Why are all these athletes puking the same colour?

Why are all these athletes puking the same colour?

Time for some sports nutrition fun as we ponder the biggest questions in endurance sport, including just why this random selection of endurance athletes are all sharing a frighteningly similar colour of vomit…

A quick warning before we proceed. This piece contains graphic images, and is best not read while eating.

Below you’ll see a variety of endurance athletes. Men, women, runners, cyclists, triathletes, both amatuer and pro, these folks represent a very broad spectrum of the endurance community. Yet they all share one thing - they are all vomiting yellow.

Why could this possibly be?

Obvious reason 1: it’s bile, bile is yellow

Vomiting while dehydrated and/or on an empty stomach can cause us to throw up bile, resulting in the yellow colour. Endurance athletes are far more susceptible than the general population to both dehydration and empty stomachs, so this makes perfect sense.

Obvious reason 2: you ate something yellow

If you’d been eating nothing but bananas, custard and corn, again, we could have a yellow situation on our hands.


Athletes puking the same colour bananas

Bananas - quite yellow

But neither of these explain what’s triggering the vomiting in the first place

We can rule out the sport - athletes worldwide run and ride daily without being ill. And we can rule out the dehydration and empty stomach - these alone don’t usually trigger being sick either.

So what are the common causes of throwing up yellow?

  • Binge drinking
  • Food poisoning
  • Excess stomach acidity
  • Respiratory inflammation

Binge drinking isn’t likely in these cases, and if it is then any athlete in this boat has bigger issues than a bit of yellow vom every now and again. This piece on alcohol and athletic performance may be a handy place to start.

But the remainder may all have a part to play.

Food poisoning is eating something that doesn’t agree with you, while excess stomach acidity is another symptom related to eating the wrong stuff.

A diet too high in acidic foods boosts stomach acidity, and could ultimately cause an unwanted stomach evacuation. 

Key offenders include all processed and junk foods, as well as excess dairy and red meat.


Athletes puking the same colour dairy red meat

Cows - lovely. Dairy and red meat however, rather less so if you’re endurance athlete. Eat less of both and make yourself - and cows - happier

Respiratory inflammation could also be triggered by those same acidic - and by default, inflammatory - foods.

What does the science say about athletes being sick?

A quick look here shows the science says an awful lot about athletes being sick, and it also confirms that runners, cyclist and triathletes are the group most at risk, with up to 83% of marathon runners reporting issues.

In fact there is enough science on this subject to fill a library several times over.

Yet there’s a really weird omission in all of it.

While carbohydrate and fluid intake, gastric emptying rates, blood pressure and beyond are painstakingly pored over, what the subjects in these tests are eating before, during and after exercise is never mentioned.

With all of the core causes of yellow vomit above being related to what is going into the stomach - from booze to acidic foods - these seems like a somewhat glaring ommission.

The sort of ommission other professionals would lose their jobs over.

If inspector Poirot for example was called to investigate a murder and ignored the giant, smoking blunderbuss next to the victim’s mangled remains, he’d hardly be called back in a hurry.

The smoking gun?

Can it really be coincidence all of these athletes are puking the same colour when ordinary sports nutrition is made primarily from sweeteners, sugars and powders that are:

  • Highly processed
  • Acid forming
  • Inflammatory
  • Often yellow in colour

The first three we already know can trigger vomiting, while the fourth contributes to the colour.

Ordinary gels have a yellow tint for example, as do many sports drinks when mixed up and their main ingredient is maltodextrin, most commonly derived from corn (maize), also yellow.

Avoid throwing up in your next race with these simple tips


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