and what it can reasonably handle within a workout routine is necessary to staying safe, while pursuing the level of health and wellness that you desire. There is actually a warning system built into the human anatomy to help regulate the amount of physical exertion that the muscles experience during exercise. The warning sign is nausea.

There are many factors that affect the body when a workout routine begins that can cause exercise-induced nausea. Being aware of what may trigger nausea during or after a workout is crucial to making fitness a part of your everyday life. If you push your body so hard that nausea leads to vomiting, then all the much-needed nutrients from food that you have eaten will be wasted. Keeping your body in balance as you embrace the challenges of physical fitness will lead to long-term workout results and a better quality of life in general.

The first thing that can happen during an intense workout session is the blood located in the stomach rushes to the muscles and skin so that the body can perform the exercises with as much strength and vigor as possible. This relocation of blood can result in a very nauseous feeling during, as well as after, a workout. When the slightest feeling of nausea starts, take time to decrease the intensity level as low as you may need so that the blood can balance out within the body. If the nausea persists to an extremely uncomfortable level, then stop exercising immediately. Take deep breaths and have a sip of water. Oftentimes, placing a cool cloth on the forehead and/or neck helps to alleviate workout nausea as well.

A second possible cause of nausea from working out is eating too much or too little before physical exercise. It is important to eat just enough so that you are not starving during a workout; however, you should also feel that your body is not satiated to the point where motion is limited. Low blood sugar is one of the most common causes of workout-related nausea. Try to time workouts with meals so that you have a light snack before exercising, then following up with a nutritious meal 20-30 minutes after the workout is completed. The body actually craves protein within 30 minutes after a workout for muscle recovery, thus making a post-workout meal an excellent choice.

Drinking just the right amount of fluids is also a very important factor in preventing exercise-induced nausea. Surprisingly enough, drinking too much water can make you just as nauseous as being dehydrated. Too much fluid ingested into the body can dilute the levels of electrolytes that are needed during exercise. Low sodium levels within the blood can also lead to a condition known as hyponatremia, which may cause nausea. Lack of fluids has a similar effect. During a workout, the most strategic route to staying at the proper level of hydration is to sip fluids conservatively while engaged in the physical activity. Avoid gulping fluids in large amounts. Most of the hydrating fluids needed during a workout are the ones that were processed within the body hours earlier. It is a very beneficial method of hydration to drink water consistently leading up to a daily fitness routine; however, once the physical exertion begins, it is imperative that you sip fluids in moderation. This is the key to staying hydrated at an appropriate level during your workout to prevent nausea.

One of the most common causes of exercise-induced nausea is the buildup of lactic acid. This is the source of the burning sensation felt in the muscles while exercising. During physical exertion, the body relies on glycogen and glucose for energy. Lactic acid is a byproduct of glycogen and glucose being broken down. When muscles are performing at a higher level of intensity, an increased amount of lactic acid is produced and can build up in the bloodstream to the point of causing nausea. Eventually, the body will metabolize the lactic acid to help restore balance in the bloodstream, but the immediate effects of lactic acid building up can be very uncomfortable. When the nauseous feeling of lactic acid buildup strikes, the best plan of action is to stop exercising, breathe deeply and cool down in an area with good air circulation. As the nausea begins to diminish, gently walk around in an area to disperse the acid through the bloodstream so that it does not pool in one particular part of the body.

The body’s natural response to intense exercise is for very good reason. If there was no pain or discomfort during exercise, then the risk of injuring muscles from overexertion would be too dangerous. The body regulates the amount of intensity that it endures by triggering responses that send very clear messages of caution to the brain. Exercise-induced nausea is one of the most common of these messages.

Breathing in rhythm is essential to any physical activity. It is extremely important during exercise. Holding a breath while working out is making your body work harder with less resources and also upsetting the balance of oxygen in the bloodstream, which may likely lead to dizziness and nausea. The proper method of breathing during exercise is to exhale as you perform the positive portion of the repetition (the muscle contracts/shortens) and inhale as you perform the negative portion of the repetition (the muscle lengthens). Repeat this breathing pattern for every repetition of every single set. It will eventually become automatic for you to execute this rhythm during a workout.

Another possible cause of nausea during workouts is motion sickness induced by the eyes being off-center while moving. Focusing on a specific point in the line of sight while exercising will help to steady the gaze and prevent a feeling of being disoriented. Avoid closing the eyes during exercise as well, if you feel dizzy or nauseous. Using a focal point on the wall or ceiling while doing crunches, squats, a rowing machine, etc. will help the body’s equilibrium stay in balance.

Taking your workouts to the limit is an exhilarating feeling. At any age, a person can still wake up each morning and find the right type of physical fitness that makes he or she feel most alive. Fitness provides a great opportunity for you to experience that feeling on a daily basis. Becoming aware of the body and its many physical responses during exercise is a fundamental aspect of a life dedicated to health and wellness. Know your body and the messages it sends you during physical activity, but always strive for your best each day. Striking the proper balance of intensity within reason is the approach that will ensure you can live a life of fitness to the fullest in a safe and healthy manner.

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