Monday, 25 August 2014

Bonking and Nutrition

I've been trying to extend my distance steadily in order to tackle some distance milestones.  Early in the process I ran into an odd problem where I just ran out of energy.  It felt like I was too weak to continue cycling.  My limbs felt heavy and standing was only possible using my bicycle as a crutch.  Despite being only a kilometer from home, I needed a ride!

I didn't understand what was going on, so I looked up my symptoms and discovered I had bonked.  In cycling, the term "bonking" refers to a state where you deplete your glycogen stores in your liver and muscles.  You start to get dizzy and show signs of hypoglycemia.  It can't be fixed by rest; it needs the energy replenished.

There are a lot of tips out there on how frequently you should eat and what it should contain.  I initially went with store-bought solutions so I could clearly see carbohydrate content.  To get some hard numbers I used a glucose meter and tested myself at set intervals.  It enabled me to see exactly when I should eat.

Here are some consumables I've used to keep energy levels up.

Energy Bars.  I started out with these.  They should contain a decent amount (~30g) of carbohydrates.  Generally I find they upset my stomach if I've been riding for long periods.

Energy Gels.  Very easy to consume but be careful to drink enough water; if you don't you will have an upset stomach.  They vary in taste from "pretty good" to "did you just feed me fecal matter?"  Their advantage is that they can be consumed pretty quickly and come in various caffeine levels  And if you are careful to drink enough water, they are pretty easy to digest.

Energy Drink.  Easiest on your stomach.  I find them extra helpful as they're also a good source of electrolytes.  The bottles they are sold in usually fit bicycle water bottle cages.  The main downside is its heavy and it occupies more volume than bars and gels.

Natural Foods. There are more natural alternatives to a prepackaged processed food.  A banana or a jam sandwich packs the same carbohydrate punch that many of the above solutions do.  Just make sure it has enough carbohydrates and can easily be consumed; if its fluffy or breaks apart easily its not a good idea!

Ice Cream From the Shop That is 12 KM Away From my Home.  Who am I kidding, this isn't great for riding.  But I still do it on occasion!

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