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Why Do I Feel Nauseous When Running?

By Chris Dinesen Rogers

Nausea is a symptom of a wide array of health conditions. It does not denote a specific issue, but rather it is the result of an imbalance of some sort in your body. Feeling nauseated while running can be especially vexing, especially if you are in the middle of a race. A review of the common causes of nausea while running can help you identify what may the overlying cause of your discomfort. Armed with this information, you can take the necessary steps to avoid an unpleasant re-occurrence.

Eating Prior to Running

Eating prior to running can contribute to feelings of nausea. Digestion is primarily an activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, or the part of your nervous system that directs passive activity. Running is a form of stress that stimulates activity of the sympathetic nervous system or the fight-or-flight response. This means that when you run, your body is directing its resources toward your activity rather than digestion. The slowdown of digestion can leave you feeling nauseated if you eat less than 90 minutes before running.

Types of Foods

The type of food you eat may also play a role in your nausea. Generally, the body digests carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables relatively quickly, releasing sugar or glucose into the bloodstream. This effect is measured by the glycemic index (GI). Foods with higher glycemic indices such as rice or potatoes release sugars more quickly than complex carbohydrates like whole grains. Your body will also digest fats and proteins more slowly due to the more complex chemical structure of these foods. The longer digestion time means that you may be more likely to experience nausea before running because these foods stay in your system longer.


While drinking sports drinks may help your running performance, some individuals may experience nausea from consuming beverages with caffeine. Caffeine may also be present in some medications such as asthma medications due to its relaxing effects on the smooth muscle of the bronchial tubes. If you are taking medication to prevent exercise-induced asthma, you may find that nausea may occur when you run.

Low Sodium Levels

It is vital to remain properly hydrated when running or engaging in any intense physical activity. Staying hydrated will help prevent harmful losses of electrolytes such as sodium. Electrolytes are charged chemicals in your body which function in hydration, nervous activity and acid balance. If you lose too much salt in perspiration, you may develop hyponatremia or a sodium deficiency. Hyponatremia can lead to serious health consequences such as rapid brain swelling, warns If your nausea is accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue and headache, seek prompt medical attention.

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