What is the physiological response to puke after rigorous exercise?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created October 17, 2010 at 5:47 PM

I know this isn't a nutrition related question, but since many people here are active, i hope someone has an answer. Plus, i've come to trust answers here.

I've spent some time googling and all i found is people's descriptions of personal experience with puking during/after a rigorous workout, or how to avoid it by maintaing heart rate levels. I'm looking for the physiological response of why this occurs, and why you feel better after the fact.

One thing I've seen come up is dehydration. However, if i try and drink during or after a tough workout, I'm much more likely to throw up.

I've been told by one of my coaches that when i feel close to puking, to walk around, breath deep, and get more oxygen. I could see a rigorous workout depleting oxygen levels in your blood, but why would cause you to puke? More importantly, why do you feel better after you puked? It's not like the act of puking adds more oxygen to your system...

My last thought comes to a fight or flight type response. A rigorous workout could parallel running away from a threat. At which point, i think of a snake regurgitating it's food to better handle the threat. With that though, i still wonder why throwing up makes you feel better when you're in such a state.

So, why are we drawn to throw up after a tough workout, and why does throwing up make us feel better?



on October 17, 2010
at 06:47 PM

Missed that comment about your coach's recommendation to slow down, walk and breath deep....great advice, but remove the oxygen component, not that its not important, because correct breathing while working out is amazing. But its more so that your heart sits between 2 large air sacs called lungs and during deep inspiration they fill/stretch and put pressure on the 10th cranial nerve (vagus) which in response sends a message to the heart to slow, which decreases o2 consumption and lowers your heart rate.

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2 Answers



on October 17, 2010
at 06:29 PM

Basics. You have two systems that control your nervous system, the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (feed and breed). The reason why nausea occurs during intense bouts of exercise is 2 fold, an elevated heart rate occurs to supply the muscles with needed oxygen and nutrients, this removes blood from the GI system (which requires massive amounts of blood to digest food), if you remove the blood from the GI system then your stomach will evacuate the contents of its last meal if its not fully digested. If your system is currently digesting food (parasympathetic mode) and then you engage in adrenaline producing exercise, your body thinks it is in danger and the heart and muscles are sequestering much needed blood to continue their efforts then your stomach will dump its contents and the body will divert blood flow to the systems it deems necessary to survive (survive your workout).
Another factor is going to be overall physical capacity and an individuals maximum heart rate, if you push past maximal heart rate, you may vomit (1 st stage) evacuate your bowels and bladder (second stage around 190 bpm) or pass out (obviously final stage, your body ends up on the floor, flat and reseting its systems and heart rate).



on October 17, 2010
at 06:09 PM

Low oxygen saturation or borderline lactic acidosis.

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