A Handy Guide to Bodily Ickiness
vomit | urine | pooplets

by Krista Scott-Dixon

Umkay, well, nobody likes to discuss these things but at stumptuous.com, I feel that no training-related topic should be off-limits. Our bodies, being squishy and full of organic goo, sometimes like to share things on the outside that we wish would remain on the inside. Yes, it's normal, though rather unpleasant and thankfully fairly uncommon. Read on...

Experienced trainers know the feeling. You finish a set of heavy squats, or all-out sprints, and suddenly your stomach tries to make a break for it. Blowing chunks, technicolour yawn, talking to Ralph on the great white phone, whatever you want to call it, nausea and vomiting during a workout are no fun.

what causes this?

Explanations vary. In a recent discussion on the sportscience list, the following reasons were proposed:

Gastrophageal reflux brought on by the valsalva maneuver (holding breath through heavy exertion)

Compromised esophageal sphincter tone (in other words, a looseness of the little ring of muscle that separates your stomach from the esophagus) or esophageal or peptic ulceration

Intense activation of central nervous system due to stress or the neurological demands of exertion

Change in blood pH produced by the anaerobic metabolism of pyruvic acid. Low levels of lactic acid are normally produced from glucose via normal glycolytic pathways; however, if increased lactate production or decreased use occurs, lactate can accumulate.

Shunting of blood away from gastrointestinal tract to working muscles; stomach responds by trying to expel contents involuntarily

Psychological nausea brought on by the stress of executing a difficult movement

how can I avoid it?

Barring trauma to your GI tract (as, for example, in the case of a trainee who has gastric reflux, in which the esophageal sphincter doesn't close off effectively enough and allows stomach contents to make a run for the border), the best way to avoid nausea is through prevention. Some tricks:

Pop a couple of antacids before your workout

Have 1000 mg of powdered ginger capsules. Ginger is a potent antinauseant without the side effects of other anti-nausea drugs like Gravol

Figure out which is more likely to make you feel nauseous: food in your stomach or an empty stomach. I have to eat something before I work out. Others need to have an empty tummy.

Sipping at a sports drink or juice during your workout may help if the issue is low blood sugar.

Add some cardio to your workout routine. Quite often, this will help improve your ability to tolerate the workload of activities such as squats, particularly if the cardio is reasonably intense. Start with a few minutes of intense cardio and work up to about 10 minutes per session.

If it's long squat or deadlift sets making you hurl, try shorter sets. Instead of 3 sets of 10 reps, try 5 sets of 6 reps. Alternately, try resting longer between sets.

Urinary incontinence of varying degrees is common among women who've given birth at some point in their lives. When the abdominal muscles are under tension, as would happen in a heavy squat or deadlift, sometimes the ol' bladder lets it rip. The abdominal muscles act dynamically in conjunction with muscles of the pelvic floor. When the torso musculature contracts, as in a heavy lift, or even something like coughing, it can also affect the muscles responsible for controlling urinary output. The result? You're a whiz kid, but not necessarily in the way you'd like to be.

First off, this is a common problem, so don't feel like you're some kind of pants-peeing freak. Solving the problem requires a multi-pronged approach:

Go to the bathroom before you lift heavy. This should be pretty obvious. Unless you are a real sweat hog, you needn't worry too much about dehydrating during the time you work out, so go pee beforehand and keep liquid intake moderate. If there's nothing in there, nothing can come out!

Wear a pad in anticipation of any accidents. Most women just wear a maxi but there are specialized pads too.

Practice your Kegel exercises regularly, and consciously execute a Kegel immediately before and during the exercise that gives you problems. Start the pelvic floor contraction, then hold it, and perform the rep. You can hold it throughout the set if you're tough enough, or relax between each rep.

This is a bit of a sillier topic. Anecdotal evidence from lifters suggests that lifting heavy weights increases interabdominal pressure. On some occasions, this can mean bad news for rectal sphincter integrity. Farts and even pooplets can happen (I'm not familiar with any story involving a full accidental training-inspired crap, though). As one poster to misc.fitness.weights writes: "It's like this, if you are concentrating on not farting, you aren't putting everything you can into lifting. Ab work, squats, and deads are notorious for pushing the gas out. If you have to fart, you are going to. Most of the time they get out on accident, but there is really nothing you can do about it."

Another agrees, and recommends "the PSD - the pre squat dump and unfortunately, it works but not perfectly.....interabdominal pressure always finds that last bit o' poop. Powerlifters - we may be many things but constipated ain't one of them."

The risk of letting one rip in the gym is compounded by one's choice of protein source. A higher intake of protein in general can cause some intestinal fireworks in folks who aren't used to it, or who suffer from lactose intolerance and choose dairy as their protein source. Egg protein, particularly liquid pasteurized egg whites if you don't cook them, is just plain bad news. Increase protein intake slowly if you're used to a low-protein diet.

On the plus side, a good hefty egg fart can really help clear the area and ensure that you can have any piece of equipment you like!