Beat The Bonk! The Good And Bad Of Bonking.

    Active woman tired from riding a bicycle in city park. Active lifestyle concept

    I may be cycling’s worst “bonker.”

    There are a few reasons for this. For one, I like to think that I can just get on the bike and ride.

    And then, I love that I can choose my own route. It’s not uncommon for me to get downright lost on some of these rides. These new smartphones are making it less likely that I get seriously lost, but it is still not uncommon for me to end up on a much hillier or longer route than I had originally intended.

    What Is Bonk?

    It’s when you run out of glycogen and begin to question your purpose in life.

    Since I frequent this stage, I’ve become quite accustomed to the symptoms.

    It starts off with this feeling that you are slowing down. You start feeling worn out. This is an excellent moment to eat a power bar and try to stave off the bonk.

    The next phase is when my form starts failing. I’ll slump over the handlebars, and every push of the pedal is a serious effort. Hills are terrifying as I’m not sure I can get up the next one.

    The third phase gets me because it affects my emotions. I start hating cycling, my life, and the entire world. It is a very sad state.

    I’m also pedaling at the snails pace.

    From there we head into the chills. The chills scare me. I haven’t figured out how to overcome the chills and keep pedaling. At this phase, I might take a break and stand next to the bike for a few minutes. I’m also going to be heading directly to the nearest source of food.

    How Risky (or Beneficial) Is Bonk Training?

    Several years ago, fasted workouts became the rage.

    The idea was you’d workout the first thing on an empty stomach to boost your metabolism.

    Now, you don’t want to go into full-on bonk mode since that causes the body to eat your muscle’s protein once you run out of glycogen.

    The last thing you need is to lose muscles.

    While the military still uses fasted workouts, there is quite the argument about the efficiency of this methodology on fat loss efforts.

    There are two keys; The first one is that you need to protect your muscles. A Lot of folks takes BCAA’s to protect their muscles from catabolism.

    The other aspect is that extreme hunger following a workout can encourage you to eat more than necessary. If you are using this methodology, you absolutely must count your calories to avoid overeating.

    I can tell you from experience that reducing calories during cardio is mentally challenging.

    However, it does make sense that if your body has low glycogen levels, your body will be more inclined to convert fat for energy.

    If you are going to use bonk training, you absolutely must go slow and be careful to not actually reach a “bonked” state since that is severely counter-productive. Thirty to forty minutes is about the limit I’d push it.

    Finally, be sure to balance this out with muscle-building exercises. I’m not big on using a “bulk” phase, but instead, I use Intermittent Fasting where my body goes 16 hours a day without eating.

    This lets me use both a “trimming” and a “bulking” phase throughout my day and gain muscle as leanly as possible (not that we cyclists will ever be extremely “bulky”).

    The bottom line is: bonking is bad.

    If you are serious about training, keep your nutrition on point to avoid muscle-destroying setbacks.

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    Dan Guiterrez got his start riding a bike to college. He worked a bike shop and as a personal trainer through part of college, eventually graduating with his Bachelor's in Business Administration and Marketing. His love for cycling and fitness continues to guide his life and Dan owns a d bike shop and fitness center. Drawing on his decade of cycling knowledge -- and rich connections in the industry -- Dan is excited to offer his experience and opinions for other cyclists to learn from.


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