Working Out While Sick A Good Idea? | An Optimal Strategy

Updated July 17th 2020; March 31st 2018

If you are bodybuilding, powerlifting, or just working out to stay in shape, is it wise to work out while sick?

Usually, everyone tries to resume their normal lives and to grow muscle and strength when they are feeling normal.

However, when you are not feeling well, this is where things get tricky.

And for a long time, there were not many resources online to reference on whether or not you should continue to build muscle or strength while sick.

In a way, you just had to figure it out on your own.

In this article, I will address this exact issue along with some followup concerns on what you should do when you are ill.

Bodybuilding while sick

As a general rule of thumb, you should not work out or bodybuild when you are sick. Your body is under enough stress and further stressors will delay your body from healing itself quickly.

These are several reasons why you should not continue going to the gym if you are feeling sick:

1) You will make minimal if any, gains for a ton of effort

It is difficult enough to go to the gym already.

To make matters more challenging, you are not feeling so well.

Your head is hurting, throat is hurting, body is aching… etc.

Even if you do manage to get through your workout, then what?

Allow me to ask you this question, where do you make your gains, in the bedroom or in the gym?

2) You may infect other people

If you are not sure what you have but you know you are not feeling well, do everyone else a favor and stay home.

You are not in an optimal state to work out.

And you are allowing pathogens to spread through surfaces and the air… not a good combination.

3) Your efforts are better spent resting and recovering

I know it is difficult to rest and stay at home. 

But that is the better choice, the lesser of two evils.

I would never want to miss a gym session but if you can’t walk a straight line without your head hurting, there are more important issues to worry about.

There may be some specific methods for competitions or rare events (Olympics) that people may just compete anyway but those are extremely rare and very risky.

Ultimately, you will make your own decision on what to do but 999 out of 1000 times, you will most likely do your body a lot more good if you rest and relax.

Bodybuilding what to eat while sick

Eating your normal resting day diet, along with plenty of fluids should do the trick.

People will resort to their family’s traditional remedies, whether it is garlic, lemons, ginger, honey, etc., you will be the judge of that.

But if you are concerned that you will lose size and strength, do not worry if you only missed a few gym sessions in 1-2 weeks.

Stick to eating your normal diet prior to getting sick and you should retain nearly all your size.

One very common consequence of getting sick is a suppressed appetite and as a result, you eat less, therefore your muscle cells retain less fluids and glucose.

This is one of the many action/reactions that occur when you stop eating.

Bulking while sick

If you are in the middle of bulking, eat at maintenance until you recover. You most likely stopped going to the gym so you do not need a drastic excess of calories to fight the illness.

If you stopped going to the gym, most of your excess fuel will not turn into muscle but will be stored as energy, in glucose or fat.

This can be a tricky situation and will definitely be a rough transition stopping the bulking and then resuming it afterward.

No goal is worth achieving if it did not have any struggles so you know it is worthwhile if you continue to face hardships on your way to success.

Squatting while sick

Squatting while sick may leave you nauseous, dizzy, tired, or increase your risk of headaches, fever and loss of balance.

It would be best to not exert yourself physically if you know that you caught a bug or illness.


Another situation is that you are feeling okay but in the middle of a squat session, you suddenly feel ill during a long set.

This is not uncommon and can be a list of a number of things:

  • High intensity with high volume = more fatigue accumulated
  • Acute reaction to stress
  • Sudden rush of blood

But as long as you can calm down and control yourself after the triggering set, things may be alright.

Use your common sense when training.


Should you workout when you are sick? 

And how do you know if you are making the best decision at the time?

A personal story

You started a few years ago; you needed a new workout routine since you wanted to get stronger. 

Simply running and playing basketball would not get you big and strong.

You did some searching around and found starting strength

You will later realize what an incredible start this will have on your future. 

You read the exercises. 

You imagined your results. 

You followed through.

You are hooked. 

You are loving the routine and loving the progress. 

Only one concern though, you get sick frequently.

The usual - sore throat, chills and stuffy nose. 

Maybe minus the chills if you are lucky.

You researched and read as many articles and experiments on whether or not you should go workout or take a rest. Some told you to rest and some told you to go workout, but with a reduced volume and intensity.

You also referred back to the workout manuals and they never mentioned anything about being sick.

What did you do?

You trained through it. 

You went through life headstrong, allowing nothing to stop you.

Every single ailment, you conquered. 

Every single sickness, you fought.

You were in school during the time and was living a stress-free life. 

No immediate stresses. 

No bills to pay. 

I was really lucky.

But life is not always black and white. 

It is complicated and it will seesaw.

Sometimes, things will not go your way. 

But that does not mean you can not pick yourself back up and start all over again.

You will go through one year where you got sick eight times - something that never happened to you. 

You will not want to break your consistency and train through all these separate occasions.

And the result? After that one year, you will get sick three more times…

There must be a trend, why does this happen?

Maybe, I should have tried taking a step back in life - take a break!

I know you. 

Determined to get what you want and will focus your efforts to make sure your goals are achieved. 

But there will be obstacles. 

However, all your setbacks are placed there precisely for you to overcome.

Take some rest and analyze your life

  • How did you get sick?
  • How is your nutrition?
  • Am I getting high quality sleep?
  • What can you do better to learn from this situation?

Instead of going on autopilot, start thinking. 

Start adapting. 

But most importantly, take some rest to make sure your body is ready for the beating it will receive.

Your life will be filled with challenges and disappointments. Be calm and stay focused. Give your body the respect and rest it needs. It will reward you with so many treasures.

And the next time you ask if you should exercise when you are sick, remember your past mistakes and how to address them...


Based on personal experience and scientific research, I am confident that the best thing you can do for your health is to rest when you are sick.

Life is short so why spend it suffering from exercising when sick. 

Stay at home.

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