Pushing Your Limits And Puking – Why Does It Happen?

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Mountain biking can be extremely challenging and can often make you question why you ever got into it in the first place. Many of my friends who hate exercise and eat poorly think me and my buddies are crazy for going out to pedal 5, 10 or even 15 miles through the desert on purpose. The friends who are in good shape, on the other hand, understand how a sport like mountain biking can be fun when it becomes less difficult. You have to be in good shape for it to be fun, otherwise it’s a waste of money.

I have had the awful feeling I was going to burp to the ninth power on numerous challenging rides. It sucks. I have yet to have it actually happen to me, but I’ve come real close. Well it happened to my buddy Steve on our last ride and it raised some questions for me. Is this healthy? Why did this happen? What is the right thing to do afterwards?


The Ride That Drained Steve’s Stomach

We headed out to the Nitro Trails about an hour before the sun went down. It had been about a week since my last ride and I was feeling pretty good. Steve, on the other hand, had just returned from a kegger party over the weekend and hasn’t been on a ride for 3 weeks. He knew this was going to suck but he had to start somewhere. With the temperature around 90°, this was going to be a sweaty one too.

We pedaled our way up the 601 singletrack trail towards the Nitro Trails. It’s a long, gradual ascent and we were tackling it at our usual, moderate-to-fast pace. Steve was in front until about half way up. He decided to let me pass and hang back because he was running out of steam.

Around mile 4, we were close to the highest point of our ride on the Nitro Trails. Steve mentioned he was feeling a little nauseated. We’ve all been there. You pedal your ass off up a long hill at a really good pace, then find out the trail gets even steeper. You push through to the point where think you are going to die and nausea quickly sets in. Then you start thinking of your last meal and how it’s going to look on the trail.

Steve isn’t a quitter so we continued on and finally got to the dreaded uphill switchbacks that lead to the fun part, Nitro Waterfall DH.


This is a fun little section that zigzags down a canyon and has a ~3 foot waterfall drop followed by a gravity jump and two little kicker jumps. I felt I did really well on this segment and wanted to possibly beat my last Strava PR so I blasted down the trail until the next little intersection. I figured Steve was going to be taking it easy and would catch up to me in a minute or two. So I waited a minute, then 2, then I was starting to worry a little bit. I pedaled back up the Nitro DH trail and found Steve hurled over his handlebars. Yep, he puked! lol Poor guy. We rested and waited for his nausea to pass so we could enjoy the fun part, going back downhill. Steve and I finished our ride fairly strong considering his “movement” and I feel will be back is less 3 weeks.


What Causes Me to Throw Up While Mountain Biking?

Steve knew he messed up by not getting out on the bike sooner. When you take a break any longer than a week, it’s really difficult to get back into the swing of things. There have been many times I have been close to barfing after over-exerting myself on some rides. It got me curious. Is this healthy? It can’t be! Puking is a sign that something is out of balance right? After a little research, it’s just that. It’s your body telling you that you are pushing too hard for your athletic condition. You are basically abusing your organs and tissues to the point where your your brain responds by turning on the nausea circuits. Nausea is a normal response to extreme pain or stress. It’s why you feel a little woozy after accidentally slamming your finger in a car door.


What To Do If You Puke

First things first. You just puked and it always feels like the end of the world. If this happens, the best quick fix or solution is the natural approach. Take a good break and rest. Don’t try to push through it and go hard. Next, although vomiting isn’t necessarily dangerous, it can lead to dehydration. Sip small amounts of water every 15 minutes for several hours and rehydrate slowly. Any more water than that could cause more vomiting. Then whenever you feel you are ready to get back on the trail, take it easy at first. Warm up slowly before getting back to your normal pace or pushing yourself very hard.


Other Causes of Nausea While Riding

Dehydration: Hydrate well BEFORE the ride and drink small amounts of water throughout the ride. Don’t chug a large amount of water right before you hop on your bike. Don’t wait until you are thirsty either. The trigger of thirst means you are already dehydrated. Also avoid alcohol the day before you ride.

Eating Too Much/ Food Slosh: Avoid carb loading right before your ride. If your ride is late in the day, carb load that morning and if you are riding in the morning, do it the night before. Eating too much right before you go riding can cause you to want to toss your cookies. Avoid taking pain killers like ibuprofin as they upset the stomach lining. Stick to a light snack before a ride and possibly a slight fix of caffeine. Don’t forget to have a snack along your ride if it’s longer than an hour.


Avoid Ralph at All Costs

Plain and simple: take care of yourself. You are only given one body in this lifetime. Don’t abuse it. I’ve found that each ride doesn’t have to be crazy long or difficult either. When you get out more often for shorter, easier rides, the more challenging and grueling rides are much more doable and achievable. Stay in shape! It makes the ride much more enjoyable and overall helps you feel better every day!



Follow Pete:

Do more with less! That is my motto lately. I love getting outdoors and exploring new places, usually on my KTM motorcycle. My wife, Anna, and I recently bought and built out a Sprinter van to do more of the things we love. Traveling and seeing new places is always at the top of our to-do list.

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