Long ride bonk, fitness or nutrition?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Long ride bonk, fitness or nutrition?

    Bit of history,

    Ive been riding for years. 30 years old, Lost 35lbs this year down to 235 (was stuck at 260+ for a few years.) The past 4 years before this one have been rough. I'd only manage to get out riding once, maybe twice a week, suffer at the back of the pack every ride. This is the first year that I feel like I've become a good rider. Technical stuff I've always been good with, but hills.. it is the most amazing feeling to start clearing hills one never thought were doable.

    I've been riding regularly this year, for the most part. The past few months I've been trying to get in 3 days per week. The people I've been riding with are the type that hammer on the entire ride. I don't have too much trouble keeping up for the first 2 hours (about 9 miles average?) but that third hour I start to bonk hard. Not sore, not at a crazy heart rate (that I can tell) just overall tired.

    While riding with these guys is making me into a much faster rider, I seems like I'm getting to the point where I really need to invest in proper nutrition.. or maybe I'm just not there fitness wise yet.

    I'm usually pretty well hydrated. Usually get some sort of protein an hour pre-ride. I try to eat a banana first also. During ride is only water, usually 2+ liter in hydration pack. Every 45 minutes or so I try to eat something. I've tried cliff bars, gu shots and granola bars. Of course they all keep me going, but nothing seems to stop that 3rd hour bonk. Should I be looking into replenishment hydration? eat more on snack breaks? Eat differently pre-ride?

  2. #2
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    Bonking is just your body exhausting it's ability to metabolize energy stores rapidly enough. You adapt over time physiologically. The reason you bonk is because you deplete the body of certain necessary nutrients (especially carbohydrates). Once you run out, a bonk will happen. If you are getting that stuff in while riding, a bonk will not happen.

    All I can think of is:
    1. Eat before you ride (and make sure you give your body time to digest)
    2. Bring food/water with you
    3. On your ride, eat before you're hungry, drink before you're thirsty. If you're out riding and you're hungry/thirsty, the battle is already lost.
    F*ck Cancer

    Eat your veggies

  3. #3
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    ^^^^x10

    Much of it is not enough intake. Carbs and other nutrients. Making sure to take a quick drink of water regularly is important but doesn't usually cause a bonk.

    And ya carbs matter alot, but electrolytes, vitamin and mineral stores going to low can cause serious issues as well.

    You can't starve yourself then ride for 3 hrs. A banana and a bit of protein isn't going to cut it.

    Try eating a mix of veggies, fruit, protein and carbs about 1-1.5 hrs before a ride. Nothing fatty or greasy, extremely lean but a solid amount of calories.

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  4. #4
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    Long ride bonk, fitness or nutrition?

    I recently had an experience I've never had before in my life. Previously I was in the army as an infantryman, went overseas, did Crossfit for a couple of years etc. never had I experienced what electrolyte depletion felt like. I got up that morning. Ate something quick drank some coffee and hit the trails, rode about 10 miles, hurried home, grabbed a shower and went with the family to an event. On the way there I started feeling terrible. I was covered in cold sweat, Nausea, really bad headache. I tried to eat something but could barely take a bite. Felt a lot like I had the flu. My vision was tunneled. I almost felt like I was in a dream. Finally I went home and laid down. My wife checked my bp and o2 sats and made me drink a Gatorade. It reminded me a lot of seeing someone in a diabetic "coma" where once you give them a large insulin injection it's like they come back to life. I started feeling much better, I drank several gatorades and finally ate some crackers and felt better. I wasn't dehydrated because I was still urinating clear. So in the end, eat a little more than you think you need, the next ride I ate a clif bar after a good breakfast on the way to the trail, had a Gatorade in the truck, and I didn't have any issues since.

    It was super weird, avoid it if it all possible.

    Sorry for the severe amount of run on sentences


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  5. #5
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    Also may look into electrolyte tabs, you can ask for them from any Pharmacy, they help and take a little longer for you to absorb


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  6. #6
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    I have never had a situation as bad as rad^^ but I know the feeling. Ive had the one due to blood sugar dropping too low due to not eating much of anything (couple pieces of toast and a banana) for almost 18 hrs. Nausea, feel exhausted and get a headache. Just had that happen yesturday as a matter of fact lol. quick influx of junk food for the rapid sugar and I was good to go in under 15 minutes but that sucked. Been a long time since Ive done that, I know better.

