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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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December 26, 2008

Shouting Groceries

By Mark Sisson
39 Comments

A particularly difficult workout session the other day, along with the holiday fast approaching (not a holiday fast, mind you – really, who would fast on a holiday?), prompted this post.

As is typical of many mornings for me, the other day I bagged breakfast and just had a big cup of really strong coffee with a splash of heavy cream and nothing else. Figured I’d eat later at a business lunch. I had a full schedule and not a lot of time, so I decided to do a quick set of modified burpees, where instead of simply jumping, landing, and doing a pushup, I would toss a pull-up into the mix. Nothing but a rotation of squats, pushups, and pull-ups –  and lots of them. I did this for twelve minutes straight with intermittent breaks, which got progressively more frequent as time went on (admittedly). It’s an ass-kicker if you are ever pressed for time. By the end, I was feeling all the typical effects I’ve come to expect from my occasional hard workouts: throbbing legs on the verge of giving out; arms that don’t seem to work anymore; sweat pooled around my feet; and a pretty high heart rate. But I was also incredibly nauseated, which is unusual for me – almost to the point of vomiting. I didn’t feel like moving for about five minutes, and I quite frankly wasn’t myself for the next hour. If it hadn’t been an early morning workout on an empty stomach, I probably would have emptied its contents. This got me to thinking – is too much intensity (to the point of nausea and vomit) a bad thing? Or is the nausea that comes with a particularly intense workout telling us that maybe we’re doing it right?

In certain fitness circles, reaching the point of extreme nausea in a workout is viewed as desirable, but that’s mostly as a badge of honor and “manliness.” Among some body-builders, a leg day just isn’t a leg day unless you’ve driven the porcelain bus (called Ralph on the white telephone?). Crossfit – with whose ideas about fitness I generally agree – even has a mascot called “Pukie.” Their idea is that if you haven’t met Pukie, you haven’t truly worked out like a Crossfitter. An interesting idea, to be sure, but in Crossfit, puking is more of a symbolic goal, rather than an objective with inherent benefits. I prefer to look a little deeper.

Art de Vany sees mild nausea as a natural byproduct of the morning workout on an empty stomach, which in and of itself is a Primal time of day to workout (although there’s no “wrong” time). Consider that Grok probably wasn’t a conscientious fitness buff, doing circuit training sets of pull-ups, mammoth tusk deadlifts, and python squats; rather, the realities of his world mandated that daily exercise was necessary to survive. Sure, there were undoubtedly moments of leisure and play (since he had to conserve energy whenever possible, too), but the bulk of his exercise probably revolved around the acquisition of food, especially the hunt. And when’s the best time to hunt game? Probably early morning when your stomach is empty and food is foremost on the mind.

Hunting on a full stomach isn’t just counterproductive and uncomfortable (leading to cramps and general malaise). It’s also counterintuitive to the human condition. We’re always told never to grocery shop while hungry, because we’ll be ravenous and desirous of everything (troublesome for modern man, who can have almost anything with the swipe of a credit card). But for Grok, being ravenous and desperate for food on the hunt would only push him further and faster. In a life and death situation (which Grok probably faced on a regular basis), desperation was his fuel to continue the hunt. Whatever it took. A fat and happy Grok would just end up frolicking in a dewy meadow somewhere, instead of tracking that buck to the ends of the earth.

Of course, there is such a thing as working out too intensely, and sometimes extreme nausea and vomiting definitely aren’t okay. When I was a marathoner, I used to hear tales of guys who dug too deep and went into exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis, or rhabdo for short. Rhabdo is the rapid breakdown of muscle tissue due to acute muscle injuries. The exercise-induced variety is caused by extreme over exertion, and it can lead to the shed muscle flooding your bloodstream and shutting down your kidneys. Ugly, possible life-threatening – stuff. What’s the first sign of rhabo? Intense nausea and vomiting. Reading comments from people who’ve suffered exercise-induced rhabdo, it seems most cases were exacerbated by improper hydration and “workout arrogance” (a lot of them were older guys attempting to come back from a period of relative inactivity and resume their workouts at the old intensity, without accounting for a warm up period). It seems pretty extreme and fairly uncommon, but it’s always good to be hydrated and physically equipped for the workout you’re attempting. Also, if you’re vomiting and doubled over in pain, it’s probably a good idea to call it a workout.

