You’ve just smashed your workout, and you’re feeling awesome—your energy is high, the blood is rushing through your body—and then suddenly, the dizziness hits you.
There are specific side effects you’d expect to come along with training—sore muscles, sweating, thirst, etc.—but feeling lightheaded or dizzy after a workout can catch you off guard. And for some people, it can even raise concerns.
But if you want to know if what you’re feeling is normal, it’s important to understand why it happens in the first place. So, we’re breaking it down for you. We’ll walk you through the causes of feeling lightheaded after a workout and what you can do to avoid it.
What Causes Dizziness After A Workout?
If your workout sesh has left you seeing stars, it’s probably nothing to worry about. Here are some reasons it happens:
1. High Caffeine Supplements
If you’re looking for maximum concentration, focus, and energy, chances are you’ll be looking at caffeine. As a potent adenosine antagonist and central nervous system stimulant, it’s one of the best compounds for boosting several aspects of performance.
Taken 30-60 minutes pre-workout, it can improve muscular endurance and strength, movement velocity, sprinting, jumping, and throwing performance, and several aerobic and anaerobic sport-specific actions 1.
But for anyone that’s ever taken too much caffeine at once, you’ve probably encountered some of the nasty side effects it has to offer—shakiness, insomnia, headaches, racing heart, dehydration, anxiety, and of course, dizziness.
When taken in large amounts, caffeine’s effects on the brain can also be less than ideal. It’s been shown to reduce cerebral blood flow by 27% in chronic consumers and those who don’t drink caffeine regularly 2.
If you want the perks of caffeine without the potential for disaster, keep your dosing low.
2. Low Blood Sugar
Muscle tissue is responsible for more than 90% of the body’s glucose uptake, and during physical activity, when muscles are highly active, those demands increase; exercise causes an increase in both glucose muscular uptake and glucose supply by the bloodstream 3.
As muscles work harder, they require more fuel to maintain performance, which results in depletion of blood glucose concentrations as well as glycogen stores in the muscles and liver.
Exercised-induced hypoglycemia is relatively common and happens due to an imbalance between training volume, nutrition, and external influences like temperature or altitude, and it’s characterized by an acute and chronic rise in glucose effectiveness and insulin sensitivity 3.
Your brain relies on adequate glucose levels to function normally, and a disruption to influx could lead to feelings of lightheadedness or dizziness.
Some of the cardinal symptoms that you’re experiencing in exercise-induced hypoglycemia include:
And depending on the intensity and duration of exercise, blood sugar can remain low for anywhere from 2 to 24 hours.
3. Low Blood Pressure
If you’ve ever stood up too quickly only to feel like your head is in the clouds, you’ve experienced low blood pressure. Specifically, it’s a condition called orthostatic hypotension that happens because gravity causes blood to pool in your legs and abdomen, decreasing blood pressure because of less blood circulating to your heart 4.
For most people, episodes happen occasionally and are minor—usually due to dehydration, low blood sugar, or overheating—but if it becomes frequent or more severe, it could signify something more serious.
Research finds that moderate exercise can improve orthostatic tolerance by decreasing venous pooling and increasing plasma volume, but lack of physical activity can exacerbate it 4.
If you’re regularly experiencing dizziness due to low blood pressure after exercise, exercises in the supine or seated (swimming, biking, etc.) may be more suitable to avoid complications. Light weight lifting is also recommended, as static holds can decrease venous return and worsen the problem.
That said, if you already have low blood pressure, vigorous exercise can exacerbate it and increase the risk of experiencing dizziness.
When exercising, staying adequately hydrated is important to keep the body performing optimally—muscle contraction, blood flow, etc. But insufficient hydration, either due to lack of fluid consumption or excessive sweating, can reduce blood volume, leading to a drop in blood pressure. As a result, your organs and tissues aren’t receiving enough oxygen, and you could start to feel dizzy 5.
On top of that, dehydration also affects your muscle performance, so not only could you experience dizziness, but you can also experience decrements in your performance due to reduced blood flow 6.
But the thing with dehydration is that when you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Even mild dehydration—just a 2% drop in body water content—can result in cognitive impairment, so it’s important to stay hydrated throughout your workout, not just rehydrate after 7.
4 Tips For Avoiding Dizziness
1. Avoid Pre-Workout Supplements With High Caffeine
Because excessive caffeine intake can leave you feeling unwell, the best recommendation is to avoid supplements that are heavy on caffeine.
If you’re experiencing dizziness after consuming 200-300mg+ but find you still need the caffeine for performance, opt for something with a lower dose like Pre Lab Pro®.
With just 80mg of caffeine per serving complexed with boosters and balancers, Pre Lab Pro® stacks the most potent research-backed pre-workout ingredients that complement each other, amplify each other, and unlock synergy for the most intense workout without side effects.
2. Stay Hydrated
Dizziness and nausea are both common signs of dehydration. And if you’re keen to avoid them, make sure you’re drinking water before and during your workout. Although water requirements differ between people, as a general rule of thumb, aim to consume half of your body with (in pounds) in ounces.
For example, for a 150-pound person, that would mean you’re consuming a minimum of 75 ounces of water daily. If you’re a coffee drinker or engaging in intense exercise, add an extra 20 ounces for each.
You can gauge your hydration status by the color of your urine. Ideally, it should be light yellow or similar to the color of lemonade.
3. Eat Before You Train
If you’re prone to experiencing dizziness due to low blood sugar after workouts, try eating something small before you train. A small snack with a bit of protein, complex carbs, and healthy fat can help maintain blood sugar levels during your workout and prevent the post-workout drop.
4. Breathe Right
Holding your breath or breathing shallowly can increase the risk of feeling dizzy, as it interferes with oxygen flow. It tends to cause a sharp increase in blood pressure followed by a sudden drop—this is known as the Valsalva effect and can lead to lightheadedness and dizziness. And if you’re not careful, it can also lead to fainting 8.
Practice taking full, deep breaths while exercising and during rest periods to facilitate proper oxygen circulation. You want to breathe through the belly and take full inhales and exhales.
- Goldstein ER, Ziegenfuss T, Kalman D, et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010;7(1):5.
- Addicott MA, Yang LL, Peiffer AM, et al. The effect of daily caffeine use on cerebral blood flow: How much caffeine can we tolerate?. Hum Brain Mapp. 2009;30(10):3102-3114.
- Brun JF, Dumortier M, Fedou C, Mercier J. Exercise hypoglycemia in nondiabetic subjects. Diabetes Metab. 2001;27(2 Pt 1):92-106.
- Figueroa JJ, Basford JR, Low PA. Preventing and treating orthostatic hypotension: As easy as A, B, C. Cleve Clin J Med. 2010;77(5):298-306.
- Thomas DR, Cote TR, Lawhorne L, et al. Understanding clinical dehydration and its treatment. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2008;9(5):292-301.
- González-Alonso J, Calbet JA, Nielsen B. Muscle blood flow is reduced with dehydration during prolonged exercise in humans. J Physiol. 1998;513 ( Pt 3)(Pt 3):895-905.
- Riebl SK, Davy BM. The Hydration Equation: Update on Water Balance and Cognitive Performance. ACSMs Health Fit J. 2013;17(6):21-28.
- Hackett DA, Chow CM. The Valsalva maneuver: its effect on intra-abdominal pressure and safety issues during resistance exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27(8):2338-2345.