Why Does CrossFit Make Me Sick?

Most of us who have experienced an intense CrossFit workout, have also experienced the feeling of being sick following that workout. Typically, feeling sick is a signal that something is wrong. During a workout nausea may be a signal to slow down, but understanding the reasons you feel sick to your stomach, extreme muscle discomfort, or excessive fatigue allow you to adjust your workout sessions and continue to reach your fitness goals. 

Why do I feel sick after a CrossFit Workout?

CrossFit workout sessions are intense routines designed to help you improve your muscular strength, endurance, burn calories and reduce stress. Although the workouts have variations for beginners to advanced participants, the goal with exercise is to challenge your muscles. A muscle that is challenged, responds by creating stronger muscle fibers, so eventually the workout is not as challenging. As a result, you increase the exercise to continue stimulating the muscle tissue. These sessions of increased workout intensity may leave you not feeling well. Hopefully, the feeling does not last long and if it continues, please seek medical attention.

For many of us, the reasons we feel sick after a CrossFit workout may include:

  • Lactic Acid Build Up
  • Overtraining
  • Improper Warm-up or Cool-Down
  • Digestion Difficulties

Lactic Acid Build Up

Lactic acid is a by-product of strength training, especially when you exercise at or near maximum intensity levels. Lactic acid build up also occurs when running sprints and performing plyometrics such as box jumps. The build up of lactic acid in your system may lead to an increase in feeling nausea. A study reported in the November 2019 issue of Physiological Reports examined the connection between nausea and lactic acid. Researchers found a close connection between sprint intensity levels, lactic acid production and feelings of nausea. While lactic acid may not be the only cause of feeling sick, there is a direction connection between the two. Researchers also found feelings of lightheadedness, fatigue, and disorientation connected to sprints at near maximum effort.

Lactic acid is used by your body during your high intensity workouts, so we do not want to eliminate the stimulation of it. However, it may also be a signal for your body to slow down to rest, recover, and allow the body to return to a more homeostatic condition. So, if you find yourself feeling sick during or after every CrossFit workout, you may need to adjust your workout intensity levels.

Other Causes

If you eat too soon before your CrossFit workout session, your body reduces circulation used for digestion and sends it to your working muscles. This may disrupt digestion and leave you with an upset stomach. However, not providing enough fuel for your workouts, may also lead to feelings of fatigue and decreased performance. 

Overtraining may also create feelings of unease. According to the American Council on Exercise, one symptom of over training may be a disruption in typical hormone levels. This disruption affects sleep, hunger, and may also affect your moods. If your mood is affected, and you are feeling anxious during a workout, anxiety may also lead to stomach discomforts.

Improper exercise progression can contribute to feeling sick at the end of your workout. According to the American Heart Association, a proper cool down allows your blood to return to your heart and not get trapped in the legs, which may contribute to feeling sick following your workout. 

Sources:

https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/6466/overtraining-9-signs-of-overtraining-to-look-out-for/

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/warm-up-cool-down

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6854110/

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