    Electrolytes I notice pretty early on. Just dont feel right. Tells me ive been drinking too much water and not enough intake of anything else. NUNN tabs to the rescue there. Reminds me Im out, need to add to to my list to grab tomorrow. They are electrolyte tabs that were rather recommended around here when I was doing my research. Found in any health food section at grocery stores. Pharmacy you have ot be careful, they may try to give you just salt tabs.....dont ask me why those are even made lol.

  7. #7
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    Makes sense, I never tend to eat much preride. Maybe a couple eggs for breakfast or such. I gave it a try yesterday, pb&j samich, bananna at the trailhead, drank some gatoraide (easily obtained. I'll be looking into some proper drinking solutions. Any suggestions?) and ate a bit more frequently on the ride itself. No bonk. My legs were wore out, though judging from strava (not stravahead, I'm slow. I just like to see where I've improved) I was actually moving along at a pretty good pace, just didn't feel like it when trying to catch the rabbit.

    I'll have to play this game again and see if I keep the bonk away. It seems when I do my legs give out instead, which is fine. The legs can only get stronger.

  8. #8
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    Some of these tips people have given are pretty good.

    My 2 cents..

    You bonk when your muscles run out of carbs they have stored. This is approximately 90 minutes if you are going at an intense pace. Sooo...
    1. Your breakfast is WAY to low on carbs. Banana won't cut it. Add some oatmeal, corn flakes, or a bagel. Keep in mind that oatmeal won't digest as quickly as something like corn flakes because of all the fiber in the oatmeal.

    2. You should be eating every HOUR during your ride. Research suggests eating 30-100g of carbs/hr during a ride. You can count those grams up any way you like. Gu, granola bar, sports drink, pb&j, etc. Just make it things that will digest quickly and easily.

    3. Save the protein for AFTER your ride. It is more necessary for recovery. It will only weight you down if you make it a big part of breakfast.

    4. Hydration. Inadequate hydration won't be the cause of a bonk, but it could be the cause of you feeling like crap. Fluid intake is necessary to keep your blood volume high. If blood volume gets low, your heart rate has to speed up to try and get oxygen delivered to the muscles. This could also negatively affect body temperature. Both of these will severely compromise performance. Electrolytes like water. They will help you stay hydrated by holding on to fluids and actually increasing your sense of thirst. Although, like someone said in an earlier post, drink BEFORE you get thirsty.

    If interested, check out my course on carb loading and race day meal planning. https://coach.choicecutnutrition.com/offer

  9. #9
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    Adjust you riding plan for the weather also... I did a longish ride for me, late Winter (gravel grind)... Quite a bit of snow around for middle 3rd of the ride.

    The cold just sucked the juice out of me... I got back to town, still a good 1/5 of the ride remaining to get me home... up a steep hill!!

    I was tapped when I hit town, I was cold and didn't think I'd get home any time soon...

    I hit a local Sushi joint for a rice ball w/ chicken, avocado etc. & it picked me up a treat!!

    Have done same ride a couple of weeks ago (late Spring), and I barely broke a sweet ^^ temp was mild w/ a bit of a head wind for 2nd half of ride.

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by rad3144 View Post
    I recently had an experience I've never had before in my life. Previously I was in the army as an infantryman, went overseas, did Crossfit for a couple of years etc. never had I experienced what electrolyte depletion felt like. I got up that morning. Ate something quick drank some coffee and hit the trails, rode about 10 miles, hurried home, grabbed a shower and went with the family to an event. On the way there I started feeling terrible. I was covered in cold sweat, Nausea, really bad headache. I tried to eat something but could barely take a bite. Felt a lot like I had the flu. My vision was tunneled. I almost felt like I was in a dream. Finally I went home and laid down. My wife checked my bp and o2 sats and made me drink a Gatorade. It reminded me a lot of seeing someone in a diabetic "coma" where once you give them a large insulin injection it's like they come back to life. I started feeling much better, I drank several gatorades and finally ate some crackers and felt better. I wasn't dehydrated because I was still urinating clear. So in the end, eat a little more than you think you need, the next ride I ate a clif bar after a good breakfast on the way to the trail, had a Gatorade in the truck, and I didn't have any issues since.

