How to cure workout-induced nausea

In Vince DelMonte’s No-Nonsense Muscle Building program we’re encouraged to try and lift more at each session – the reason being that the muscles will be forced to grow by adapting to the new stresses. This can both directly and indirectly cause what I call, “workout-induced nausea”. For this post I’m going to talk about a common “indirect” cause of workout-induced nausea that many of you may be experiencing…

The Situation

On the second week of my No-Nonsense Muscle Building Program I began feeling incredibly nauseous, and on more than one occasion I had to stop early. Naturally, because my weights had increased, I thought the reason for my sickness was due to the fact that I was lifting around 5-10% more than on my previous session’s weights.

The third time I started feeling like I was going to throw up, I was getting really annoyed. I was thinking, “I’ve been training for years and I’ve never been this sick before!” Something needed to be done otherwise I was doomed to fail so early on in the program.

So what was causing this nausea? Intuitively I knew that it wasn’t because I was overworking myself. I had slowed my workout down to below the time guidelines that Vince provided for rest periods and also lowered my weights to the week before – yet I still felt ill. This was not the problem.

It was only when I had a flashback of a childhood memory of a visit to the hospital that it clicked. I was hyperventilating.

Between sets I was breathing hard and heavy. Somehow I had convinced myself that I needed more oxygen than I actually did, and because of that I hyperventilating.

What is Hyperventilation?

Counterintuitively, such side effects are not precipitated by the sufferer’s lack of oxygen or air. Rather, the hyperventilation itself reduces the carbon dioxide concentration of the blood to below its normal level, thereby raising the blood’s pH value (making it more alkaline), initiating constriction of the blood vessels which supply the brain, and preventing the transport of certain electrolytes necessary for the function of the nervous system.[1]

Hyperventilating is actually a lot easier to do than you would think. When you’re under a 30 second time constraint between sets that are stressing the muscles to failure, you need to try your best to lower your heart rate sufficiently in preparation for the following set. However, breathing heavier and harder does not necessarily help you do this.

How I overcame hyperventilation and paced myself throughout the workout

Once I realized that my deep, rapid breathing was the cause of my sickness I took measures to lower my energy expenditure and also oxygen intake.

Instead of getting up and pacing around the room like a lot of people like to do between sets, I sat or lay still and quite literally, did not move a muscle. This way, I was able to conserve energy expenditure and therefore lower my oxygen requirement. I focused on the present moment and stayed with my breathing pattern. I did not think about the past, the future, or anything that was outside of the present moment. This also lowered my oxygen expenditure, and I was able to tune in to my breathing pattern and regulate it naturally without having to think about what would be best.

Since then, I’ve had no problems with my workouts. If and when I start to feel nauseous I practice being present, and still and this always solves the issue.

I hope that this information has been useful to you and I wish you all the best in your workouts!


Founder & Fitness Nerd

Founder of Muscle4Hardgainers. Loves to experiment and teach others the best ways to reach their physical goals.

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