Causes of exercise-induced nausea and how to avoid it

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Do you sometimes feel nauseous during exercise? You might be getting bouts of exercise-induced nausea! Find the causes for this nausea onset and how to prevent it from happening in the future so you can continue working out without any worries!

Causes of Exercise-Induced Nausea- and how to prevent it

So yesterday was shoulders and back weight training day. I did that in the morning because I do my planned workouts as soon as I wake up so that they are out of the way and I am set and ready for the rest of the day. My week 1 of Curvalicious program will conclude tomorrow with a rest day, on which I originally planned to do a slow cardio day. However, tomorrow is looking swamped and I like to do my cardio in the afternoons, usually. So I decided to add the slow cardio to yesterday. Not a big deal, cause I’ve done two a days multiple times in my life. This story doesn’t end badly, but something occurred that usually doesn’t — I got pretty nauseous.

Source: HouseCallMD

I did a slow/moderate cardio on an elliptical for 30 minutes on the interval mode with down interval being on incline 1 and resistance 4 (I think?) and the high interval is incline 8 or 10 (I don’t remember) and resistance still 4. Not a hard workout. I do it because it’s easy and I am able to just read my book in peace while moving and getting that calorie burn. I didn’t work too hard so I was still able to read the book. Afterwards, I did a tabata workout. I felt good. I was exhausted though. I went home and I got really nauseous. I almost thought I was going to throw up. I didn’t, thankfully. I ate a post-workout meal (egg, egg whites, and veggies) and I felt fine after that.

I asked on Twitter whether it’s good or bad to feel nauseous after exercise. Some people I’ve seen say that it’s great and that means you are working hard. I can’t imagine it be too good though. So I was confused. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any answers from my followers (sad face). Here are some of my thoughts on why I might have felt sick:

  1. My whole day consisted of sweet foods and no savory meals — while I didn’t eat (almost) any added sugars (just fruit, stevia, plain yogurt and kefir), MyFitnessPal says I had too many sugars (by 77g — eek! I can’t help it, I love fruit). Could this be the issue? Too much sugar? I ate about an hour and half before exercise and that meal consisted of plain kefir, cocoa powder, PB2, chia, and no sugar added blueberry jam (freaking DELICIOUS btw).
  2. Did I overdo it on exercise? I didn’t really think I did. Although the Tabata got me pretty tired, but that’s what it’s designed to do, right? My left knee and shin kinda hurt now too though, but I doubt that has anything to do with it, just wanted to complain some more since I’m in the complaining mode, ha.

This leaves me to start my own research and find out the causes of exercise-induced nausea and ways to prevent feeling sick and nauseous after exercise. I love Google, thank you for existing.

Some common causes of exercise-induced nausea include:

    • Low blood sugar – Exercising on an empty stomach can cause blood sugar levels to drop resulting in lightheadedness, weakness, and nausea, particularly if you do an intense workout.
    • Working out on full stomach – Immediately after a meal and for the hour or two following, your body has one goal in mind and that’s digestion. If you choose to train within the first hour to two after consuming a meal, you will likely have a hard time getting through your program and you may feel nauseous after working out. Let the digestion process take place before your workout begins.
    • Working out too intensely– Exercising beyond your capabilities may lead to injury and will likely have you feeling nauseous after working out. Pushing too hard or performing exercise at a pace above one’s fitness level are common causes of exercise-induced nausea. If overexertion is the cause, try scaling back a workout or working up to performing high-intensity workouts.
    • Dehydration – Not drinking enough water when working out, especially in a warm temperature, can cause nausea, dizziness, and lightheadedness. Take small sips of water every 10-15 minutes when working out.
    • Overhydration – Drinking too much water can cause confusion, muscle tremors, and nausea. It can also be fatal in some cases because it flushes the body of electrolytes. Make sure you control your water intake during exercise. If you drink too much water (which I might be doing, not during exercise, but overall during the day) make sure to eat some salty snacks (sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium are electrolytes).
    • Ending an intense workout session too abruptly – Make sure you cool down and stretch following an intense exercise to let your body calm down slowly and return to its normal state.