With that in mind, I suppose most post- workout nausea (at least, the type that I experienced) is completely natural. And I must admit, despite that first hour of discomfort and wanting to jettison the non-existent contents of my stomach, I felt pretty awesome the rest of the day (post-workout glow, release of endorphins, etc), and I’m no worse for wear today, so I figure getting a little nauseated once in a while is okay. On the other hand, it’s not something I will regularly choose to pursue.

Further Reading:

Intro to CrossFit

The Prison Workout

Tips for “Hardgainers”

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39 Comments on "Shouting Groceries"

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Paulie
Paulie
7 years 8 months ago
Hypothesis about when our ancestors hunted, and thus when we would best workout are testable, I think, through your site. I can tell you the best time to hunt whitetails is sunup or sunrise, when the animals move from feeding place to sleeping cover or vice versa( they feed at night and lay low all day). This is true for bowhunters as well as riflemen, so presumably a guy with a spear might have to get out of bed early as well. I myself tend to prefer the evening sessions. The question then is: do we know exactly what was… Read more »
Beth
Beth
7 years 8 months ago
Good Morning Mark and other writers at Mark’s Daily Apple, I have been reading your blog for a number of months now and enjoy it so much – plus I have learned a lot and appreciate your giving so much of your expertise away for free. Last night as I was indulging on my MIL’s homemade truffles, appetizers whose number one feature seemed to be brown sugar sprinkles and a lot of bread slathered in mayo based concoctions, I thought of y’all – and then thought “Shit, I really need to get my act together and lose at LEAST 20… Read more »
Charlotte
7 years 8 months ago
I’m so glad you posted on this!! Working out on an empty stomach makes me seriously nauseous too. Although weirdly I will usually faint before I throw up. Except for a couple of occassions where I have both fainted AND thrown up. Fun! Kidding. The Gym Buddies have actually gotten used to looking for signs from me that I’m going to lose it because for some reason I’m missing the self-preservation instinct that tells me when to quit pushing myself. For me, yakking or fainting is definitely a bad thing. And it takes me a whole day to recover from… Read more »
Son of Grok
7 years 8 months ago

I used to subscribe to the “leg day is puke day” philosophy in my younger bodybuilding days. I don’t need that badge of honor anymore. A really good, intense circuit or workout can still give me that bit of nasea feeling though.

The SoG

Stuart Buck
Stuart Buck
7 years 8 months ago

Interesting post!

I’ve often thought that a hard-core paleo diet/exercise combo would be something like this: 1) Fast for several days while jogging 10-20 miles a day (on the hunt); 2) Then do some sprints and javelin throws (the kill); 3) Then deadlift a few heavy reps (lifting the kill and cleaning it); 4) Then gorge yourself on raw meat.

🙂

Tom Parker - Free Fitness Tips
7 years 8 months ago

I’ve noticed similar feelings a few times when I’ve completed a really intense run. However, as you say I did feel great for the remainder of the day. I think overall the initial feelings of nausea are a worthwhile sacrifice as the workout makes you feel much more alert and relaxed for the remainder of the day.

Chris
Chris
7 years 8 months ago

Yes,
I remember puking almost daily in football practice as an adolescent.Wind sprints at the end of a two hour practice. Those three years were also my largest growth spurt,height wise.

Years later I read that sprinting and other high intensity exercise can cause nausea due to GH release.That kinda makes sense based on my experience.

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Son of Grok
7 years 8 months ago

Btw “Shouting Groceries” has to be one of the best ways for saying “pukeing” that I have ever heard! Props.

The SoG

FitMommy
7 years 8 months ago

Always thought that a puke at the end of a hard race meant that I went hard enough!! I don’t do that very often, though.

dragonmamma
dragonmamma
7 years 8 months ago

I find that exercising with no food in my system is just as likely to induce nausea as eating too much. A light meal an hour before is ideal.

I know how to exercise intensely, but I’ve never done it to the point of puking. Rather than feeling like a wuss, I congratulate myself on having enough sense to listen to my body.

Charles
Charles
7 years 8 months ago

I’ve always found that I feel nauseous when I go back to the gym after a lay off, but the next time I go and do a similar workout, I won’t feel as nauseous. My take on it is that it occurs as a by product of your body’s own signalling mechanisms induced by the heavy workout, and in particular, I’m thinking an increase in blood flow to the affected muscles.

