Caffeine (The Gym Part 3)

So the first time I go to the gym and do much of anything, I nearly pass out. This is not a good sign.

And this is annoying, since one of the reasons I wanted to start going to the gym was because I figured this near-fainting thing was just due to me being incredibly out of shape. But by this point, I’m thinking there must be more to it than that.

I could rule out a couple theories about feeling faint after exercise: things like dehydration (symptoms were wrong and I’d drank lots), low blood sugar (I’d eaten more than enough), heat exhaustion (it’s not that hot), etc. None of them really matched up.

I’d been poking around and doing research about this for a few months now, since it’s been happening more often lately. The one thing that stood out is I’m always fine when I’m sitting; it’s when I’ve been doing work with my legs and then standing up, that’s when I feel it.

The symptoms are all basically the same as fainting, and you faint when you’re not getting enough blood to the brain. It’s the body’s way to get you to lay down so it can get oxygen to your brain so you don’t die. Very handy.

I figure the muscles, unused to exertion as they are, are taking more than their fair share of oxygen. So the answer is get the muscles more used to exertion.

Even so, there are lots of people who are way more out of shape than I am, and they don’t nearly pass out after a little bit of bike riding.

I went in for a follow-up orientation to finish going through my routine with a different guy. I explain to him the situation, and he is almost ready to turn me away and make me get a doctor’s note before we can proceed. What I’m describing may, after all, be a sign of low blood pressure. He takes my blood pressure, and it’s pretty much okay.

I’d realized something since the first gym trip and decided to bring it up. My caffeine intake was kinda high. Like 5+ cans of Coke (Zero) a day high. We get free pop at work, you see, and since the start of the whole diet thing, I’d been drinking an awful lot of diet pop. And I know diet drinks are bad, and I don’t really like them. As Marion Nestle points out, they’re introduction hasn’t seemed to have a positive impact on obesity at all. But they’re “free”, both in terms of money and effort and calories, which made them too tempting to avoid.

I think I’m going to avoid them now.

When I mentioned the diet Coke thing, he backed off from the doctor’s note idea and explained how caffeine can dilate the blood vessels and how artificial sweeteners are amino acids which require more water to flush out of the system.

I am planning on bringing this stuff up with my doctor, but laying off the pop this week, I’ve been to the gym twice so far with no ill effects. Wednesday I actually pushed it kinda hard, and came out okay. So I’m hoping I’ve got this thing figured out.

I’m planning on going to the gym three times a week. This month is going to be a bit iffy with the number of trips home and back, but I think I can get into a routine which will help me out with stage 3 of the diet…

3 thoughts on “Caffeine (The Gym Part 3)

  1. tinkerer

    Good detective work, Squirrel!

    But, OMFG, with all the research you’ve done and the work put into getting onto a healthier diet and losing weight etc., HOW COULD YOU HAVE LET YOURSELF BE CONSUMING ALL THAT DEATH LIQUID????

    Ok, I have issues with “diet drinks”, sorry ’bout that… Er, glad you’re getting up to snuff with your habits. Caffeine, yes, good to cut back, wot?

  2. matt

    I guess that makes sense.

    The proof is in the pudding though. If you’re feeling better than you’re likely on to something.

    I’d have to say that I went the sugar to sweetener pop road (mostly shifting to coffee, since I wasn’t big on diet pop).

    Although I didn’t end up doing hardcore exercise (I did occassionally “feel the burn”), I did (and do) still get something similar to that dizzy feeling (mine has come to almost a walking vertigo kind of thing).

    I find it happens most frequently when I’ve had prolonged periods of less sleep. If there’s anything dodgy in that neck of the woods, it’s probably worth a look too.

    [Jill recommended more vitamin B, and I’ve heard iron can help with this kind of thing too. I’ve had some possible success there too.]

    In any event, best of luck!

    (If I find myself with a family doctor in the near future, I might even pass along “actual medical advice” :-) )

  3. Darcy Casselman Post author

    Yeah, no more death liquid. I never liked that crap anyway. I’m a little more lenient on caffeine, but I think I might go cold turkey for a while just to see what happens.

    So far none of my subsequent trips to the gym have resulted in unconsciousness or anything close, so I’m happy about that. I’m nowhere near “hardcore” on exercise, but after the fall last winter, I know I’ve got to do something to maintain muscle mass if I’m going to do the diet thing. Hopefully it’ll end up helping me fell better too, but I’ve always been skeptical about that.

    I just wish I didn’t have to see so many naked men in the process.

    Vitamin supplementation. Yeah, I should start doing that again…

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