Ask The Trainer #109 – Nausea & Vomiting During Training


Hi. I have sort of a strange question for you. Sometimes when I’m working out I get really nauseous and sometimes throw up. Is it normal to do this during intense workouts, and is there anything I can do to prevent this? Thanks in advance.



Hello, Mike. Not a strange question at all. The phenomena you described is actually quite common.

To get right to the point, I believe that extreme nausea, or vomiting, during training is generally more a measure of poorly timed meals or snacks prior to training, than it is of how intense or hardcore a workout might be.

I know a lot of ambitious lifters and athletes who boast about throwing up during training. They seem to believe the reason they vomited during their workout was that they engaged in such hardcore, bad-ass workout. This isn’t necessarily the case.

I believe I train as intensely as the best of them. Sometimes to a fault. In fact, I’ve pushed myself so hard during a workout I literally ripped muscle off the bone. Not pretty! But, in all the years I’ve trained, never actually thrown up during a workout. Most likely because I’ve always made it a practice to train on an empty stomach.

Training On An Empty Stomach

There are several reasons I do this. First of all, after eating a meal there will be a significant amount of blood flowing to your stomach to support the digestive process. The larger the meal, the more significant this process will be. If you head to the gym soon after consuming a decent sized meal, you’re going to experience some problems with blood distribution.

During training, blood will be directed away from your stomach and intestines and redistributed to the muscles you’re working to supply them with nutrients and oxygen. This means the digestive process becomes drastically inhibited. With the absence of sufficient blood to support the digestive process, the food will just sit in the stomach, possibly prompting the body to reject it. This is what nausea and potential vomiting stem from.

When I train I don’t want to be distracted with nausea or indigestion, so I typically refrain from eating anything for at least 3-4 hours before an intense workout.

The other reason I avoid eating prior to training is that every time you eat your testosterone and growth hormone levels plummets. Conversely, there is well-documented research that demonstrates how even short periods of fasting can have a positive effect on testosterone and growth hormone levels. This is one of the primary selling points for diets that incorporate intermittent fasting.

Natural Hormone Manipulation

Since I’m a natural bodybuilder, natural hormone manipulation is very important to me. I don’t rely on synthetic hormones to maximize the anabolic efficiency of my body. I can only achieve this by strategizing my nutrition, training, and supplementation. That being said, I would rather engage in a workout with my testosterone and growth hormone levels at the higher end of the spectrum instead of the lower end. Seems logical, right?

One last point I want to make is that when you train intensely your lactate levels will elevate. This is why you will feel your muscles burning like someone is holding a torch to them in the final stages of a very intense set. Lactate is a byproduct of energy metabolism. Your body will actually use lactate to create more energy as energy levels are dwindling. However, when the amount of lactate your muscles are producing becomes too high, that lactate begins accumulating in the blood.

Lactate Threshold

As you continue to push yourself for a longer duration, you will reach a certain point where your body has accumulated all the lactate it can possibly handle. This would be known as your lactate threshold. High levels of lactate result in very high levels of acidity. Your brain recognizes this as a toxic environment. The result is a series of chemical messages and nerve impulses that signal your body to vomit and rid itself of these toxins.

This scenario is plausible when people train beyond their ability or level of conditioning. For example, imagine what would happen if you were used to doing 20-minute workouts at a moderate intensity, then suddenly you dive headfirst into a routine where you train intensely for 2 hours! Your body simply can’t adapt to such a drastic change… and it will let you know it the hard way!

Here Are 4 Helpful Tips To Prevent Nausea And Vomiting During Activity:

  1. Don’t consume any big meals for at least 3 prior to an activity. If you absolutely feel like you need to eat something, try having a small snack 1 hour before a workout. When I say small, I’m taking something about 100 calories. Examples are a small protein bar or a piece of toast.
  1. Drink at least 20 oz. of water 1 hour prior to training.
  1. Consume branched chain amino acids directly before and during your workout. For accelerated recovery, you can also consume them immediately after your workout. Branched-chain amino acids are great to take before and during training on an empty stomach because they don’t require digestion. They are metabolized in the muscle tissue, not the digestive system. Therefore, they don’t require significant amounts of blood to be in the stomach. So, they absorb almost instantly to provide energy, balance blood sugar levels, boost protein synthesis and to support a positive hormone profile during intense workouts.
  1. Last, but not least, to prevent lactate overload you should make gradual changes to your training regimen your body can adapt to properly. If you haven’t worked out for 3 years, don’t go to the gym by doing an intense 3-hour workout. That’s counterproductive. Instead, begin by doing 20-minute workouts for the first week, then increase them by 5 minutes each succeeding week. Also, focus on increasing your training intensity just a bit more at every workout.

By following these tips I believe your incidences of nausea and vomiting will be reduced exponentially!

Prove ‘Em Wrong,
Chad Shaw

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