Exercise has so many amazing benefits for our physical, mental, and emotion health.
But it’s not always easy to fit it into our schedules. When we do exercise, it’s important that we reap the positive benefits and avoid the negative effects, so that we want to and can physically continue to do it.
Nausea after working out is a somewhat common negative side effect, but it’s easy to avoid in many cases. And let’s face it: Some days when we’re feeling low in energy, decreasing the chance of feeling terrible afterward can make all the difference.
Beginning or Ending Too Abruptly
Everyone knows that they should warm up and cool down before and after a workout to stretch muscles and ease their heart rates into and out of target zones to avoid injury. Here’s another reason: Starting or stopping too fast can cause nausea.
Just like our muscles and joints, our organs can feel jarred by beginning or ending physical activity abruptly, so always start at a slower pace and be sure to cool down.
Type of Workout
Particularly intense or bouncy workouts, like running, are more likely to cause nausea.
This one is pretty basic: Anything that is still in your stomach being digested while you work out is going to be jostled around (and more so as exercise intensity increases). Too much water may contribute to the feeling. Consider avoiding large meals within two hours of exercise, or stopping and slowly working up to the intensity you want to reach.
You can also consider swapping your current exercise for something that’s going to bounce you around less. For example, swap the elliptical for running, or indoor cycling for Zumba. Also, if you haven’t had a lot of liquid with whatever you ate, take small sips of water to see if that helps.
I have a friend who threw up after a Bikram yoga class, so I’ve seen this one play out firsthand.
Heat causes us to sweat, which can be a great way to detox and help us feel like we’ve had a really hard workout. But it can also cause intense dehydration and low blood pressure, leading to a reduction in blood supply. This happens in exercise because blood flowing to our GI tract and stomach is rerouted to the muscles we’re working, thus slowing digestion and causing discomfort.
If you ate even within two hours of working out, the reduction in flow to the GI tract may add to the feeling of nausea or dizziness caused by dehydration, often leading not just to nausea but actually getting sick.
In heated yoga classes, teachers often encourage students to take as many breaks as they need to and to stay hydrated. Be sure to do this! If you’re working out outdoors and it’s particularly hot, be sure you have water with you and continue to hydrate throughout your workout.
Also, slow down here and there to recover a little and cool down. If you alternate that with increasing intensity, your workout can be similar to a HIIT workout, or high intensity interval training, which burns more calories than staying at a single pace the whole time.
Food and Drink
Avoiding eating right before working out is something most people know to do. But foods that are high in fat and protein can take twice as long to digest than more easily digested foods, like toast or bananas. That makes them more likely to cause nausea. You don’t want to eat too much before a workout regardless of the food, but easier-to-digest foods will be better before a workout. And try to eat about three hours before you begin.
While you want to be hydrated, you also don’t want to overhydrate. Too much water actually dilutes your electrolyte levels, causing hyponatremia, low sodium concentration in the blood. And you guessed it: This can lead to nausea.
What does that boil down to? Don’t drink abnormally large amounts of water before you work out, and choose foods that digest faster a few hours before you start exercising.
A common cause for feeling sick after a workout is simply trying to push yourself too hard when your body isn’t ready for it.
Whether you’re just starting out or work out six times a week, work out at your own level. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t push yourself to reach a new level, but do it carefully. Talk to a doctor, trainer, or expert in what you’re trying to do. They can help you figure out a way to push yourself to a new level without just throwing yourself into a workout you aren’t ready for.
Pushing yourself too far beyond your limits can lead to all kinds of issues, including injury and straining muscles and joints. It’s not a good idea to push yourself without help for many reasons, nausea being just one.
Most people feel wonderful when they’re done exercising. Our endorphins are pumping, we accomplished something, and we are one day, one workout, closer to our fitness goals.
When we have negative reactions to exercise, it can dampen our desire to work out, and if it causes us to stop, the sudden lack of physical exercise can impact our focus, happiness, sleep, and so on.
For regular exercisers, nausea after a workout is most likely a combination of the above factors, so keeping all of the above in mind and trying a combination of the suggestions will often help. If your nausea is particularly intense or doesn’t go away with any of the above, consult a doctor.