What It Really Means When You Feel Nauseous After A Workout

The COVID-19 pandemic saw a renewed interest in fitness and staying healthy. Most people opted to follow fitness routines via YouTube and other sources to stay fit while indoors. It was a great way to keep one's mind and body healthy during difficult times. But, as pandemic restrictions began to ease, there was a revival in gym memberships, per CNBC.   

Working out is known to have several scientific benefits. People who weave an exercise regimen — from weight training, walking, swimming to running or pilates — into their daily lives often talk of how it makes them feel more energized, less stressed out, and generally happier (via Lifehack). When you work out, your brain releases happy hormones such as serotonin and dopamine that instantly lift your spirits. No wonder so many people feel great after getting a sweat on!

However, there are also times when a workout, especially a particularly rigorous one, can leave you feeling nauseous and sick. Feeling like you want to throw up after an exercise session is actually quite common, according to Self, and there's a reason why it happens. Here's what it means for your body.

It mostly has to do with blood flow not reaching your stomach

A lot of the blood pumping through your veins is directed towards the muscles that are being exercised during a workout, leaving very little for your abdominal organs, according to Medical News Today, and this can result in you feeling nauseous after a workout. Fitness trainer Joel Seedman explains that your body responds to a particularly hard workout (where you're pushing yourself to your limit) by sending blood to where it's needed most, thereby leaving your gastrointestinal system hanging (via Self).

After a certain point of intensity in the workout, your body finds it difficult to match the demand for oxygen. "... so you begin to build up metabolic wastes in your body such as hydrogen ions, carbon dioxide, and lactic acid," adds Seedman. The resulting increase in the acid levels within your system is what contributes to you feeling sick. Often adding to the feeling of wanting to throw up is the fact that when you perform certain exercises, such as squatting, you might be putting pressure on our stomach too, per Science Alert

Working out too soon after a meal is another factor that contributes towards feeling sick after a workout, reports Self. Your body will be unable to generate the amount of blood flow needed to digest the food properly, thereby leading to a nauseous feeling.

How to prevent feeling nauseous after a workout

There is such a thing as exercising too much, especially if the feeling of nausea during or after a workout is something you experience often. What this might mean is that you should take more breaks in between sets or just dial the workouts down a little, per Self. Fitness expert Joel Seedman highlights the importance of listening to your body. "Even for metabolic conditioning purposes, the goal is to provide an intense stimulus without destroying the body in the process," he says. 

You can also take a look at the kind of workouts you're doing and see if you can find more suitable ones that don't make you feel like you want to throw up, according to Healthline. Your workout environment can be a factor too. Check for temperature levels and make sure you're getting enough ventilation. Also, be sure to drink enough water so you don't dehydrate.

Paying attention to what you eat before you begin exercising is one other factor, according to Science Alert. The goal is to avoid foods that take a longer time to digest. Stay away from high fiber, high protein, and fatty foods and opt instead for meals with high-quality carbohydrates. As a general unwritten rule, it might be in your best interest to wait for at least two hours after a meal to engage in a strenuous workout. That being said, if the feeling of nausea doesn't subside with these changes and continues to last for a long time, you might want to go and see a doctor (via Medical News Today).