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How (not) to bonk?

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How (not) to bonk?

Old 11-03-13, 02:48 PM
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How (not) to bonk?

Today I set out to do a 55 mile loop aroud the Gainesville, FL area, the same loop I did several weeks ago (it was an organized event with rest stops and refreshments, etc). I consider myself a pretty decent 55yo biker, but today I was humbled.

It was pretty windy, so much so that I definitely put out considerably more effort that I did last time. And I was solo, so no one to draft or keep pace with. I brought two bottles of diet ice tea, but foolishly, no nutrition. By mile 40 I was starting to feel it. I finished, but I can honestly say I felt pretty run down, and my speed and power fell off considerably. In short, I felt as if I had, at very least, semi-bonked. And it was a humbling experience......

Maybe I needed a recovery ride, maybe it was the conditions, or a lack of proper nutrition. Yet I read where folks on this forum do centuries and long rides all the time. How do you do it? How long do do you need to recover before riding long and hard in the saddle?
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Old 11-03-13, 03:12 PM
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For rides over 2 hrs, you're best off fueling during the ride. Basic rule of thumb is 100 cal of easily absorbed carbs (aka sugars) per 1/2 hr starting 1/2 hour into the ride. Calories in sports drink count, piece of fruit, energy gel/bar, Fig Newton, Snickers, Twinkie, whatever.... The purpose is to get quick energy. Get protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytonutrients, etc during your normal eating.
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Old 11-03-13, 03:35 PM
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This was my procedure for yesterday's Ironman Fl race. BTW, I'm 63

Awake at 0200, ate a banana with fresh ground peanut butter, NOTHING but ground peanuts, some OJ and water with 2 acetaminophen-0630 one e-gel and a sip of water.

Race started at 0700 2.4 mile swim

Transition 1-one bite of squished banana, dark chocolate chips, raisins, dates, water

Started 112 TT with 1-aero bottle with water, 1-24oz bottle with e-fuel, 1-24oz bottle with 2 gel packs of e-gel

at 53 mile turn around stopped for 1/2 bagel with peanut butter/strawberry preserves, 2 mouthfuls of raisins-dates-almonds-dark chocolate chip mix, 1 e-gel packet, mixed a Mtn. Dew with left over e-gel water bottle, mix new e-fuel bottle and refill aero water bottle, consumed 1 additional e-gel packet at mile 90

Transition 2-water

for 26.2 mile marathon consumed sips of coke, chicken broth, Perform and ice water while taking on little bites of oranges, pretzels, bananas, chocolate-chip cookies, grapes and a couple packets of Gu

So full after 13:31:48 of racing the only thing I had after finish was chocolate milk and some Tomato soup

Moral of my story is be prepared because you can always NOT eat and drink when you have it available but if you don't have it with you, you are stuck without.
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Old 11-03-13, 06:12 PM
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I did a 58 mile ride yesterday with a decent amount of climbing. I had a Kind bar at the halfway point, but nothing else, and about halfway back home from there felt myself dragging. I also had hit a head wind, so it was a combination of not enough food and wind. Even out of the wind I found that I couldn't get going again.

When I did the NYC Century a few months back there was food every 15 miles or so and on that ride I was still going strong at 100 miles, even surprising myself.

I'll be climbing Mt. Haleakala in a few months and my biggest concern will be food. It's 10000' of climbing over 35 or so miles, almost entirely uphill. I need to figure out how to carry the food and the extra clothes I'll need.

So the answer is to eat before you get hungry, drink before you get thirsty. As for what, I usually keep a few bars and some gels in my pocket, but on a long ride a PBJ hits the spot. I don't carry sports drink but most of my rides are in urban/suburban areas and I just stop and buy them when I need them.
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Old 11-03-13, 09:29 PM
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Bonking is scary. Normally, up to 2-3 hours I don't need any food but I still carry a bar and a couple gels and eat if I feel any hint of weakness. For longer rides, I eat on a schedule, something every hour. "Something" can be half a PBJ, an energy bar, a banana, etc. On one century ride I stuffed a paper cup in a jersey pocket and filled it with trail mix, so that I could reach back and pluck a nibble whenever I wanted - that worked great.

I think I read that two hours of high effort exercise will largely deplete the glycogen stores of most athletes. But on my typical rides, an hour of riding includes at least a half hour of only moderate effort.
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Old 11-03-13, 10:23 PM
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Originally Posted by OldTryGuy View Post
Moral of my story is be prepared because you can always NOT eat and drink when you have it available but if you don't have it with you, you are stuck without.

My butt would usually drag on a century when I either ran out of water between water stops or only took one sandwich for late into it and should have had it sooner and something else (maybe something sweet) for later.....and when I started out too fast.

Guy in this forum turned me onto these. He also has some great rice cakes with Canadian bacon that are good for early on as protein takes awhile to digest. I'd bag those potatoes up in plastic and take a napkin because the olive oil leaks. Both are easy on my acid reflux.

Those headwinds make the difference. Embrace them when you can and they'll make you stronger next time.

Last edited by Zinger; 11-04-13 at 12:43 AM.
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Old 11-04-13, 03:32 AM
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"Bonking" and I thought this was going to be about sex - but I'm from the UK
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Old 11-04-13, 05:10 AM
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For me, the amount of effort has everything to do with the amount and type of fuel I need. If I eat a decent meal a couple hours ahead of time I only need a PB&J to go all day on most rides. If I am climbing a lot or pushing my pace, I need to add jell or something every hour or so keep going. There are a lot of hills around here and few chances to buy food at convenient times. I carry more than I need always.

