Hi Pedalist, sometimes during long rides, in the middle of the ride, all of a sudden I find myself not being able to pedal anymore. I feel like my body just refuses to do any more work. I read that this might be because of lack of pre-ride nutrition, and what I experience is called bonking. Can you help me understand this?
– Avoid Bonking
Dear Avoid Bonking,
Your research about the best pre-ride food for bike rides is correct. “Bonking” is commonly used to describe what you went through – a complete depletion of glycogen that the body uses as fuel. The food you consume is converted to glycogen to provide energy for the pedaling muscles. For various reasons explained below, your body’s fuel tank ran low, forcing you to stop mid-ride.
Calories Crucial to Exertion and Stamina for Longer Rides
So how did this happen? Simply put, not enough calories. Cycling is a energy intense cardio activity. So the more whole natural foods you consume, the longer the energy is released, especially on long rides. A healthy, nutritious, pre-ride meal is a necessity. And so is on-the-bike fueling. I can assume you don’t consume enough before you start the ride, or don’t take enough with you for the ride.
If you take a look at the nutrition specific posts on this site you can get an idea of what to eat and when. Oats with fruits, and peanut butter is a good pre-ride meal. Also on-the-bike fueling is critical to maintain energy levels to sustain long rides. Choose potassium-rich foods such as a banana, a salty mix of nuts, or energy bars. Water with electrolytes is also critical to replenish the salts lost through sweat. So a mix of protein and carbs with little fat is advised for a pre, during, and post ride nutrition.
There are various options to fuel yourself. Fine tune your specific needs by trying a few options for pre ride meals and on-the-ride snacks, as there is no single formula for all riders.