We have all been there… or at least most of us have come close to losing our lunch after a hard workout. Rowing is a strenuous sport, and as shocking as it may seem to an outsider, throwing up has just become a part of life for most teams.
For many rowers, intense rowing workouts lead to all kinds of upper gastrointestinal distress, include nausea, vomiting, gastro-esophageal reflux, heartburn and belching. Often enough there is even a dedicated “puke bucket” in the erg room or a trashcan nearby as a result, and this level of gastrointestinal activity is of course always evident at C.R.A.S.H-B!
So the question is, why exactly do we throw up when we go through a strenuous workout?
The primary explanation for vomiting during high intensity workouts is a shift in blood flow within your body. While blood is being sent to the muscles you are using to work out, there is a constriction of vessels leading to your stomach and intestines. Consequently if there is anything in your stomach while erging, the body is likely to try to eliminate it from your system.
Another cause of vomiting while rowing is the production of lactate, which can cause the body’s pH level to drop rapidly. While working out, your body goes into high gear in order to give your system the energy it needs to work out via aerobic and anaerobic metabolism. Lactate is the end product of anaerobic metabolism. One of the consequences of your body’s production of lactate is a decrease in the blood’s pH. As a result, your body will become too acidic, and nausea and vomiting could occur.
Nausea and vomiting can occur not only on short and intense workouts, but longer workouts as well. For the most part, this often boils down to an electrolyte imbalance in the body. According to a recent article on LIVESTRONG, the most common reasons for people throwing up while working out were dehydration, heat exhaustion, vagal reaction, hypernatremia, and gastroesophageal reflux.
When an athlete completes a workout, they lose salts and water from their body. Salt and water are necessary to maintain an electrolyte balance in one’s body. Without that balance you might experience nausea or vomiting.
Of course when we work out, we lose these salts and fluids because our bodies generate a lot of heat. Consequently, heat exhaustion is a leading cause of dehydration. This is why nausea and vomiting tend to be more common when you are in a hot and humid environment (e.g., an erg room).
Sometimes however we become ill before a race even begins, when we have yet to put in any effort!
Many athletes get very anxious before a race or erg test. When athletes become too anxious, they can sometimes feel nausea-like symptoms because of anxiety. When you are anxious, your body will release adrenaline into your system.
Adrenaline during a race can be a good thing, however when you have an increase in adrenaline, your body begins to pull blood away from your intestines. Extra blood is sent to your heart, brain, and muscles. Without proper blood flow to your intestines, your digestive system can no longer move food properly. On top of this, anxiety and stress will cause the abdomen to tense, which will squeeze your stomach. In some cases, this will lead to vomiting.
What can you do about throwing up?
The best thing you can do is to watch your pre-workout diet, try to stay hydrated, and work on staying cool. Be careful however! While you may try to hydrate constantly before and during practice, you can also run the risk of throwing up due to over hydration. Drinking too much water during or before an exercise can lease to cause nausea, diarrhea, confusion, and muscle tremors.
Eating the wrong foods can also be just as consequential as your hydration. A study at Nagoya University in Japan discovered a significantly higher degree of exercise-induced nausea occurred after eating.
Your body is a system that needs to stay in balance or numerous problems could occur if it is thrown off. If you are still having issues throwing up at practice (an excessive amount), consult a trainer, doctor, or a sports physiologist. There are some medical conditions that can lead to nausea and vomiting that require professional help.
If you always get anxious before a race or erg piece, try establishing routine before every workout. Focus on each of the steps of that process rather than the race itself. If that doesn’t work, seek out a sports psychologist.
Good luck this season!