Why you can feel nauseous after strenuous exercise (and how to avoid it)


Why you can feel nauseous after strenuous exercise (and how to avoid it)
Written by aquitodovale

from Cristina Marrone

During exercise, blood flow to muscles, heart, lungs and brain increases, a mechanism that conflicts with the needs of the stomach during digestion. Here’s what to eat (and when)

Someone will have experienced it for sure: feeling a sense of discomfort e nausea during a workout in the gym, on a tennis or basketball court it is not a pleasant sensation, but fortunately rare and above all there is an explanation of why it happens (with tricks to prevent it from happening). An article published in The Conversation by Adam Taylordirector of the Clinical Anatomy Learning Center at Lancaster University.

The blood flow

When we practice increases blood flow to the muscles, brain, lungs and heart who are working. This increased blood flow driven by the sympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system (which helps regulate all of our involuntary body responses, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion) and it does widening the arteries so they can carry more blood to these tissues.

Our sympathetic nervous system, simultaneously, rdraws out the blood vessels that enter our gastrointestinal system by up to 80% during a strenuous workout. This happens because there is a limited amount of blood in our body and the increased oxygen demand of some tissues can only be satisfied by altering the amount of blood that goes to other tissues. In fact, the blood supply is reduced in areas that do not need as much oxygen at the time, and it can be independent of whether you have eaten recently or not.


However, eating just before a workout can really pose a problem because the mechanism just described is accentuated. When we eat, the stomach releases acids and enzymes needed to digest. The stomach muscles are activated during digestion and require an increased blood supply as well as other gastrointestinal tissues.

The conflict

The conflict between the various tissues of the body that require more oxygen (to digest one, to train the other) can be one of the reasons why you feel nauseous during or after a workout. So when we work out the blood has to go to the muscles, heart, lungs and brain, which means reduced blood flow in less active tissues, such as the gastrointestinal tract, even if it is digesting dinner at that time.

Causes of nausea

When blood flow is reduced in this area, intestinal nerves are activated, causing the feeling of nausea. In addition, the stomach and other abdominal organs can be compressed during certain physical exercises and this can contribute to the feeling of nausea. There are studies that have shown that the long distance running may alter the gastrointestinal mucosa, probably, scientists speculate due to the decrease in blood flow and oxygen available to the organ. This mechanism would cause nausea.

Beware of meals

You are more likely to feel nauseous if you exercise right after eating and up to an hour after a meal, regardless of your level of exercise and intensity. It takes about a couple of hours for solid food to be broken down by the stomach and enter the small intestine then feel nausea at the end of the workout a signal not to be underestimated and indicative of the fact that it would be appropriate wait a couple of hours before engaging in sports.

What you eat before training can also be the cause of nausea. Foods high in fiber, fat, and even high in protein are all linked to an increased likelihood of nausea after a workout. Protein-rich foods such as milk and smoothies are also digested more slowly and these foods are more likely to contribute to nausea during a workout because the stomach tries to digest them. For different mechanisms the same thing can happen with saturated fats but also with fruit juices, sodas or energy drinks that are digested very slowly and remain in the stomach longer than other types of drinks.

The advices

For those suffering from nausea during workouts, Dr. Adam Taylor suggests reduce the usual training time increasing the intensity slowly: this is why the longer the workout, the more blood is diverted from the stomach to other systems. It is necessary to drink, but also in this case without overdoing it because too much water makes you feel nauseous. In terms of power supply, as describedor rather, avoid eating a full meal less than two hours after training and as energy snacks opt for high quality carbohydrates such as bananas or sweet potatoesproteins and unsaturated fats such as almonds and walnuts. These are foods that not only provide immediate energy, but are not difficult to digest.

May 27, 2022 (change May 27, 2022 | 11:00)

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