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Bonking ... a definition:

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Bonking ... a definition:

Old 01-22-06, 04:01 PM
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Bonking ... a definition:

Bonking is when your blood sugar level drops too low -- exactly like an insulin reaction in a diabetic or severe hypoglycemia.

Bonking has a pretty set list of symptoms:

1. "mental" difficulties - you become irritable with little things like all of a sudden your jersey isn't comfortable or something the person riding with you says annoys you ... you start to have trouble concentrating and if you're performing mathematical calculations as you ride, like I do, all of a sudden it becomes hard to add ... you cease conversing with the people you're riding with because all of a sudden it becomes too hard to carry on a conversation.

2. hunger - maybe. I rarely feel hungry when I ride, so I miss this symptom all together, but others experience it.

3. dizziness and weakness - you'll feel light headed, it's hard to focus, your legs just don't have the same power they had.

4. exhaustion - you feel really tired and you've got no energy to turn those pedals.

5. nausea - all of a sudden you just don't want to eat anymore, you feel sick and you just want to lie down somewhere.

6. vomiting, diarhea - you're well into a bonk at this point and if you've reached this point, it is very difficult to recover. But if you ever reach this point, you've got to try to get some calories inside or your situation will get much worse.

7. coma and potential death - this is a very severe stage of bonking which most people don't reach.

Ideally about the time you start feeling irritable, and especially by the time the dizziness and weakness set in, you should eat or drink something with calories ... and keep it up regularly for the next hour or so.

But sometimes the symptoms can come on fast and furious and before you know it, you're into the nausea stage. If you ever reach that stage, start by drinking your calories - sports drinks, sugared pop, sweet iced tea - whatever you can take in. Do that for a while - sips every few minutes, then try gels - again sips every few minutes, then if you can stomach solid food start nibbling small bites about every 10 minutes ... and you might have to keep doing that for a number of hours before you start to feel more like yourself again.


Chances are you won't bonk on a ride of less than 2 hours ... especially if you eat something before you go out, and if you take a bottle of sports drink with you, just in case. But if you're out there for longer than that, it's a good idea to consume 250-300 calories per hour (from solid food and/or sports drinks). As for what to consume, I would suggest consuming complex carbs (low glycemic index stuff), as well as some protein and fat ... leave the sugary stuff for the occasional blood sugar boost, to give you a little extra energy or get you out of a bonk.


And don't forget to keep drinking regularly - dehydration can also cause a lack of energy.
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Old 01-22-06, 04:09 PM
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonk_%28condition%29
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Old 01-22-06, 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by georgiaboy
To quote that article:

"Unless glycogen stores are replenished during exercise, after 2 hours of continuous cycling or 15-20 miles of running glycogen stores will be depleted. Symptoms of depletion include general weakness, fatigue, and manifestations of hypoglycemia such as dizziness and even hallucinations. Symptoms will not be relieved by short periods of rest. This condition is potentially dangerous and should be avoided."


That's pretty much what I said in my description above ... but I forgot to mention the hallucinations. I used to hallucinate near the end of my 1200K brevets, and some 600K brevets, and I figured that was just exhaustion. Then a friend (Rowan, who used to post here) suggested it might be low blood sugar. I started eating more during the night, and have not had a hallucination since.
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Old 01-22-06, 04:22 PM
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Thanks for the symptom list. I bonked to a point just shy of nausea on the last three miles of a 159 mile supported tour last year. It was 94 degrees and had endured a 36 MPH crosswind for 35 miles and turned South for the last 3 miles into now a headwind. The SAG wagon kept handing water to me bugging me to quit....I should have but with only 3 miles to go I was determined to finish......ego/stubborness over sound judgement. It is surprising how quickly it happens....I was extremely irratable and completely "out of gas" within minutes (100 yds) after I turned into the wind.
Thanks again....great to know info.
BCNU
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Old 01-22-06, 04:23 PM
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I've been to between stages 5 and 6 once and I NEVER want to go back there again. The worst I have been since then is just starting to get to stage 3 and that is bad enough.

