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What Causes a Nauseous Feeling After Running?

author image Martin Booe
Martin Booe writes about health, wellness and the blues. His byline has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and Bon Appetit. He lives in Los Angeles.
What Causes a Nauseous Feeling After Running?
Nausea is a common complaint of runners. Photo Credit Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

If you experience a feeling of nausea after running, you may take some comfort in knowing that gastrointestinal upset goes along with pulled muscles and twisted ankles -- it's almost an inevitable result.

Nausea and even vomiting is not an uncommon occurrence for new runners whose bodies may not be used to the exertion, as well as seasoned vets who're pushing against their own edge. If this happens to you on a regular basis, it may help you to know more about some of the possible causes and solutions.

Read More: Can Sit-Ups Cause Severe Pain in the Abdomen?

Visceral Ischemia

While the phrase "visceral ischemia" has the ring of a dread disease, it simply means that exercise is causing your blood flow to divert away from your internal organs, such as those in your digestive tract, so it can provide oxygen to the muscles and tissues that are doing the hard work of propelling your body through space. In fact, when you're exercising close to capacity, the bloody supply to your organs may drop by almost 80 percent.

In this respect, everybody experiences some degree of visceral ischemia when they're running. As this puts your digestive system in the position of having do a lot of work without the necessary fuel, this alone could trigger nausea during or after a run for some people. It also holds a key to explaining why proper hydration and food intake are crucial if you're running. Deprived of blood supply, your digestive track just can't handle much of a load.


By far, most of a runner's gastrointestinal problems before, during and after a run are caused by dehydration, a primary symptom of which is nausea and vomiting. It's important to go into a long run well-hydrated because the blood flow that running diverts away from the stomach makes it hard to hold down the fluids once you've become dehydrated.

During the run, ou should drink before you even begin to experience thirst. Sports drinks can help you get more electrolytes per ounce of fluid volume, which also keeps you going longer. Following the American Council on Exercise Healthy Hydration tips could save you from these unpleasant after-run symptoms.

Delayed Gastric Emptying

Gastric emptying refers to how long food stays in your stomach before it's absorbed into the small intestines. The rate of gastric emptying is determined by how long it takes your body to absorb nutrients. Meals that are high in fiber, fat or protein stay in the stomach longer than carbs, fluids and semi-solids. So in addition to how much and when you eat, it's a good idea to take into account what you eat. Avoiding fried foods, lots of animal protein and too much salad or raw vegetables before a run might help.

Meal Spacing

Most people know from experience that vigorous exercise on a full stomach is a really bad idea but maybe you're not allowing quite enough time to pass before running. The American Council on Exercise recommends waiting 3 hours to pass after a full meal before you engage in vigorous exercise.

On the other hand, it's also important to have a little something on your stomach lest you succumb to lightheadedness or get dizzy. An easily digested carbohydrate snack such as a piece of whole grain bread or a banana will do much to stabilize your blood sugar and your digestive track.

Avoiding meals at least 3 hours before running helps prevent nausea.
Avoiding meals at least 3 hours before running helps prevent nausea. Photo Credit Steve Mason/Photodisc/Getty Images

Acid Reflux

Running and other exercise that involves impact or inversion can aggravate acid reflux, which, in its chronic and severe form, is known as gastro-esophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Acidic digestive juices splashing into your esophagus can irritate sympathetic nerves, causing nausea, vomiting and even chest pains. GERD can be a serious condition. If this is a frequent problem for you, consult your physician.

Read More: Does Exercise Help with Acid Reflux?

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