Light Headed and Dizzy After Long Workouts

9

August 27, 2013 by IowaTriBob

As my biking and running workouts have gotten longer over the past several months, I’ve started noticing that after I cool down and begin to relax I tend to feel very dizzy and light headed, especially when going from sitting down to standing up. There have been several times where my sight has become blurred, tunnel vision has started to set in, and I’ve almost fainted. A very scary feeling!

So is it normal to get dizzy and light headed after a workout? If you read enough about this topic on the Internet you might actually start to think the answer is yes, but that’s simply not the case.

Becoming dizzy and light headed should never be considered normal, at any point! So what is the problem and more importantly, how do you stop the dizziness from occurring.

According to Wikipedia, dizziness caused by standing up is known as orthostatic hypotension or postural hypotension.

Orthostatic hypotension is often mild but can lead to fainting if severe. Other symptoms my include chest pain, nausea, fatigue, weakness or blurry vision. All these symptoms can occur because your blood pressure is in a low pressure state. When you stand up your body should adjust by increasing your blood pressure enough to continue to pump blood throughout your entire body, particularly your brain. If you are experiencing orthostatic hypotension, this adjustment mechanism is not functioning at 100%, and your brain doesn’t get enough blood and oxygen immediately, which can lead to brief moments of dizziness.

So why does this occur in particular after a long workout? As an athlete, an increase in cardiovascular exercise makes your heart stronger and a stronger heart has a larger stroke volume. That is, the amount of blood pumped out during each beat is greater, so the heart doesn’t have to beat as often. A slow pulse rate (low blood pressure) is often an indication of a strong, healthy heart. In addition, after a long workout and cool down period your body begins to relax, heart rate slows even further, and the recovery process begins. Both can exaggerate orthostatic hypotension when you change positions.

If you are experiencing dizziness or becoming light headed after exercising, dehydration is a likely cause, particularly if you have been sweating a lot. Dehydration lowers your blood volume, which in turn lowers your blood pressure. In addition to general dehydration, not getting enough sodium can lead to lower blood pressure and cause the same outcome. Finally, not eating enough calories while on a long workout can also have similar results.

So what can you do about it?

After talking through my pre, during, and post workout nutrition routines with my coach we found a winning combination that seems to work great for me. As with anything nutrition related, what works for one may do nothing for another so take the following as some general guidelines and experiment and record your findings.

For workouts less than 30 minutes – no special hydration needs considered unless conditions are extreme such as in cases of high heat and humidity. In these cases treat workouts less than 30 minutes as 60 minute workouts and plan accordingly.

For workouts between 30 – 60 minutes – no special pre-workout needs, 16-20 ounces of EFS hydration drink (Nuun, Elixir, or other dedicated hydrating drink, skip the Gatorade and Powerade, can be substituted) during the workout, and an EFS Hydration drink with 1/4 tsp. of pure sea salt added after my post workout protein shake.

For workouts greater than 60 minutes (my longest has been just under 4 hours) – cliff bar or other long energy source with EFS hydration drink 60 minutes before starting, 16-20 ounces of EFS every 45 minutes during, another cliff bar or long energy source every 60-75 minutes during, on my last bottle of EFS some caffeine added in (I use my pre-workout mix added into my EFS drink), and finally an EFS Hydration drink with 1/4 tsp. of pure sea salt added after my post workout protein shake.

The above guidelines have made a huge difference for me and since I’ve started following them I’ve yet to become light headed or feel any dizziness after a long workout.

Have you had any similar experiences after a workout and how have you overcome them?

9 thoughts on “Light Headed and Dizzy After Long Workouts

  1. bgddyjim says:

    Well I’ll be! I had these problems all of the time in my first triathlon training season and when I ran before that! I never put two and two together but I’m MUCH better at proper hydration and fueling today and I never get dizzy. I don’t skip the Gatorade (I love it) and I’m big into Hammer Perpetuem and water followed by 50/50 Gatorade and H2O thereafter. Great post!

    • IowaTriBob says:

      Thanks… I’m definitely going to have to try the Hammer Perpetuem as I’ve heard good things about it. My only hesitation is some of the Hammer gels don’t sit very well with the stomach (same with Gatorade although a 50/50 mix might work) so I’ve stayed away for the time being.

  2. bgddyjim says:

    Reblogged this on Fit Recovery and commented:
    Never would have guessed it…

  3. elisariva says:

    Very good points! As a woman, dizziness when standing up is a little more common. Hydration is key, thank you for the tips! (And get cracking, I registered for Raleigh today!)
    http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman-70.3/raleigh/register.aspx#axzz2cG6HUnDS

  4. It can also help to wear compression socks while training in order to discourage blood from pooling into the lower legs!

    • IowaTriBob says:

      I love compression socks and use them both during a run as well as after for faster recovery… They were a life saver last year when I stressed my calves when switching to a more forefoot running style. Unfortunately compression didn’t do much for me to help the dizziness post workout. I found both with and without them I was still experiencing the same thing. For me it really was about the hydration, salt intake, and nutrition.

  5. jnkmiles.org says:

    It took a lot of trial and errors for me to find what works….seems EFS 1st Endurance was it for me was well b/c of the high sodium content which is essential here in S. MS, but now that I’m in the throws of IM training I do supplement with salt tablets throughout sessions. Calories are a whole different ball game! I had it nailed up to 70.3…..140.6 is proving to be a tough nut to crack as far as my nutrition. I still have yet to find the perfect combination that will allow me to get off a 6hr ride (after an hr swim), ready to run for 4+ hrs….I’m STARVING by the time I ride 100+ miles and all I want is to find the closest buffet….maybe I need one in T2???!! :)

    • IowaTriBob says:

      LOL – a new business concept indeed – T2 buffet wagon! Extra salt is absolutely a key. Without it I still feel a little light headed from time to time. But if I mix a 1/4 tsp. with my EFS – it seems to be a miracle cure for me…

      I’m just getting my mind around a 70.3. Anything longer still seems like a pretty crazy idea!

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