Fuel yourself properly to avoid energy dips/crashes!
We’ve all talked/dreamt about bonking but when it comes to cycling you really do want to avoid the ‘bonk’!
‘Bonk’ is a common term used to describe that feeling when you suddenly run out of energy whilst riding. It turns up like the Grim Reaper and leaves you barely able to turn the pedals. One minute you’re keeping up with the pack on a club ride & then, boom, the next minute you’re left behind feeling completely drained and powerless to chase them.
Bonking has nothing to do with fitness levels, we have all done it and we’ll probably, at some point in the future, all do it again. It’s a horrible feeling, the ride home seems to last forever and it takes a good few days to recover afterwards.
So, why does it happen?
The bonk happens when your body runs out of its number one fuel: glycogen.
This is the energy you store primarily from eating carbohydrate. Your body can only store enough glucose (in the form of glycogen) to last you approximately 90 minutes, depending on your fitness, body size, and exercise intensity.
So, if you are planning a ride for 90 minutes or longer you’ll need to eat on the bike to replenish/top up your energy levels, otherwise, like a car running out of petrol you’ll come to a stuttering halt!
Whilst riding you will typically burn 600-1000 calories per hour so during a three-hour bike ride, you’ll burn 1,800 and 3,000 calories. That’s the equivalent of an entire day’s worth of food for most people. So riding on an empty stomach and not refuelling will leave you with a massive calorie deficit. Your performance will suffer, you’ll lose concentration and generally feel completely drained.
The best way to avoid bonking is to have a hearty breakfast, don’t start out on empty, and eat whilst you are on the bike. If you consume an energy bar every hour you’ll replace around 300-350 calories. However, not everybody likes energy products so you’ll have to find what works for you. A lot of my Spanish friends eat dried fruit but this has its perils (too much dried fruit may put you on the toilet for a day trust me I’ve been there), many riders eat bananas, some take a mix of nuts & raisins, cereal bars are good and Claire makes flapjack for our training camp riders. I like to take a mix so I don’t get bored eating the same thing hour after hour, my fave is Christmas cake but that’s a bit seasonal. It’s amazing how many riders know what they should be doing but either forget or just don’t bother until it’s all to late. Experiment and find what works best for you and if you think you’ll forget to eat set an alarm on your watch or bike computer.
Just remember that the harder you ride the more calories you need to replace.
If you’re riding for less than 90 minutes, you may not need to eat at all, providing you were well fuelled before you started. Get into a routine whilst you are riding, drink and eat regularily and you’ll ride stronger. Remember to keep fuelling right up to the end of the ride, don’t stop eating and drinking becasue you have less than an hour to go, if you fuel to the end you’ll be strong until the end and also recover quicker.
If all else fails and you still bonk, stop at a shop and buy yourself a Coke and a chocolate bar!
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