…or why we sometimes vomit during or after exercise.
First off, apologies to those Hurlers and Camógs who clicked on this in the hope of some inspirational training tips to enhance your game, but keep reading because I guarantee that it applies to some of you guys too.
So here’s the thing. Sometimes when we workout we can end up feeling a bit queasy, a little fuzzy around the edges, to the point where we have to have a sit down at best, or rush to find an appropriate receptacle (if time allows) at worst.
It can happen to best of us, from absolute beginners to hardcore elites. Some people are absolutely mortified by the whole experience, whilst others seem to wear this as a badge of honour. The CrossFit community have even invented a vomit related mascot in the guise of Pukie the Clown, with some gyms handing out Pukie T shirts to those attendees who have joined the Pukie club.
Some times we push the limits of our bodies to the point that we are sick.
But this should be the exception not the rule.
Regular vomiting, in my opinion, should not be the goal for any exerciser/athlete. If this is the case it could be a sign of some other underlining gastro-intestinal problems that should be looked at by a medical professional.
But before all you vomiters out there start googling life threatening illness, lets look at some fairly common causes of post exercise nausea.
Full Stomach – In my experience the number 1 culprit for causing exercise induced nausea is exercising on a full stomach. If I have someone in a circuit class that ends up with that fuzzy grey sensation and a desperate need to be by themselves, you can almost always guarantee that when asked when they last ate, the answer will be ‘Just before class’.
When we exercise our body sends our blood to our muscles to supply energy and oxygen and to take away waste product. That sensation of feeling ‘pumped’ is the extra blood in the muscles that are doing the work. Our digestive tract is also made up muscle. It too needs blood to aid its work. Divert the blood away towards those big leg muscles to push out those last squats, and the digestive tract can’t do it’s job. The answer? Get rid of the issue, i.e. meeting Pukie the Clown.
Not enough Food – Before I changed my diet this was my biggest enemy. If I didn’t eat at just the right time my blood sugar level would drop making me feel god awful. Thankfully now that I eat a more primal aligned diet I can quite happily exercise in a fasted state.
Dehydration – Exercise causes you to loose water and salts through sweating, unbalancing the body’s electrolyte levels. This can lead to nausea and headaches.
Over-hydration – I know, you can’t win right. Taking on board too much water before, during or after activities can overload the stomach and cause nausea. Excessive over hydration can even lead Hyponatremia, where the excessive water quantities dilute electrolyte levels way out of the healthy ranges.
Heat Exhaustion – Shares many of the same issues as dehydration and can lead on to heat stroke, where the body can no longer cool itself. You don’t have to be in a hot environment to get these either. Over heating from exercise can also be a cause heat exhaustion.
Lactic Acid – A build up of lactic acid decreases the pH of the blood making it too acidic and creating a shock reaction to the body systems, often ending with you dinner on the gym floor. Often a result of going too hard.
Lack of cool down – As mention before, with the increase blood supply to our muscles (especially our legs) our blood vessels can dilate to accommodate the extra flow. The system then uses the muscle contraction to help pump the blood back to the heart, lungs and brain. If you stop too suddenly the blood pools in these muscle and your brain can’t get enough oxygen and fuel. The result includes dizziness and nausea.
There are many other reasons why you might why you might feel sick after exercise, some still not really understood. Some people may be more genetically predisposed to exercise induced sickness. Some may just be lucky.
Vomit is not weakness leaving the body. It is simply dinner leaving the stomach.
It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Equally it’s nothing to continually aim for, especially as you’re working so hard to improve you fitness. This require good fuel and nutrients, both before and after working out. You could be throwing away your hard earned gains with the sick bucket.