Feeling completely drained, a bit dizzy or emotional with jelly legs during a ride? Chances are you have bonked and need to find a cafe pronto to refuel! What is bonking and how can you beat the bonk?
Get your head out the gutter, I’m not talking about THAT kind of bonking.. but the dreaded kind of bonk that cyclists typically want to avoid at all costs!
It’s happened to us all at some point of time as a cyclist.
Bonking is particularly common in new riders who forget to eat (until it’s too late) on a longer ride.
However experienced cyclists aren’t immune to the dreaded bonk either.
Especially cyclists who are intentionally underfuelling as a way to lose weight and improve their power to weigh ratio.
What is the bonk nutrition wise?
It’s like running out of fuel when you’re driving in a car.
Your body stores carbohydrate as glycogen in the muscles or glucose in the bloodstream to use as fuel during exercise.
When you bonk, your blood sugar levels are low and you’ve used up most of your muscle glycogen.
What does it feel like to bonk during a ride?
You’ll feel lethargic, lacking energy, sleepy, slightly confused with jelly legs, reduced power and a higher heart rate.
It may be difficult to talk and you may feel quite emotional.
What should you do if or when you bonk on a ride?
You need to get your blood sugar levels up quickly.
It’s important to eat something with carbohydrate that’s quick and easy to digest.
For example an energy gel, dried fruit or a handful of sweets.
Follow this up with an energy bar or something more substantial to keep you going longer.
If you don’t have anything in your jersey pocket, beg, or borrow something off a fellow cyclist.
If there’s a cafe nearby (and your riding partners are willing), consider stopping for a break.
Good cafe choices could be poached eggs on toast, cheese on toast or even just toast in general. Who doesn’t like toast?!
The key is getting some carbs back into your system, without going overboard.
Is it dangerous to bonk during a ride?
If your blood sugar levels get extremely low it could impact your health.
But the biggest risk, particularly when riding on the road is the possibility of crashing or injury when feeling light headed, dizzy or confused.
Getting some carbohydrate into your system quickly and getting your blood sugar levels up to normal will help improve your concentration to keep you safe on the road.
How do I beat the bonk?
Prevention is always better than cure!
Eating carbohydrates as foods or drinks during your ride will help keep your blood sugar levels up and maintain your glycogen stores.
How much carbs do I need during a ride?
Exactly how much carbs you need will depend on how long or how hard you are riding, as well as how trained you are.
Short rides under an hour, you typically don’t need to eat for.
For rides over 60 minutes aim for 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour.
Make a note to start eating early and often, every 20 or 30 minutes rather then forgetting to eat or drink until it’s too late.
Want to know more about how to fuel your training sessions and beat the bonk?
Join Une Musette. Six weeks of live online sports nutrition workshops tailored specifically for cyclists.