Last night at the gym, I apparently pushed myself a little too hard, and I threw up all over the shower. I'd rather not do that again, so:

  • What causes this?
  • What can I do to increase how much work I can do without throwing up?

2 Answers 2


There's a Wikipedia article about Exercise-induced nausea where they suggest two possible causes: endorphins and too much water. There has also been a study that showed that exercising shortly after eating is likely to cause this. Which is supported by this article about "Nausea during a strength training workout" that suggests three common factors that contribute to workout nausea:

  • Too much food or water in the stomach, which is likely the case just after eating or drinking too much water (see above)
  • High or maximum heart rate and uncontrolled breathing, which elevates the blood pressure to heights that can give a 'sick to the stomach' feeling.
  • Bending over during a period of maximum heart rate, while inhaling. This messes with the muscle that closes off the top of the stomach and fails under such strains.

They also provide several tips to prevent it:

  • Get enough rest between sets with very high heart rates
  • Don't bend over to adjust the weights, this avoids compressing the stomach
  • Drink the bare minimum amount of water that you feel you need (not too much, but also not too little)
  • Don't drink carbonated drinks!

Furthermore, resist the urge to gulp water when you're thirsty. Drink the water in sips and pause for a moment to let your body absorb. The thirst satisfaction of your brain doesn't respond instantaneously.

Getting more exercised or in better shape won't help, because you'll always have a maximum and if you push for it, you'll reach it.

  • 1
    +1 for the last sentence. If I dont feel sick I know I didnt work hard enough. But, I also dont have any food or drink a couple hours before a workout.
    – J. Win.
    Commented Mar 16, 2011 at 7:23

I had a particularly effective HIT weight training workout today, and after two sets I was so gassed and queasy that I had to lay down on the bench for a few minutes to let everything settle down. I hadn't just eaten or drank, and while my heart was racing I don't think it was that high and my breathing was still under control (although certainly I was short of breath). I recalled a section addressing this from the Body By Science Question and Answer Book (p. 237-240), and from that I'd like to add one more potential cause to @Ivo's list.

The nausea that one feels is a result of burning so much glycogen out of the muscles that the body attempts to continue muscular contraction by manufacturing more glucose out of the lactic acid that has been building up within the muscle.

<Long chemical process explanation>

The upshot of this complicated biochemical process is that when a trainee runs out of glycogen in his working muscles and his body liberates lactate into his bloodstream, his pH levels drop off markedly, producing a strong lactic acidosis and feelings of nausea.

This effect causes a drop in blood pressure (often perceived as light-headedness), and the inadequate blood flow to the abdomen produces the feeling of nausea.

A couple ways to combat this feeling:

  • Increase rest time between sets to allow the body to keep up with the demands that are being placed on it
  • Consume a bit of sugar immediately upon feeling the symptoms (or beforehand if you are certain that this will be a problem).

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