Is nausea the true sign of your limit?

When you are well trained and also have learn to push hard I’ve noticed that is not the legs or the breathing, but the nausea that makes you reduce the pace. I’m talking long vo2 efforts in the 6-10m range.

Do others experience the same?
What is the physiological mechanism?
Does it improve with better warming up?


For the sake of keeping the discussion focused, let’s assume nutrition, sleep, hydration and general health are on point.

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I personally have never experienced nausea related to any type of hard workout or effort. Always legs / breathing for me.

Hardest test I’ve done somewhat recently was a 20 minute max power effort and that had me lying down on the floor afterwards for 5-10 minutes (first time that’s happened), but not nausea.


Do let us know when you go for a max 8-10m effort. I believe the pacing necessary for 20m prevents you from the symptom.


Or full-body exercise like rowing or skiing with sufficiently short duration that allows you to put out everything (a la 6min)

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Never had a 10 minute all-out effort on the bike since I’ve been doing structured training. I’ve done longer and shorter, with the longest VO2’s being 4x5 minute ranging to 7x3 min.

I’ll extend the nausea experience to my entire life and every sprinting / sporting effort I’ve ever had. Just hasn’t been a thing for me even though I’ve seen others puke under the same conditions.

EDIT - Correction, found an 8 minute MMP test in my history and I don’t remember that impacting me as much as the 20 minute.

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@oldandfast My understanding is that it is linked to blood going to the muscles and away from the digestive tract and can be ameliorated somewhat by better hydration and also paying attention to what you eat pre-workout. It probably also ranges by individual.

When I did CrossFit I would see others dealing with it but I never really had issues. The closest I have come is when I do sprint work with limited rest but I can see how MAP work could also create the same effect.

I’ve never really experience nausea…I taste blood in my mouth when I go really hard sometimes.

There is a hill near me that the one time i went up, i massively under estimated. I could taste blood when i got over the top of it. My heart rate reported at 202 aswell. Which is the highest I’ve seen it.

Never got to that feeling again, but it was both horrendous and enjoyable all in one.


Never experienced nausea during/after a hard workout.
My experience with nausea is usually in ultra races (6-24 hours ). This is due to dehydration combined with the digestive system no longer processing the gels etc I was taking in . The advice was to just have water in my bottle for a lap or 2 til it settled, and also trying some proper food ,eg rice cakes or ginger biscuits.
It might be that you have partly digested food in your stomach . On the day you are doing a very hard session, you could try eating things that are low fibre and quick to digest.
You should be fine with a carb/electro drink (mix with TORQ, HI5 , or whatever you choose )
I’ve been experimenting in my long Sweetspot sessions with having 2-3 gels/hour, and 500-750 ml of drink. If it’s really hot, then I have less gels, and more drink.

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Maybe I wasn’t clear, but these efforts are not workouts, they are beyond race pace. Imagine going at your theoretical best 5m pace and extending it out to 8-10m.

I could do better at this, and would be delighted to discover I can keep going and breaking records, but I seriously doubt it.

I think I understand what @oldandfast is asking, and in my time of racing for wins I became nauseous maybe only once or twice during a race. I trained at that limiter a lot and what I found was that I passed by the sick feeling and started to tap into “unconsciousness” where the effort/HR is so high that I don’t get sick but I get light headed and on the verge of blacking out/passing out.

You see pro’s do it all the time, after the stage they are on the ground for all kinds of reasons, a lot of time was because they were hinging on black out.

I have had multiple times after a sprint where I went to the nearest safe laydown spot and try to bring vision back to normal.


I think all of us are unique and have different reactions when we push the limit. Having trained and raced for over 20 years, I have never experienced even a hint of nasuea. I do however cramp often when I really push it. Never found a way to truly eliminate it except to increase fitness. In fact, I almost consider a sign that I didn’t go hard enough if I have a long race and didn’t at least feel a twinge of cramping. So nausea may be your sign, but hardly think it is universal.


Based on observational data, Dave Costill has/had a theory that there was a base excess “puking threshold” of about (IIRC) -28 mmol/L as measured in venous blood. That is, if you pumped out enough H+ to reach that point, you’d puke, whereas if you didn’t, you wouldn’t. (Presumably the response is due to associated changes in cerebral spinal fluid pH, but obviously that’s not readily measured in exercising humans.) Accepting this as fact, those skewed towards the fast-twitch end of the spectrum would be more likely to reach this threshold, whereas those skewed towards the slow-twitch end would be less likely to do so. (The latter describes me…on rare occasions I have made myself nauseated, but have never actually puked.)

“Speed is a double-edged sword. Those who have it must use it wisely, those who don’t can afford to take risks.”


Thanks!. Your contributions make this forum a much better place.

That (the fast twitch part) jives with what I’ve experienced. I never really experience if, but the couple times I have have been at the end of cross races. Basically when unleashing a sprint to the line when I’m already past what I’m consider my limit.

Thinking back…I think that is the only scenario where I’ve gotten somewhat worrying signs from my body…nausea…a bit dizzy…general unsteadiness.

Does one “feel” high lactate concentrations in the legs?. I ask because in these specific efforts, the leg pain seems very manageable, almost a non factor. Breathing is very, very labored but I can keep going. That’s when the nausea shows up.

VO2 work in general can make me feel vomity.

Extended sets of 30/15s especially so, even if legs and lungs are reasonably OK.

I thus suspect that it’s extended periods of time above 92% to 95% of MaxHR that cause it. As to what the specific mechanism is … :man_shrugging:t2:

I’ve very rarely (twice ever) experienced nausea during efforts like this

My more common limiter at the end of all out efforts is my vision. I know I’m hitting my limit when the gray starts to creep into my peripheral vision and I start to lose my sense of balance. Almost like vertigo where things are rotating around me, but not exactly the same

Haven’t experienced that a ton either, these efforts are only a couple of times a year at most, but I associate that with my end more than nausea


Oh, yes, all those ramp tests. Times when I did not reach to that state I actually gave up mentally earlier than pushing to physical limit. Can’t remember ever reaching there with VO2max workouts, though.

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I could never push myself that deep in a ramp test. Was nearly always in a race. Can only think of one time where I started to experience it outside of a race and it was early on in my cycling when I was racing a friend up a hill