Others may have a different experience, but I find that putting myself repeatedly into stage 2 on rides is actually a good thing long term. It's like you body learns to access your fat stores even when you are putting out a strong effort. I don't have any clinical data to support this. It just seems like I am able to train my body to complete a 100 mile ride at a decent, for me, solo pace (5 hrs 45 minutes clock time) on 2 Clif bars, 1/2 of a PB&J sandwich, and a couple of 12 oz Cokes (along with a fair amount of water) if I train myself in this way. Clearly I am intaking far less in calories than I am burning. I'm assuming that most of these additional calories are coming from my fat stores. Since I don't seem to get any decrease in strength afterwards I'm making the assumption that very few of the required calories are coming from lean body tissue. Of course I do make sure to "carbo load" before and after such an effort.
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Old 01-22-06, 04:25 PM
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Of course in Australia it means something completely different. It has a lot more to do with indoor activity.
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Old 01-22-06, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by MediaCreations
Of course in Australia it means something completely different. It has a lot more to do with indoor activity.
That's "boinking", not "bonking". The former is enjoyable while the later is not. And it is not only an indoor activity. After all birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it.
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Old 01-22-06, 04:29 PM
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Nope. It's definitely called bonking here in Australia.
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Old 01-22-06, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka
To quote that article:

"Unless glycogen stores are replenished during exercise, after 2 hours of continuous cycling or 15-20 miles of running glycogen stores will be depleted. Symptoms of depletion include general weakness, fatigue, and manifestations of hypoglycemia such as dizziness and even hallucinations. Symptoms will not be relieved by short periods of rest. This condition is potentially dangerous and should be avoided."


That's pretty much what I said in my description above ... but I forgot to mention the hallucinations. I used to hallucinate near the end of my 1200K brevets, and some 600K brevets, and I figured that was just exhaustion. Then a friend (Rowan, who used to post here) suggested it might be low blood sugar. I started eating more during the night, and have not had a hallucination since.
I wasn't trying to over-shadow your post with my link. It was just additionall information. Your post contains better practical information for cyclists than the wikipedia information.

Thanks for taking the time to give it to us.
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Old 01-22-06, 04:31 PM
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Originally Posted by MediaCreations
Nope. It's definitely called bonking here in Australia.
My apologies. May you bonk on your next ride.
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Old 01-22-06, 04:33 PM
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Old 01-22-06, 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by mollusk
I've been to between stages 5 and 6 once and I NEVER want to go back there again. The worst I have been since then is just starting to get to stage 3 and that is bad enough.
I've been well into stage 6 ... and like you ... I NEVER want to go back there again. As I moved through stage 5 into 6, I just wanted someone to come and run me over and put me out of my misery.



Originally Posted by mollusk
Others may have a different experience, but I find that putting myself repeatedly into stage 2 on rides is actually a good thing long term. It's like you body learns to access your fat stores even when you are putting out a strong effort. I don't have any clinical data to support this. It just seems like I am able to train my body to complete a 100 mile ride at a decent, for me, solo pace (5 hrs 45 minutes clock time) on 2 Clif bars, 1/2 of a PB&J sandwich, and a couple of 12 oz Cokes (along with a fair amount of water) if I train myself in this way. Clearly I am intaking far less in calories than I am burning. I'm assuming that most of these additional calories are coming from my fat stores. Since I don't seem to get any decrease in strength afterwards I'm making the assumption that very few of the required calories are coming from lean body tissue. Of course I do make sure to "carbo load" before and after such an effort.
Keep in mind that you have somewhere between about 1500 and 2000 calories in storage when you start a ride ... if you've been eating before the ride. And you say you carbo load before, so you likely have 2000 calories or so to work with. If you burn 600 calories per hour for 6 hours, you'll have burned 3600 calories on your century. 2000 of those calories are what you had in storage, leaving a deficit of 1600 calories. The human body can operate (exercise) on approx. half the required calories for a while (approx. 6-8 hours) before it is a good idea to thoroughly stock up again. So all you'd really need is about 800 calories for your ride. 2 Clif bars are about 500 calories, a PB&J sandwich is maybe about 300 calories (I'm guessing a bit there), and each coke is at least 100 calories. So ... I can see that it would be possible to do a century fairly comfortably with your dietary intake. If you were out there longer, however, I would suggest planning to eat more.
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Old 01-22-06, 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by georgiaboy
I wasn't trying to over-shadow your post with my link. It was just additioal information. Your post contains better practical information for cyclists than the wikipedia information.

Thanks for taking the time to give it to us.