For my own personal reason, I think it might have a been a bit of overexertion, my food not being fully digested before working out, and perhaps having drank a bit too much water in the day. I tend to drink a lot of water, although I didn’t drink any during the workout, I felt like I had a belly full of water anyway. This might have been a reason for this. I also made sure to stretch and cool down properly so this wasn’t the reason for me for sure. It’s good to know these reasons for feeling nauseous after exercise though. Information never hurt anyone!

Source: LivingWellUF

Some ways to avoid exercise-induced nausea:

      • Eat a small snack about 30 minutes before you exercise.
      • Exercise at a temperature-controlled environment (aka don’t exercise outdoors when it’s hot out)
      • Exercise to your capacity and increase your intensity in increments, don’t throw your body into intense exercise before its ready
      • Drink about 7-10 oz of water every 15-20 minutes of exercise. Sports drinks aren’t necessary unless you’re exercising at high intensity for more than 45 minutes to 60 minutes
      • Cool down at the end of your workout
There ya have it folks. Hope some of you found this helpful. I know I did. It’s good to know that nausea is a common occurance too and not necessarily something to worry about.

Sources: Livestrong, Yahoo Voices, Suite 101, Workout Healthy Blog, Wikipedia.

Kammie wants to know:

  • Do you ever get exercise nausea?

  • How do you deal with nausea?

Let me know in the comments below!

Last Updated on March 27, 2019

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  1. Hi Kammie! I’m actually a trainer. Where I saw the ‘too much’ coming into your experience yesterday would have been in adding the Tabata. I generally advise my clients to do tabata on days when they don’t have time to do anything else, and if you’re really working those intervals as hard as you can, then tabata should be done on it’s own, because it is so intense. I generally say to do the tabata max 20-30 minutes depending on the person’s fitness level. You were right on doing the strength and cardio in that order. How long were you at the gym total? It’s quite a lot to be doing tabata after strength and cardio!

    In terms of food, I actually just started a sports nutrition class yesterday, where the prof was emphasizing the importance of a carb protein combo after exercise to help recovery.

    It’s awesome that you are so dedicated and have a good routine going 🙂 Hope some of this helped!

    • No idea why this comment landed as spam. Thank you for your input! I actually break all of the sessions up into separates, so I have my weight session separately from cardio always. I ended up being in the gym for about 40-45min per each session. I think the Tabata might have been it too. Sigh. I just felt like I wanted to kick it up a notch that day and that’s what I get for it, hehe. You live and you learn. Thanks for the info 🙂

  2. Thank you for such an informative post.. mine is usually brought on my over-exersion.. lack of water makes me more light-headed.. and I find I need to drink lots of water the day before?

  3. I remember the highschool track coach said if you don’t throw up after a race, you didn’t try your hardest. UGH! Based on your research, sounds like he was just pushing everyone into serious dehydration, yikes.

    • Yeah that’s why I needed to do back up research because I know I’ve heard stuff like that too! But it just didn’t sound healthy and I was right.

  4. I always get nauseous when I haven’t eaten enough during the day (it can happen when I work out and when I don’t!). I have literally thrown up (water) before because I hadn’t had enough food, so be careful! I am guessing that this is what caused your issue, since you felt better after you ate, and you weren’t seriously exerting yourself (which generally feels a bit different.. I’ve had that kind of sick before too).. I would say eat a snack before or bring a snack to eat immediately after, and make sure you’re fueling properly for your activity level! Great post 🙂

  5. Very interesting! I used to get nauseous after almost every run and I finally realized that I was over-exerting myself and running way too fast.

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  7. Yes, Kammie I have been in a class and have been nauseated. I thought I was the only one who felt this and have actually asked others around me in class if they felt it and at times they have said yes. I have no doubt that I was dehydrated at the time and I tend to not eat breakfast before going. Lesson learned, I grab a banana and eat part of it in the car on my way and leave the rest for right after. 🙂

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