Ah – the dreaded bonk! You are going about your ride at a steady clip when suddenly you feel fatigue, your legs feel heavy or rubbery, and you may even notice dizziness or lightheadedness. This feeling, often referred to as the “bonk,” is commonly associated with hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
What is Hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, often affects diabetic individuals, but can often strike athletes, especially if they fail to fuel properly. Hypoglycemia strikes quickly, and symptoms are usually very noticeable and sometimes extreme.
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Symptoms of Hypoglycemia May Include:
Confusion or anxiety
Sweating or chills
Impaired muscle function (rubbery muscles, numb or heavy muscles)
In extremes, can lead to loss of consciousness
If you’ve never experienced the bonk, consider yourself lucky. Fortunately, the experience, though unpleasant, is generally short-lived. When given sugar or a sweet, rapidly digestible substance, the body quickly recovers in most cases. Energy gels, jelly beans, a small handful of raisins, soda (not diet), or even a couple sugar packets can quickly rejuvenate the body and restore blood sugar levels.
Can I Continue Training or Racing After a Bonk?
In some cases, if you catch a bonk soon enough, you may be able to fuel up and continue on. Of course, you’ll have to gauge your level of activity based on how quickly you recover. If you have a headache, feel dizzy or shaky, or continue to experience other symptoms of hypoglycemia, it is probably best to call it a day and rest. If, however, you feel strong and recharged, you can probably continue on. Just remember that it can take your body nearly 24 hours to fully recover from an attack of hypoglycemia.
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How Can I Avoid the Bonk?
Fortunately, most of the time, the bonk can be avoided!
- Fuel up before a workout or race, especially with carbohydrates, and keep blood sugar levels adequate.
- Do not under-consume calories, especially if you are exercising heavily or engaging in endurance activities. Calories are essential to fuel your body, and though you may want to lose weight, you might be asking for an episode of hypoglycemia if you fail to eat properly.
- Especially when racing or working out over long periods of time, remember to fuel your body during your ride. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends bananas, peanut butter and jelly, trail mix, and bars as convenient, healthy snacks during a ride.
- Do not skip breakfast! Skipping meals, especially breakfast, can cause your blood sugar to be unstable. This instability can lead to dips, especially during exercise. Eat a healthy breakfast and be sure to consume plenty of carbs.
Just as no one wants to experience the bonk, no one wants to be involved in a bicycle crash. Remember the biker attorneys at Kass & Moses if you are ever involved in an accident.