I didn't take it as over-shadowing. And thank you for the information in that article too!
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Old 01-22-06, 04:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka

1. "mental" difficulties - you become irritable with little things like all of a sudden your jersey isn't comfortable or something the person riding with you says annoys you ... you start to have trouble concentrating and if you're performing mathematical calculations .... hard to add ... you cease conversing with the people you're riding with because all of a sudden it becomes too hard to carry on a conversation.

JEEZ! I must bonk every day at the office!
T.J.
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Old 01-22-06, 04:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka
I've been well into stage 6 ... and like you ... I NEVER want to go back there again. As I moved through stage 5 into 6, I just wanted someone to come and run me over and put me out of my misery.





Keep in mind that you have somewhere between about 1500 and 2000 calories in storage when you start a ride ... if you've been eating before the ride. And you say you carbo load before, so you likely have 2000 calories or so to work with. If you burn 600 calories per hour for 6 hours, you'll have burned 3600 calories on your century. 2000 of those calories are what you had in storage, leaving a deficit of 1600 calories. The human body can operate (exercise) on approx. half the required calories for a while (approx. 6-8 hours) before it is a good idea to thoroughly stock up again. So all you'd really need is about 800 calories for your ride. 2 Clif bars are about 500 calories, a PB&J sandwich is maybe about 300 calories (I'm guessing a bit there), and each coke is at least 100 calories. So ... I can see that it would be possible to do a century fairly comfortably with your dietary intake. If you were out there longer, however, I would suggest planning to eat more.

You might be right with these numbers, although I think you may be a little light with the calories per hour. I usually ride solo at 19 mph when going 100 miles for the day and I suspect that the power required would mean that the calories per hour would be a bit higher. You are most correct that for longer distances I would need to eat more. I've done a number of double metric centuries and I have had to eat quite a bit more to finish comfortably.
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Old 01-22-06, 04:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Tequila Joe
JEEZ! I must bonk every day at the office!
T.J.



Actually though ... if you are having trouble concentrating etc., and are getting irritable, at work there is a chance you could be having a hypoglycemic reaction (low blood sugar). One thing you might try is eating a little bit of protein and complex carbs (i.e. whole wheat crackers and cheese) ... it might help!

I am slightly hypoglycemic at the best of times, and often slide into that first stage in daily life.




Or maybe it is just your work environment!!
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Old 01-22-06, 08:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka
Bonking is when your blood sugar level drops too low -- exactly like an insulin reaction in a diabetic or severe hypoglycemia.

Bonking has a pretty set list of symptoms:

1. "mental" difficulties - you become irritable with little things like all of a sudden your jersey isn't comfortable or something the person riding with you says annoys you ... you start to have trouble concentrating and if you're performing mathematical calculations as you ride, like I do, all of a sudden it becomes hard to add ... you cease conversing with the people you're riding with because all of a sudden it becomes too hard to carry on a conversation.

2. hunger - maybe. I rarely feel hungry when I ride, so I miss this symptom all together, but others experience it.

3. dizziness and weakness - you'll feel light headed, it's hard to focus, your legs just don't have the same power they had.

4. exhaustion - you feel really tired and you've got no energy to turn those pedals.

5. nausea - all of a sudden you just don't want to eat anymore, you feel sick and you just want to lie down somewhere.

6. vomiting, diarhea - you're well into a bonk at this point and if you've reached this point, it is very difficult to recover. But if you ever reach this point, you've got to try to get some calories inside or your situation will get much worse.

7. coma and potential death - this is a very severe stage of bonking which most people don't reach.

Ideally about the time you start feeling irritable, and especially by the time the dizziness and weakness set in, you should eat or drink something with calories ... and keep it up regularly for the next hour or so.

But sometimes the symptoms can come on fast and furious and before you know it, you're into the nausea stage. If you ever reach that stage, start by drinking your calories - sports drinks, sugared pop, sweet iced tea - whatever you can take in. Do that for a while - sips every few minutes, then try gels - again sips every few minutes, then if you can stomach solid food start nibbling small bites about every 10 minutes ... and you might have to keep doing that for a number of hours before you start to feel more like yourself again.


Chances are you won't bonk on a ride of less than 2 hours ... especially if you eat something before you go out, and if you take a bottle of sports drink with you, just in case. But if you're out there for longer than that, it's a good idea to consume 250-300 calories per hour (from solid food and/or sports drinks). As for what to consume, I would suggest consuming complex carbs (low glycemic index stuff), as well as some protein and fat ... leave the sugary stuff for the occasional blood sugar boost, to give you a little extra energy or get you out of a bonk.


