Beat the Bonk
We’ve all been there. At some point during your training or racing, we’ve all experienced the dreaded bonk. First, let’s start by defining what bonking is. In endurance sports such as cycling and running, bonking is defined as a condition caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, which manifests itself by sudden fatigue and loss of energy. In other words, “hitting the wall”.
In order to perform at peak efficiency, the body requires a steady supply of glucose. When those stores are depleted, the body naturally begins to slow down. Along with a decrease in performance level, we also begin to experience additional side effects such as headache, fatigue, disorientation and irritability.
So how do we address the bonk? What’s the cure? Milder instances of the dreaded bonk can usually be remedied by brief rest and the ingestion of food or drinks containing carbohydrates. These should be simple carbs that can be rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. The chances of bonking can usually be minimized by ensuring that glycogen levels are high when the exercise begins, and maintaining glucose levels during exercise by eating or drinking carbohydrate-rich substances, or by reducing exercise intensity.
How can you take preventative measures to minimize your risk of bonking? First, always carry fuel with you. This includes liquids and solids that can be easily consumed during exercise. These may include sports drinks, gels, chews, Stinger waffles, etc. Secondly, learn to time your intake of nutrition accordingly. Taking in some simple carbs such as a banana, juice or sports drink 10-20 minutes before your workout will help to provide an additional boost of energy. You may also consider taking in some protein and healthy fat 20-30 minutes before a workout such as a banana with peanut butter. At meal time, try to aim for a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein. For example, 50-70 grams of carbs and 25-30 grams of protein. Also aim for about 10-15 grams of healthy fats. This will help maintain balanced and sufficient nutrition.
Brent Holderman is an ITCA certified triathlon coach, host of the Tri Experience podcast, owner of Rockit Sports online, and an Ironman70.3 triathlete.