I am going to try that potato recipe. It's easier to remember to eat things that taste good.
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Old 11-04-13, 06:51 AM
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I neglected to mention that the body's ability to absorb the food ingested is of utmost importance when the energy is needed right away and to that extent, many foods people feel comfortable eating are not quickly absorbed thus preventing the vital nutrients needed by the brain and muscles.

Gels are great go-to items and unless a person has some need to stay with standard food stuff, I would highly recommend that they be included in shirt pockets or bags. My choice of the e-gel brand is because of the texture, taste and gentleness in the digestive system. I have tried others but found these more enjoyable.

BTW, dates are a rapidly absorbed energy item that can be chewed and swallowed giving the feeling of actually ingesting a food unlike swallowing a gel or liquid.
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Old 11-04-13, 10:54 AM
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Great topic, thanks to all for posting.

I actually rode 50 miles on Saturday and struggled the final 5 miles. When I look back at my ride, I completed the ride in just under 3 hours of moving time but, my total elapsed time was only 8 minutes longer than my moving time. Simply put I did not take any breaks. To compound things I did not eat breakfast, did not consume anything duing the ride, and while cool did not drink enough water. Little wonder I struggled at the end.

Another lesson learned.
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Old 11-04-13, 11:00 AM
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I've bonked more times than I care to remember. Oh does it suck. Like running a 4 cylinder engine on 3 cylinders.

For me, it's a matter of making a point to eat ... anything, really ... and doing it continuously on the ride. Do not wait until you are hungry, then have a big meal, cuz if you do that, you get the double whammy of being out of energy and your body now needing resources not only to ride, but to digest the big meal as well.

Carry gels. Those are good for 40 minutes of energy or so (for me anyway), and are easily and quickly digested.
Proud parent of a happy inner child ...

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Old 11-04-13, 11:51 AM
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I always, always, always bring some kind of energy bar with me on rides, even the 1hr high intensity rides I've been doing after work. I bonked completely one time, having felt hungry at 16 miles from home (last convenient place to get any food), and decided to risk it. I practically CRAWLED home, wanting nothing more than sleep, but a Snickers bar revived me (good thing it was around Halloween!)

Anything over about 90 minutes, I also bring at least one bottle of sports drink - I use Cytomax, since I know it works and it goes on sale at the local Performance store frequently.

Yesterday's 59 mile ride, I ate a banana before leaving, drank 2 x 24oz. bottles of Cytomax and ate one snack/nutrition bar. The last 2 hours of the ride, I would get a hungry feeling, and take a slug of drink, and every so often a bite of the bar, and I made the whole ride with no issues.

55 miles with diet ice tea and nothing to eat? That's nuts. Sorry, but do you really think your body can run on nothing but its own stores for 4 hours at that effort?

Well, I guess you know the answer now!
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Old 11-04-13, 11:59 AM
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This summer, riding the Eurovelo 6, I knew I had missed a meal when I took a stupid routing decision on the road. Almost every bad route decision followed a missed feed. I carried no gels or sports drinks, so was dependent on food could buy on the way, often in small French, German, etc towns - and this was a mistake, as in many places there were almost NO services, certainly no convenience or sports stores where I could get to sports gu or liquid or even bars.

Now that I have learned this I will make every effort to get a good supply of these materials when available in larger towns/cities and carry enough to survive those last 20 km of a 100 km day with a fully loaded touring bike, when it seems the campsite or hotel is receding on the gps.
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Old 11-04-13, 12:02 PM
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low-carbers can't bonk...they just get hungry
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Old 11-04-13, 12:08 PM
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First lesson I learned hard was to completely ignore my old adage "don't eat unless you're hungry."

In fact, my experience has been that I am decidedly NOT hungry when I need fuel desperately.

During exercise extremes, I think you have to consciously manage your fuel intake and ignore whether or not you are hungry.
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Old 11-04-13, 12:09 PM
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Bonking in the usage I have seen it is glycogen depletion. Once you glycogen reserves are gone, your body has to burn fat. Fat takes twice as much oxygen to liberate the same amount of ATP, that is chemical energy, as glycogen. I understand one can delay glycogen depletion but not stop it by eating during the ride. It seems to be true from my experience which is not backed by chemical analysis.

Now one would think that slowing down a bit would delay the depletion. The reason for this is you are being fueled more by fat burning than glycogen which would save the glycogen. With very intense riding, one burns almost 100 percent glycogen. If you push hard, you are going to pay for it on a long ride.

Now with headwinds, I find it hard to back off as much as I should. I can back off on hill climbs but it seems to take far more discipline to back off with headwinds.
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Old 11-04-13, 12:09 PM
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Rides over 40 miles are about eating, with cycling as a background activity.
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Old 11-04-13, 03:19 PM
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This is interesting information. I never carry anything to eat but I have yet to go any longer than about 2-2 1/2 hrs of riding. I doubt I put out the amount of energy an average cyclist on this board does so it hasn't been a problem but I do want to go longer and do more climbing and that might tap my energy reserves if I do without food. Yesterday was a decent head wind out and a moderate climb mid ride and I was ok but I wonder now at what point in time I should estimate I would need food...1000 cal burned?? more? less? completely variable?

I'll have to look into those Gels too
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Old 11-04-13, 03:31 PM
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I tend to not be hungry on the bike. In my first couple of years cycling, just a few years ago, I would frequently reach a point of exhaustion towards the end of longer rides. Now I add Hammer Perpetuum to water bottles with excellent results. In reading these types of threads I've concluded that every ones fueling need can vary considerably so it becomes important to find the best way to endurance performance on an individual basis. In general, most need to eat more of what ever is appetizing.
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Old 11-04-13, 06:10 PM
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+1 on Hammer Perpetuum . I have been using this for the last few years with great result .
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