Zen Frittata
7 years 8 months ago
Those idiots who think puking is a badge of honor need to be stuffed away in a closet. Food goes in one end and out the other. Its fuel to keep the fire going, not something to brag about. In your case Mark – the acid in coffee mixed with the cream on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster when the acid pumps in the stomach get going (plus I have to venture your coffee was made poorly, or of low quality, as good coffee has a sweet, creamy texture on its own and won’t cause such symptoms).… Read more »
JE Gonzalez
7 years 8 months ago

Ditto to what Zen said. The only time I ever puked was when I took in a whole bunch of tea or coffee before I worked out. Drink your coffee after your workout and see what happens. Give me an empty stomach with only a swig of water, and 100 burpees will not make my insides churn.

Janet
Janet
4 years 8 months ago

Takes me 40 minutes to get to my gym, so I generally have one coffee with cream on drive in. This morning I skipped the coffee, had a great workout (45 min cardio, 45 min of legs/shoulders/abs). Drank approx. 60 oz of water during. Felt great, got to work about 60 minutes after workout, got really weak and sweaty, and finally had to vomit. Very little of the water I drank came up. Now I feel good, although leery of eating 🙂

Danielle T
7 years 8 months ago
Coffee with heavy cream (organic, the other kind has milk and carbs in it and other additives)is my standard “first breakfast” and I do really well on it–the 8 T.s of cream I consume constitutes 400 calories of pure fat. I burn that well and can work out on that and feel great but every once in a while I get a similar reaction. Who knows why? Sometimes we get tired when we normally wouldn’t or our appetite changes. The body is such a complex system! All we can do is try to listen to it. As far as Beth… Read more »
Donna
Donna
7 years 8 months ago

I always eat breakfast, i just feel the need to eat in the morning. I have coffee, eat, wait a while before i exercise. This just seems to work for me. I don’t always exercise @ the same time of the day, sometimes it’s early in the morning and sometimes it’s later in the day. I eat very early dinner @ night, guess that’s why i wake up so hungry. I know some people who don’t eat breakfast, but i don’t have room to talk, ALOT of times i skip lunch.

Beth
Beth
7 years 8 months ago

Danielle,

Thank you for taking the time to comment – I realize I sounded so flaky and after I thought of all the posts Mark’s has written about the effects of sugar and ways to counteract – I guess I really just want some kind of magic bullet. I don’t want it to be so hard – to want sugar so much. I could care less about alcohol or carbs, but sugar, hmm, it can be so lovely! I am going to try your advice…albeit on Jan. 2.
Happy New Year to you and all!

Danielle T
7 years 8 months ago
If you crave sugar, you crave carbs. A few cookies or sweet treats quickly uses up the primal ration of carbs. I’m not big on charting everything I eat, but I think it’s educational once in a while to write down a day’s worth of food and calculate the proportions to get a fix on your mix of carbs/fat/protein. I used to have such a sweet tooth, but it can be defeated. But it’s about a desire for long-term lifestyle change. My New Year’s resolution is a small fine-tuning of the major changes I have made over the past few… Read more »
Beth
Beth
7 years 8 months ago

Danielle,
Again – thanks for taking the time to comment. You’re right of course, I really don’t want to cut sugar – who ever wants to give up an addiction I wonder? I have to though. I need to lose weight and my family has a predisposition to Type II diabetes and heart disease – I can’t think of a better motivation than wanting a long healthy life. I hadn’t thought of the sugar craving in conjunction with carbs, but that makes sense too.

Danielle T
7 years 8 months ago
It WILL make your life longer and better. Your day to day energy will probably improve. Also, my sleep needs dropped from 9 to 6 hours when I gave up sugar! (In winter or when stressed at work, I need 7.) The joke around my house is that I spend the 2-3 hours I gained in the kitchen making nearly everything that I eat from scratch, though. But it’s a good way to live. As I say, I was motivated by nearly instant gastrointestinal distress. It was only after I had dealt with the acute issue at hand (I was… Read more »
Dr Dan
7 years 8 months ago

On an empty stomach I can do but to the point of nausea I can’t. Im a wimp and I would hate to push myself that far. I just feel that thats your body saying enough! Cant imagine Grok would want to vomit when he was hunting? But basically Im just jealous that I cant push myself that far.

Glen
Glen
7 years 8 months ago

I reach failure before I reach nausea on an empty stomach (interval rowing is where I learned this). Heavy meals pretty much make nausea certain. I have to do my morning workout on an empty stomach because eating (aside from something very light) before I’ve been up a couple of hours makes me very nauseous.