    It was super weird, avoid it if it all possible.

    Sorry for the severe amount of run on sentences


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    I had the same feeling as well. I went on a long ride (for me, was about 3 hours) after coming off a vacation and I only ate like two granola bars that morning and nothing during the ride except water. Same thing after I came home, cold sweats, couldn't eat, huge headache, felt just like the flu. Forced food down and I felt better the next morning.

    I now eat much better before going out and always carry food with me, though I admit I usually don't eat during the ride until I start to feel burnt.

  11. #11
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    i think "choice cut nutrition" sums it up best, it is very important to differentiate between being tired and bonking. if you find your performance slipping, possibly at an increasing rate, in the last part of your ride thats not bonking in my mind. if you are pushing, feeling the pressure and then suddenly your off the back and turning the pedals is near impossible, youve hit the wall or bonked.
    Last edited by gedw; 03-26-2018 at 02:05 PM.

  12. #12
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    Definitely know the bonk. It's happened a few times though I did end up narrowing it down to fuel intake. I didn't judge just how much I need to eat while riding. A lara bar per 45 minutes seems about right given proper liquid intake, haven't bonked doing that at least. Next up is going keto. Whole different ballgame there.

  13. #13
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    Protein is not what you want before a ride, especially if it's what you are exclusively relying on for pre-ride fuel.

    To keep it simple, I highly recommend Skratch Labs Feed Zone Portables book. Tons of great explanation of fueling and the body's processing of food as it relates to cycling and the remaining 3/4's of the book, awesome recipes of real and clean food you can make and use pre-ride or out on the trail. I bonked twice a few years ago, the last was bad so I immediately started studying what was happening and swore I wouldn't ever let that happen again. It hasn't. I hate to think of the number of rides I have been on since where so many fellow riders just don't pay attention to food as fuel and rides have been ruined due to this. With all the info out there now at your finger tips, there really is no reason to bonk aside from pure neglect. I ride alone a whole bunch because of it.

    Get the book. You'll love it and it's fun building and eating the creations inside.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oh My Sack! View Post
    Protein is not what you want before a ride, especially if it's what you are exclusively relying on for pre-ride fuel.

    To keep it simple, I highly recommend Skratch Labs Feed Zone Portables book. Tons of great explanation of fueling and the body's processing of food as it relates to cycling and the remaining 3/4's of the book, awesome recipes of real and clean food you can make and use pre-ride or out on the trail. I bonked twice a few years ago, the last was bad so I immediately started studying what was happening and swore I wouldn't ever let that happen again. It hasn't. I hate to think of the number of rides I have been on since where so many fellow riders just don't pay attention to food as fuel and rides have been ruined due to this. With all the info out there now at your finger tips, there really is no reason to bonk aside from pure neglect. I ride alone a whole bunch because of it.

    Get the book. You'll love it and it's fun building and eating the creations inside.
    +1 for Allen Lim. If you don't have time or energy to read through the portables book, I would say off the cuff that you need to be taking in at least a bottle per hour mixed with electrolytes and carbs (shoot for 25g carbs or so per bottle) especially if you're pushing really hard on a ride trying to keep up with faster folks. Hard efforts are particularly renown for depleting glycogen (=needing carbs to replenish) and, through increased sweat rates, electrolytes.

    In my experience, I can get away with sluffing off nutrition and hydration for about 2 - 2.5 hours, but anything past that requires better discipline. And if you get nutrition and hydration down, then really the fitness that will take you through a 2.5 hour ride is theoretically good for a 5 hour ride....same energy systems, same thresholds, etc. So that should be encouraging for you as well. Just nail the nutrition and hydration and you'll be in good shape for the longer efforts.

  15. #15
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    Just wanted to take a second and say thanks to the op for posting this thread and also to Oh my sack! for the recommendation of the book feed zone portables. As a new rider I found a lot of helpful information in this thread. Thanks for helping a new guy out.

  16. #16
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    just came across this and had to share... last Fall I went out for a pre-Easter Day meal ride... knowing how much I was going to eat with the family I thought a "coffee" ride would be good training. I went hard. And, when I returned - took a shower, and sat at the table I began to feel terrible. I WAS going to faint so I discretely slammed an electrolyte drink/GU and laid down feet up. 20mn later I was back to normal.
    So weird.

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