Having a bonk is not good. It’s caused by not having enough fuel in your body to carry on. You don’t want this to happen to you when cycling. Beside the physical effects, you’ll also experience emotional and mental effects. You’ll feel weak, shake and sweat profusely, feel dizzy, may have heart palpitations, feel nervous, anxious and become confused and disoriented.
Bonks are caused when your blood glucose drops too low. The body acts quickly to protect the brain by shutting your muscles down first. Muscles can store enough glucose for up to 120 minutes of high intensity exercise. After that the drop in your body’s fuel can lead to performance trouble.
To avoid this inevitable state you need to make sure you are putting enough carbohydrates into your body to sustain you through your ride. Your body quickly converts carbs to glucose.You need to supply those hard working muscles with the energy they need to do the job. For rides under an hour in duration, you don’t really need to worry about refueling but for rides longer than 1 hour, you’ll need to pack food. You want to be able to keep up your intensity when you need to and food is critical to this.
Don’t bring food you don’t like. That seems an obvious point but too often cyclists grab energy bars without trying them out first and find they can’t stand the taste. Food can’t do you any good if you don’t eat it.
Before Your Ride
Before you ride make sure to eat food high in carbohydrates. Don’t eat anything you aren’t used to before a ride. It’s not the time to try out new foods. The last thing you need to experience on your ride is gastrointestinal issues. Keep your intake of excess fiber and fat low. Avoid excess caffeine and spicy foods.
During Your Ride
The cycling mantra is always ‘eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty’. Try to eat and drink water every 30 minutes. Drinking the water keeps you hydrated and reduces the carb concentrate in your stomach.
While riding you’ll want to be able to get at your food quickly and easily. Remove wrappers and cut your food into bite-sized chunks. Put the food in a baggie, roll it up but don’t seal it. Store it in an easily accessible place.
Some good high carb foods to choose are dried fruit, like raisins and dates, energy bars, bagels, low fat bite-sized cookies, energy gels and sports drinks like gatorade. Sports drinks keep you hydrated and they are loaded in carbs. Double bonus.
After Your Ride
You may want to hoist a celebratory pint with your cycling mates and that’s just fine. After that, make sure you get a good meal into your body that’s high in both protein and carbs. You need to replenish your carbs and the protein will repair your muscle tissue and reduce any muscle soreness you might have. If you don’t feel like eating right after your ride, then make yourself a smoothie. Other great recovery snacks are granola, cereals like rice krispies or cornflakes and protein wraps like salmon, egg or tuna.
Great meals after a ride could include chicken breast, salmon fillet or pork tenderloin combined with pasta and veggies like sweet potato, asparagus, spinach or broccoli. You deserve it!
Happy cycling. Stay fed and hydrated.