Does Vomiting During Exercise or Athletic Event Make You a Super Athlete

The old adage that states, “You haven’t worked out hard enough until you throw up,” is one of the most ridiculous concepts I have ever heard. I remember many times working out and seeing other guys in the gym pushing their buddies through the workout until one of them throws up. The poor sap who throws up gets incredible praise by his buddies and is treated like a superhero. “Yo Dude! You are awesome! Now that is how you train.” A bystander who witnesses the scene rushes to the trainer on staff and reports the what is happening. The trainer responds by saying, “Good for him, now that is what I am talking about, finally someone is working hard in this gym. Well done!” I stand in complete amazement of what I am seeing. This deconditioned bafoon is throwing up and he is getting praise. This whole situation was wrong and here’s why.

The ignorance of human physiology can result in disastrous circumstances that can severely hurt people, in some cases, even cause death. There are two conditions that are directly related to excessive exercise that are very dangerous, they are: Hyponatremia and Rhabdomyolysis.

Hyponatremia is a serious physiological condition where there is too much blood flow to a particular extremity or muscle group that causes a reduction in blood sodium levels. Sodium loss can result in a loss of blood volume in the body, which triggers the release of ADH (Antidiuretic Hormone). ADH forces water retention to help keep the water from being completely eliminated from the body, shutting down the kidneys.  I have witnessed guys training in a hot temperatures in the gym, sweating profusely and would drink a half gallon of water, then perform 5 sets of 20 reps of heavy squats. At the completion of the last set they would immediately go into the bathroom and throw up. His buddies would be hooting and hollering praising his efforts. What these primal barbarians failed to realize was that their buddy was actually in a serious condition. He was in a state of hyponatremia.

After throwing up, he came back to do more exercise. And guess what happened he threw up again! This time he didn’t make it out without an ambulance. He was so depleted that he couldn’t walk and was confused. Even when he was being carted away on the gurney his idiotic friends were still praising him and telling him how awesome he is. As he left his friends came back into the gym and with an obnoxious attitude, kept saying “now that is how you do it if you want to get strong. You aint’ working out until you throw up”  I watched the whole event in total awe. I couldn’t believe this mentality. But it appears that this mentality is not uncommon in gyms across America. The unfortunate part of this scenario is that this kid wasn’t getting stronger he was getting into a serious health condition. Forcing the body to throw up from exercise is a sign of stupidity. Deconditioned folks and those that push themselves beyond their limits are more susceptible of developing system overload, which can produce ill effects in the physiological functioning of the body. Drinking large amounts of water at once disrupts the normal electrolyte balance of the body, putting the kidneys at risk of shutting down. Hyponatremia is not only seen in gyms, but also in long distance events like marathons, cycling, and football conditioning during the summer months in high heat environments. Forcing athletes to go beyond what their body is able to do while utilzing water ineffectively can have disastrous results. 

Another popular life threatening condition that is getting more attention these days is Rhabdomyolysis (Rhabdo). Rhabdo is the condition where skeletal muscle tissue is broken down to the point where it goes into the bloodstream, increasing the blood protein concentrations. The kidneys cannot filter out the excess protein and can eventually shutdown. This is a very serious condition and leaves most victims hospitalized. Cross Fit, intense weight training, and high intense bootcamp style classes often push participants far beyond their normal limits. There is a competitive element to these programs, where particpants are encouraged to push themselves to beat a certain time or number of reps than their prior workout. For those that don’t have the courage to stop for fear of failing or becoming known as inferior, succomb to the pressure and continues on with their workout. They finish but feel horrible hours after. The damage has already been done and inflammation increases during the rest phase. Those that develop Rhabdo tend to have severe edema and inflammation in the extremities. There are some Cross Fit facilities that actually praise those participants that develop Rhabdo. They get rewarded as being a true Cross Fitter and one that pushes themselves to the limits. This mentality is ridiculous and dangerous. There is no benefit in dying. 

Developing hyponatremia and rhabdomyolysis are two serious conditions and should not be considered a feat in strength. In fact, they both are feat of stupidity. Not knowing the signs of these conditions can be disastrous. Also, not be educated in proper conditioning of the body is another reason why these conditions develop. If there is a trainer, training partner, or anyone commending these two conditions as being a measure of strength, they should all be banned from gyms all over the world. There is a need for high intensity exercise but going to this extreme level serves no benefit at all. 

You must train safely and within your own physiological limits. Listening to a bunch of moronic baffoons cheering you on regardless of your body breaking down is going to get you in a dangerous situation. 

BOTTOM LINE: Who really cares how much you can lift in a certain period of time?  It serves no purpose in achieving fitness unless you are getting paid millions of dollars to as a professional workout enthusiast. To be functional simply means being able to perform daily tasks without straining. When in life do we actually have to lift 300 pounds over our head or lift 700 pounds off the ground as a normal daily activity? The answer is NEVER!!!

Train smart…

Daryl Conant, M.Ed.