Nauseous during workout

Hello Alfonso,

I have a serious question regarding a friend of mine. My friend – somewhat proudly – told me that he had to throw up after his last damn hard training session. I asked him whether it was the first time or if it’s his current method. His answer: it doesn’t happen that often but when it does he knows that he has “really done something for his body”. To my mind it sounded and still sounds everything but healthy.

Isn’t throwing up a serious signal that the body is unhealthily overstrained? Or is working out ad nauseam common practice in the fitness industry? And what is it exactly that leads the body to vomiting? What is your experience?

I’m sorry for all the questions but I’m very concerned.

Hopefully you can clarify some points…

Thanks for the great work! All the best for 2013!


Hey Mia. How are you?

Thanks for your question! First let me just say that throwing up is NOT necessary when working out nor is it a sign that you’ve done something good.

I’ve mostly seen people get nauseous or vomit while working out when they’re new to a fitness program. And scarily, I’ve had one guy literally faint and fall into my arms during a session. There’s really a very simple reason behind it. When you first begin an exercise program your body isn’t really prepared to manufacture energy to push through a workout. If you’ve been leading a somewhat sedentary life, your body will be accustomed to only producing what’s needed for the daily tasks of life; walking, standing etc., you know the basics. When we exercise we’re calling on other systems within the body to help produce immediate and sustainable energy and in the beginning, these systems can be really rusty. We’re all capable of short, medium and long-term energy production but if you haven’t been doing much of anything, the system isn’t accustomed to the needs being placed on it.

So what generally happens is that new trainees will get maybe 15 minutes into a workout, perhaps a little more and just crash! They’ll feel light headed and nauseous, their lips will lose all color, their skin turns milky white and they may begin sweating a lot. This is a low blood sugar scenario where they’ve used all of their muscular energy (ATP) for fuel, but since the other energy systems (Glycolytic and Oxidative) aren’t tuned up they can’t take over and help out and well…you get sick.

The easiest way I’ve found to combat this is by having new trainees sip a low calories sports drink during exercise to keep their blood sugar levels stable and as they get more sessions in, I gradually phase out the drink. If it’s already happened and a trainee is already about to vomit, a quick shot of sugar from juice or a banana usually remedies the situation within 10 minutes. As you begin to exercise more, these other systems get more efficient and nausea should be a thing of the past.

Now, I’ll be honest and say I’ve thrown up more than my fair share of times during a workout. BUT it was when I was younger and truthfully a knucklehead and it was always on leg day! I never strived to get nauseous but I pushed myself so hard that it literally made me sick. In this instance it was literally just pushing too hard for too long and in general, too much. This is not a badge of honor to wear and honestly for me it’s even a bit embarrassing to admit I’ve pushed myself that hard.

No matter how you look at it, being nauseous and throwing up are not things anyone should be trying to reach. Throwing up is a sign that something is wrong, not that something is right. And for all of the guys that think it’s macho or means your tough, well, I won’t comment on that. You know Mia, this is also the possibility this guy is just trying to make you think he’s tough or impress you with how hard he works out. In all my years of training, I’ve personally seen maybe four people, besides new trainees, who’ve thrown up from working out too hard.

So, I’m with you. No, do not exercise until you’re sick and don’t think that it benefits you in any way. Take it slow, use a program that allows for progression and improvement and eat sensibly. That’s smart training.

If any of you out there would like to book a more in-depth consultation with me – just drop me a line via the How To Book button in the sidebar.

And if you have a question – please just click here. I’d love to help you!


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