Kat Eden
7 years 8 months ago
I haven’t pushed myself to the point of nausea in a long while and I have to say Mark, thanks for the reminder. I do some pretty tough functional training (in fact your push, burpee, pull combo is one of my faves) but I’m definitely guilty of too much rest time. I think it’s time to cut the 45 minute sessions into 20 and feel the pain a little more!! @Beth: to rid yourself of sugar addictions try incorporating more natural animal proteins and good fats such as organic coconut oil into your diet. A sugar craving is in part… Read more »
Toban
7 years 8 months ago

Beth, I recently slayed the sugar/carb beast. Mentally, I was highly motivated from reading The Protein Power Lifeplan. I was totally convinced that grains were a poison responsible for so many diseases; that conviction was the most important thing to pushing through. The other thing that helped was to replace the grains with something. When I had a hankering for carbs, I’d reach for some olive oil, peanut butter, cheese, or something else fatty which was really effective for me to get that satiated feeling so the craving would go away.

Danielle T
7 years 8 months ago

Having something else to reach for that you really like is what helps me, too. I think that’s key. But I go for almond butter, not peanut butter. Homemade jerky is good to have around. Coconut is just a great snack, too. I’ve been keeping that on hand ever since I read the MDA entry on that. Plus it’s really fun to whack those things with a hatchet in the backyard!

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7 years 8 months ago
Karin
Karin
7 years 5 months ago

The first thing that I thought of when I read the title of your post was shouting groceries of a very different sort. Supposedly advertisers are soon going to be able to use “directed sound” to make their products sound like they are to talking to you. It’s only audible in a very small area around a very focused little speaker and supposedly sounds almost like it’s coming from inside your head. Creepy. http://jscms.jrn.columbia.edu/cns/2008-04-29/cuddehe-directionalsound Kind of makes you want to…you know…

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Stuart H
Stuart H
7 years 3 months ago

I recall one prominent Crossfitter saying you can’t train at a high level of intensity if you have to keep stopping to empty your guts. Pushing to the point of meeting Pukie is an exercise in mental toughness, as far as I can see – most people won’t know at what intensity that point comes, so it’ll serve them well to go there at least occasionally.

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[…] Shouting Groceries: When 110% Isn’t Such a Good Idea – Dec. 26 […]

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[…] Challenge I asked you to show your groceries. (Luckily no one was confused and thought I meant shouting groceries.) It was great to get a glimpse into the lives of other PBers and to be able to attach faces to […]

Dan W
Dan W
6 years 1 month ago
This is a problem I’ve been having a lot lately – I have been routinely feeling extreme nausea after only about 20 mins of my workouts with my trainer. It’s awful, and makes me dread going back for more. What I don’t understand is why it comes on after only a couple of resistance exercises – eg; squats, and shoulder press – I have seen the doctor about it, and although my BP is a little high (135/80) she seems to think it’s simply the mental anticipation of the intense workout and nausea that is actually inducing it – self… Read more »
Laura
Laura
4 years 11 months ago

Thanks for posting this. I’m currently curled up in fetal position on my bed wondering if i have a heart condition because i just vomited my heart out after high intensity interval training.

Samdarshi Rana
4 years 2 months ago

This is an excellent site, I will definitely be adding your blog to my blogroll :
D

tonia
tonia
3 years 7 months ago

feeling sick after an intense workout – no drama…. but for how long is okay? a couple of hours i would have thought acceptable, but longer – maybe its something else?

Cj Pietri
Cj Pietri
3 years 5 months ago

I get to the point of nausea a lot after my workouts. I am pretty small and don’t have much body fat. I have been trying to figure out why I feel sick. I have been trying to eat more and working out at different times if day but it doesn’t seem to help much.

Susan
2 years 10 months ago
Is there a relationship between nausea and not eating enough carbs with protein post-work out? I noticed if I just eat protein or not enough carbs with my protein I get nauseated and it seems like that might have happened with you as well? I dont eat carbs pre-work out I drink coconut milk+ water+glutamine pwd+electrolytes+dash of salt+liquid stevia I know you are suppose to uptake amino acids easier when your insulin levels are higher but I thought protein could be converted to glucose as well…Maybe the conversion rate takes too long so my body is breaking down its muscle… Read more »
espen
espen
2 years 7 months ago
Hi, sorry for my vague English spelling, I do not have not English mother tongue. Feeling the nausea and vomiting just means that your body ain’t fit for that level of exercise, yet. You need to train more to get rid of it. Athletic performance is related to genetic heritage firstly and then environmental factors, so how much you need to train to get rid of this feeling after high intensity training relies on genetics. High intensity training nausea (HITN) feels like a rapid blood loss, poisoning and delirium at the same time. Most people believe this feeling is due… Read more »
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