"Back of the head" headache post hard efforts

Firstly, has anyone else had these “back of the head” headaches an hour or two after hard efforts? Been woken up by your body in the middle of the due to them? I’ve googled and searched the TR forum but haven’t found much regarding this issue…??

Namely, I have some serious issues with staying asleep post HARD workouts and races (back to back cyclocross races or crits, VO2 or extended Threshold TR sessions, etc). Specifically I wake up around 2am with a headache in back of my head that will ONLY be relieved by taking in some simple sugar (chocolate, candy), I’ve tried fruit or sweet potatoes with low fat greek yogurt when I’ve had the headache during the day and it’s just not enough to get rid of it. I also do my best to eat whole foods, fuel my workouts pre and post, all that good stuff. (and while I’m obviously I’m not getting enough, I am still at 22% body fat and have been working for years to lose fat while not losing muscle and FTP)?

I’ve also tried taking in some protein and carbs before bed to try to mitigate this issue, but after hearing Jonathan’s and others recommendations about not eating after 8 or 9pm I feel like I’m “cheating” or at the very least undoing some of the work I did in a race or workout scenario! (again 22% body fat I’d like to get down towards 20%).

I know this has been (somewhat) covered in the podcast in the past i.e. melanin or other OTC which didn’t work for me (most OTC are for falling asleep, I am 5’5", weigh 125lbs and even tried 10mg melanin and STILL woke up around 2am), but are there any other tips or tricks I’m missing?

Check your neck position. Could be that you have some kind of pressure on muscles in neck area and when you do workout everything is fine. There are few very good exercise for it so try it.

Second thing it that you could be dehydrated. Weight yourself before workout and post workout. I you get 2%less then you are dehydrated and get an headache.Check the color of your urine if it’s yellow then for sure you are dehydrated.
It’s very is to be dehydrated with Indoor training.


I get “front of the head” headaches from hard efforts if I don’t warm up fully…

Thanks for the quick response! I’ve had a bike fit and am very aware of body positioning due to Alexander technique/dance background (plus the headaches are always immediately resolved with simple sugar tells me it’s not a neck positioning issue).

I also make sure to continue drinking post indoor trainer or race and tea before bed/water when I wake up, but could probably explore more hydration! Thanks so much!

If you go a day free of sugars/carbs, does that reproduce your headache? Alternatively, if you take in a TON of sugar during a workout, does that help prevent it? Curiosity asking here

YES IT DOES! I used to be more in the camp of “recovery week = scaling back eating” and would definitely have that issue! Now I just fuel as usual and sprinkle in more duration via longer commutes and it seems to balance things out.

And thanks for asking, heck even after yesterday’s workout (Darwin, threshold) I made sure to take in a recovery protein shake; even though it was only an hour I could tell with how hard the effort was that if I didn’t I’d be feeling bad and have that “back of the head” headache while teaching that afternoon (not ideal). And sure enough while I was prepping dinner after I was done teaching (7pm or so?) the headache was coming back in addition to regular hunger pangs…so I just thought “screw it” and (eventually) gave my body what it so obviously wanted, started with some veggie crisps and hummus, then some hard cheese and these fig and olive crisps from Trader Joes (which again sated the hunger a bit but NOT the headache!), then moved to a nibble of chocolate while continuing to prep dinner and immediately it started dissipating. SO frustrating!!

I don’t need to take in a TON of sugar to prevent it, in fact I’ve felt an “aura” of it coming on in the first few interval sets of a given workout but thankfully just popping a skratch fruit drop in my mouth makes it go away, hope this all isn’t TMI but again no one else seems to be reporting this issue…thought it might be pre-diabetes even or something but it doesn’t really seem to jive with those reported issues…?

“Hypoglycemic headache” returns a ton of hits and although honestly I’d never heard of it until your post, apparently it’s not uncommon.

According to the first hit on google, the treatment is to A) see if you have diabetes and if so get on top of that, or B) keep your blood sugar up, which it sounds like just a small amount of chocolate helps you achieve?

Note: if you did want physician follow-up, since this isn’t actually diagnosed as a hypoglycemic headache, neurologist might be the place to start, since they do a ton of headache work and all the serious stuff has got to be ruled out (or in) first pertaining to your headaches. They might then suggest B (above), or testing, or another specialist follow-up.

I’ve seen this info before, but if you look into the specifics of the article they discuss the headache as occurring in the temples, not the back of the head as I have described (that specific symptom is impossible to find info on)!

However, I’ve been doing a better job of really getting on top of my nutrition and hydration, also taking in some small amount of protein and carbs before bed and I haven’t woken up w/the headache either in the middle of the night or nearly as intense in the morning!

Did a 3hr pretty intense skate ski yesterday to prep for the Birkie in a few weeks and thought for SURE I’d wake up w/symptoms, but had some cottage cheese, pineapple and rougelach-like crisps, and also some tart cherry supplements, one 5mg melatonin and one aleve for good measure and slept well as a result :smiley: (PS also a square of chili chocolate from Aldi’s right before bed helped too)! :+1:t2:

You’re so right, my bad. Looking again the other big connection is diabetes but those seem to be near the front. Anything past this and I’m speculating despite curiosity unabated…

Taking too much melatonin will make you wake up after a few hours. Try 1 mg instead of 10.

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I get this but more all round my head. I got as far as suspecting it was “exercise induced headaches”. If you google it there is loads of articles about it. Maybe what you are experiencing?

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I had these “back of head” headaches for a long time. Initially I thought it was due to dehydration so began drinking more + taking electrolytes but this made no difference at all.

Then I looked into my position on the bike - bike fit, neck strengthening, stretches etc… did not help.

Also went to see the doctor but not much help to find initially.

Then I came across one of the podcast episodes where they talked about recovery drinks and I gave it a try. Not as a means to prevent the headaches but to help with recovery :slightly_smiling_face: Recovery has definitely improved after starting with recovery drink but most amazing is that the headaches are gone. Have not seen a single “back of head” headache after starting with recovery drink.

I take it while in the shower, so immediately after coming off the bike and it has been like a miracle cure for me :slightly_smiling_face:

I agree with the recovery shake option, when I’ve had really hard workouts or longer duration workouts/rides I can tell when it’s really needed!

After putting on a few extra pounds of muscle (and admittedly a bit of bodyfat) from doing more yoga and weightlifting over the past year, I’ve found the headaches have lessened quite a bit and require less to get on top of (or hardly at all)!

I think before with racing and training to race I was trying to maintain too low of a bodyfat and chasing a number on the scale that was out of whack with what my body wanted, I may have gotten a bit over on that number now (currently at 138lbs with 25% BF, used to be 126-130lbs with between 21-23% BF) but overall I have more functional strength and less injuries, I’m performing better, recovering better and not feeling like crap all the time! :muscle::grin::+1: (also finally got my full splits on both sides, but that’s been a side quest for awhile haha!)