Why Do I Get Headaches When I Workout?

Find out why you may experience headaches when you workout and how you can prevent them.

Common Causes of Workout Headaches

If you’re prone to getting headaches after a workout, you’re not alone. Many people experience this and it can be quite debilitating. But what is the cause of these workout headaches? Let’s look into the common causes of workout headaches and explore ways to prevent them so you can get the most out of your workouts.


Dehydration is one of the most common causes of workout headaches, particularly if you have been exercising at a high intensity for a prolonged period of time. A lack of fluids in the body can cause constriction of the blood vessels, leading to decreased blood flow to the brain and head pain. It’s essential to maintain adequate hydration levels throughout your exercise routine for optimal performance and to help prevent headache onset.

An effective way to prevent dehydration headaches is to drink water regularly before, during, and after your workouts. Additionally, it’s important to account for heat and humidity when exercising as an increase in either of these elements will add further stress on your body. Consume electrolytes like sodium and potassium if doing prolonged exercise in summer months or other hot climates; this helps prevent electrolyte imbalances that can lead to dehydration-related headaches.

Low Blood Sugar

One of the common causes of workout headaches is low blood sugar (commonly known as hypoglycemia). Low blood sugar occurs when the body does not have enough glucose or other forms of carbohydrates to fuel its cells. Symptoms of hypoglycemia during exercise may include headache, confusion, dizziness, dizzy spells, sweating, shakiness and difficulty concentrating. To prevent this from happening and ease any headaches associated with it, make sure to consume a balanced diet including carbohydrates and fat before exercising. Eating or drinking small amounts of carbohydrates during exercise may also help prevent symptoms of low blood sugar. Consuming a small snack an hour prior to working out can significantly reduce the occurrence of low blood sugar-induced headaches. It is important to note that if you are taking diabetes medications such as insulin or sulfonylureas while exercising then you should pay special attention to your energy status in order to avoid hypoglycemia-related events.

Caffeine Withdrawal

Caffeine withdrawal is a commonly overlooked cause of workout headaches. Every cup of coffee or energy drink contains caffeine. Regular consumption of caffeine can trigger the body to become dependent on it to stay alert and energized throughout the day. Symptoms of withdrawal may include headache, fatigue, irritability, depression and difficulty concentrating.

Headaches associated with caffeine withdrawal often occur when people who are accustomed to regular doses suddenly decide to abstain from caffeine before a workout session. Symptoms generally begin within one day after reducing or abstaining from caffeine consumption, peaking after 24-48 hours and typically disappearing within 7 days.

It is important for people who experience headaches during workouts to be aware of their daily levels of caffeine consumption as well as any other medications they may be taking that contain caffeine. After assessing daily intake, athletes can experiment with reducing or increasing their caffeine levels before different types of workouts in order to determine which amounts work best for them without producing uncomfortable side effects such as headaches during exercise.

Treating Workout Headaches

Working out can be a great way to stay in shape and boost your overall health. However, for some people, working out can be accompanied by a headache. It is important to properly treat these headaches as they can be a sign of a larger issue. In this section, we will discuss the causes and treatments of workout headaches.

Drink Plenty of Water

One of the most common causes of headaches – and especially those caused by exercise – is dehydration. The human body is composed mostly of water, and when there isn’t enough, you become dehydrated. When you exercise, you sweat and your body loses essential fluids as a result.

To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, it is important to consume enough water before and during your workouts. Most experts advise drinking at least 16 ounces of plain water before working out and 8-10 ounces of water (or sports drink) every 15 minutes while engaging in an activity or exercising. Staying hydrated will help keep your blood flowing properly, maintaining good blood pressure and keeping hypo- or hypertension at bay; both conditions contribute to exercise headaches.

You can also ease dehydration headaches after a workout by drinking even more fluids – 16-20 ounces every two hours for several hours until your urine looks clear. If possible, weigh yourself pre- and post-workout to give yourself an objective measure of how much loss in body weight to consider when estimating your rehydration needs throughout the day.

Eat a Balanced Meal Before Working Out

Before engaging in any type of physical activity, it’s important to make sure your body is fueled correctly. Eating a balanced meal helps ensure that your body has the necessary energy reserves to power through your workout and will help avoid headaches that are caused by blood sugar fluctuations. Eating a combination of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and fats provides sustained energy and should be consumed approximately an hour before working out. Additional snacks that contain electrolytes are also beneficial as they help regulate hydration before exercise begins. They can include foods such as fruit smoothies, cheese sticks or pretzels.

Reduce Caffeine Intake

Regularly consuming large amounts of caffeine can cause headaches. Limiting your caffeine intake can help to reduce the number of headaches that you experience after exercising. Generally, it is best to limit your consumption to no more than 200 milligrams per day, approximately one 12-ounce cup of brewed coffee. Switching from coffee to tea may also help since some teas contain less caffeine than coffee does. Other potential sources of caffeine include chocolate, soft drinks, and energy drinks. Be sure to read food and beverage labels carefully as they contain information about the amount of caffeine in a serving size. Additionally, be aware that some dietary supplements for athletes may contain large amounts of caffeine and should be taken with caution.

