You’re mid-run and all of a sudden your legs start to weaken, your body tingles, you get dizzy, and you just can’t run anymore. You’ve just bonked. Bonking is when you have depleted your glycogen stores — your primary energy source — and your body shuts down. It usually occurs during high-intensity efforts over continuous exercise with extended duration. The longer and harder you run, the greater the risk of bonking.
Bonking is not a pleasant experience. When runners bonk, it means they have not properly fueled and hydrated themselves. It can ruin a run or take someone out of a race that they’ve spent months training for. But, with a little preparation, it’s possible to avoid bonking and finish those runs and races strong! Here are a few simple rules to follow to make sure you don’t hit that wall.
Carb up consistently
Consume carbohydrates consistently on a daily basis. Carbs contribute to the glycogen stores that get used up on the run. Eating carbohydrate-rich foods, such as fruits, grains, starchy vegetables, yogurt, or milk, on a daily basis can fill up one’s glycogen stores so they’re ready for you to tap into in sufficient quantities during long runs.
Fuel up before long runs
Prior to a longer run, consume a pre-workout meal or snack that contains some form of carbohydrate. The snack can be as simple as a banana (carbohydrate source) with nut butter or a slice of toast (carbohydrate source) with avocado. You can find several more simple, fast pre-run snack ideas in my earlier post about carbohydrates and fueling!
Fuel on the run
During long runs of 90 minutes or more, bring a fueling source with you. But, you’ll need to do some testing on your own to see how much fuel you need on your longer runs, as taking in too much during the run can cause GI problems. We’ve got a more detailed explanation of how to think about fueling on the run right here.
Drink water on a daily basis. Hydration really needs to be a habit. Drinking water consistently throughout the day can assist with maintaining proper hydration status before, during, and after a workout. But, you should also stay hydrated during the run. For extended runs of 90 minutes or more, water is important and so are electrolytes. Maintaining a proper balance is necessary in order to prevent bonking — we go a little more in depth on why electrolytes are important and the different ways you can consume them on the run here.
By maintaining a consistent healthy, well-balanced daily diet, one can reduce the risk of bonking. Remember to stay fueled and hydrated and you’ll cross that finish line in glory.