And don't forget to keep drinking regularly - dehydration can also cause a lack of energy.
Good post. Did anyone mention loss of coordination? I bonked once way up on a tough mountain speed hike (no food), and started with a progressive loss of coordination and eventually a severe tunnel vision set in where everything seemed to turn black and white. OTOH, I recovered in about 45min and made it back down at a slightly more moderate pace.


4. exhaustion - you feel really tired and you've got no energy to turn those pedals.
The main confusion with the other post was with what you describe above and muscle exhaustion.
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Old 01-22-06, 08:55 PM
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I'm a type I diabetic, so I know I'm bonking when the blood sugar meter reads below about 60 or so. I'm still learning to balance my carb intake on long rides...just one more set of numbers to keep track of....ah the tedium!
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Old 01-22-06, 09:15 PM
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My experience (the recount of which I'm pretty sure caused this thread to be created) consisted of items 1 through 5 above. No vomiting or coma though.
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Old 01-22-06, 09:16 PM
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Originally Posted by pigmode
Good post. Did anyone mention loss of coordination? I bonked once way up on a tough mountain speed hike (no food), and started with a progressive loss of coordination and eventually a severe tunnel vision set in where everything seemed to turn black and white. OTOH, I recovered in about 45min and made it back down at a slightly more moderate pace.
Well, that sort of fits in there with mental difficulties and weakness.



Originally Posted by pigmode
The main confusion with the other post was with what you describe above and muscle exhaustion.
Well, there's a difference between "I felt a bit tired", or "I didn't have much energy in my legs today" .... and EXHAUSTION. Note that I put exhaustion after weakness and dizziness. When I've bonked (and I have several times ... I am hypoglycemic and I have eating difficulties on my long rides), I go through a stage where I'm all weak and shaky and have trouble focussing ... and then my legs feel like they have absolutely NOTHING left ... like I can barely stand, let alone pedal a bicycle. I usually have to get off the bicycle at that point. It's not long after that (minutes) before I'm into waves of nausea.
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Old 01-22-06, 09:20 PM
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I finished a 120 mile very hilly (10K ft of climbing Wisconsin style) and was very hungry and annoyed (ask CPclydesdale how I snapped at him while he was asking for a camera I had with the get a picture of me) at the end never real thought of it as bonking though.

I always thought of bonking to be more of the 3-4 symptoms.
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Old 01-22-06, 09:32 PM
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Originally Posted by CPcyclist
I finished a 120 mile very hilly (10K ft of climbing Wisconsin style) and was very hungry and annoyed (ask CPclydesdale how I snapped at him while he was asking for a camera I had with the get a picture of me) at the end never real thought of it as bonking though.

I always thought of bonking to be more of the 3-4 symptoms.

Sounds like the early stages. I wouldn't call it a full bonk until it gets well into stages 3/4/5. If you catch in at those early stages, you can ward off the more serious stages.

Most of the people I ride with know about those stages and when we start to get irritable with each other, we suggest that it might be time for something to eat.
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Old 01-22-06, 09:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka
I wouldn't call it a full bonk until it gets well into stages 3/4/5. If you catch in at those early stages, you can ward off the more serious stages.
What's interesting to me about your list is that for me, it happens in a slightly different order. Your stage 1 is farther down my list. I get hungry and feel exhausted before I get irritable. My order is more like 2, 3, 4, 1, 5 (never made it past there).

But I have ridden with a girl who got irritable first. We all scream at her to eat, but she never wants to. It's pretty annoying, lol.
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Old 01-22-06, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by cydewaze
But I have ridden with a girl who got irritable first. We all scream at her to eat, but she never wants to. It's pretty annoying, lol.

You've ridden with me????

I completely miss the "hungry" stage all together. I rarely ever feel hungry when I'm riding for some reason.
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Old 01-22-06, 10:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka
You've ridden with me????

I completely miss the "hungry" stage all together. I rarely ever feel hungry when I'm riding for some reason.
lol. I think I was born hungry, which is probably why I need to lose... well, 10 lbs now. Lost around 5 since the beginning of Jan on the wife's new eating plan. Ten more and I hit 180 for the first time since I was 30.
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