Preventing Workout Headaches

Exercise-induced headaches are a common issue experienced by many active individuals. These headaches can range from mild to severe, and can be disruptive and uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the chances of getting a headache when you work out. Let’s look at some of the measures you can take to prevent workout headaches.

Stay Hydrated

One of the best ways to prevent workout headaches is to stay properly hydrated. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after physical activity. Being hydrated helps keep your body’s temperature regulated and your blood pressure in balance. It also helps protect your muscles from dehydration-related cramps and fatigue.

Ideally, you should drink about 8 ounces of water prior to exercising and 16 ounces for every 20 minutes of activity. It’s also important to make sure you replenish after exercise with at least 16 ounces of fluid within 30 minutes of ending your session. If you are doing strenuous physical activity, try to drink a sports beverage that contains electrolytes like sodium or potassium which may help keep you hydrated better than plain water alone.

If you are already feeling the effects of dehydration such as headache or dizziness, try having a cold glass of orange juice or milk blended with fruit juice – this can help restore minerals faster, as well as providing needed energy. You can also try drinking herbal teas such as ginger or mint that have been known to have restorative effects on the body after a workout session.

Eat a Balanced Diet

Eating a balanced diet is one of the best ways to prevent workout-related headaches. Make sure to include foods like lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. Eating regular meals throughout the day and having snacks between meals will help keep your energy levels steady, providing the fuel needed for an effective workout. It can also help to drink plenty of water before, during and after workouts in order to remain hydrated. Avoiding sugary beverages or empty calorie snacks will also help limit headaches associated with hydration and sugar crashes.

Avoid Caffeine Before Working Out

Caffeine can be a major factor in causing workout-induced headaches. If you’re used to drinking something with caffeine before you workout, try reducing the amount or avoiding it altogether.
When you don’t have the right amount of hydration, your regular blood flow is affected, as well as other bodily functions. As a result, your body and brain need extra energy to continue working out even if they’re not getting the necessary hydration. This overexertion without adequate hydration could possibly lead to headaches and other exercise-induced ailments. Depending on the type of activity you’re doing, dehydration could start happening quickly (like in hot or humid weather). Keep yourself properly hydrated with water throughout your workout and make sure that at least eight eight ounce glasses are consumed each day prior to working out.

If headaches still occur after making these changes, talk to your doctor about other possible causes and any preventative treatments or medications they may suggest.

When to See a Doctor

Headaches that occur during physical activity can range from uncomfortable to extremely painful. It is important to note that these types of headaches may be a sign of something more serious than a common headache. If you experience a headache while working out, it is important to determine if it is something that warrants medical attention. In this article, we will discuss when it is time to see a doctor for a headache that occurs while working out.

If Headaches Become Severe or Recurrent

If you experience severe headaches or recurrent headaches that last longer than a few days, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider for further evaluation. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle modifications such as getting hydrated before and after exercise, avoiding triggers such as certain types of foods or environmental allergens, and seeking physical therapy for proper form and movement. Additionally, medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed to help control pain and reduce inflammation. Imaging studies like MRI scans may be used to help detect other potential causes of head pain.

If underlying health conditions are suspected, your doctor may order laboratory tests or refer you to a specialist for further evaluation and treatment. It is important to follow through with all of the recommended recommendations in order to get relief from the headache symptoms.

If Headaches are Accompanied by Other Symptoms

If your headaches are accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, allergy-like symptoms, or changes in vision or balance, you should see a doctor right away. Seek medical help if your headaches occur more often than once every two weeks, last longer than 4 hours each time, become progressively worse over time, or become increasingly severe.

It is also important to contact a doctor if you experience any of the following warning signs associated with headache: fever over 102°F, stiff neck and difficulty raising it up from the bed/chair, seizures/convulsions, significant changes in vision and/or speech pattern, confusion or memory loss. If you are at risk for stroke (e.g., high blood pressure) or have experienced a head injury within the past year, these symptoms require immediate medical attention. In addition to determining appropriate treatment for headache relief from lifestyle factors (such as using better ergonomic techniques and practicing stress relief methods), your doctor may also request tests to determine if there are underlying conditions that precipitate your headaches.

If Headaches are Unresponsive to Home Treatments

If you’re experiencing headaches during or after a workout that do not seem to respond to home treatments, it could be an indicator of a more serious health issue. In these cases, seeking the guidance of a doctor is strongly recommended. Symptoms such as severe headaches accompanied by dizziness, confusion or loss of balance can signal an underlying issue that should be evaluated and treated. Your doctor may also suggest further testing such as blood work, spinal taps and brain scans depending on the severity of your headache symptoms.

It’s important to remember that headaches can be caused by dehydration, stress or even poor nutrition, so adjusting your diet and other lifestyle habits can help you to feel better faster. However, if you’re unable to find relief by making necessary adjustments on your own, visiting a doctor is your best option so they can determine the root cause of your symptoms and offer an informed diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

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