Deconstructing Pukie

By Hilary Achauer

In CrossFit, ExPhysiology

March 21, 2013

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Hilary Achauer examines the physiology behind exercise-induced vomiting.

Ben Bristow was just being polite.

His girlfriend had brought in some homemade date-chocolate energy balls for him to sample pre-workout. Bristow, a coach at CrossFit 858 in San Diego, Calif., ate a few of them about 25 minutes before the workout that day. The Marine of 12 years was a two-year veteran of CrossFit and thought this would be enough time for digestion before the workout.

Unfortunately for Bristow, CrossFit 858 was tackling Kalsu: 100 135-lb. thrusters with 5 burpees at the top of each minute until the thrusters are finished.

Bristow regretted eating those date balls almost immediately.

On Rep 58, he ran outside and puked in the bushes, then valiantly came in and carried on. He got in 10 more thrusters before he had to run outside again. The workout was over.

Nobody is exactly sure what causes exercise-induced vomiting. Part of this is due to the challenges of the human model. Everyone’s physiology is different, and it’s difficult to tease out the myriad factors that cause nausea and vomiting during exercise.

But sometimes people vomit during and after workouts. It just happens. Things get weird, and sometimes you have to pay the clown.

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4 Comments on “Deconstructing Pukie”


Michael Wuest wrote …

All those pictures of puke, made me want to puke. Very interesting!


wrote …

Questions answered! Thanks!


wrote …

I don't think it's that much of a mystery here as to why people throw up sometimes. Look at what the marine did. He ate an unspecified quantity of "energy ball" made from dates and chocolate. Pure sugar. What does sugar do? It dehydrates you, we all know this. Problem 1. Next thinking he would get "quick energy" he ate this 25min before his workout, increasing the acid production in his stomach to digest the food. Digerstion takes 2-6hours depending on size and content of the meal. The nurse who never throws up eats an hour and a half before her workouts. That was his second problem. Third that workout not only is a total body crusher, but it will kill the legs in particular. Ask any bodybuilder or powerlifter when do they throw up? It's always on leg day, never anything else.The blood leaves the digestive system and goes into the muscles during exercise and reverses when you are eating. That's why grandma is always cold after dinner. So our marine is 1)dehydrated from eating sugar, 2)his acid production is increased due to normal digestion process, 3)during the workout blood leaves his now acid filled stomach and goes to the muscles, blood leaving the stomach creates nausea,4)a little anatomy and we remember that the aorta runs down behind the stomach, so while its all acid filled and nauseated its getting beat up 190 beats per minute.5)His preworkout meal was all carbohydrates(sugar)Carbs produce and increased level of carbon dioxide, decreasing pH, and increasing his drive to breathe, and finally 6) the lactic acid production caused by the intensity of the exercise. There is also one other possibility is the he was not conditioned to do this workout, we all know that an increase in intensity hit from pushing ourselves above and beyond is an asskicker. So to me he had the perfect set up for losing everthing he has ever eaten since childhood. So moral of the story is keep you preworkout meal small,preferrably higher in fat than carbs,(fats produce the lowest carbon dioxide levels)make sure you are hydrated well before your workout and then hit it hard!


wrote …

I find that cooling the cranium stops the worst of the nausea; not exactly sure why, as I am not an exercise physiologist. I shave my head, so it's pretty easy to cool off the brain pan, which is how I first noticed the relief. Cool water to the top of the head and I can usually avoid bazooka barfing. Some of my cadets have said the same thing.

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