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Say Buh-Bye to "Bonks": Never Hit a Workout Wall Again

Jun 3 2014 - 3:43pm

During a long workout, emotional moments arrive when you feel like you just can't push any further, but you're able to get out of your head and persevere. But hitting that physical wall where your legs give out, all your energy is zapped, and your brain says "no!" is a whole different story that endurance athletes refer to as "bonking."

When bonks happen, there's a glycogen depletion in the muscles and liver [1] that affects the whole body. The resulting feelings? Overwhelming full-body fatigue, heavy legs, and in some cases, dizziness or even hallucinations. With that said, if you properly fuel, it is possible to lower your chances of a bonk from happening to you. Learn the basic ways to keep this problem from getting in the way of your workouts.

Pre-Workout: Enjoy Enough Calories

When you put your body through an intense workout, you need to properly fuel up with sufficient calories. If you're trying to lose weight, 1,200 calories a day [2] is the bare mininum, but very active folks concerned about hitting a wall will have to eat much more than that.

Once you determine the right number of calories [3] to support your needs, make sure to hit it daily to keep your body fueled and energized. Regularly underconsuming calories can deplete your glycogen stores, and make you more likely to bonk during a workout.

Mid-Workout: Grab a Sports Drink or Gel

If you feel like you're on the edge or have officially bonked out, there's an easy cure: a sports drink. According to Runner's World, as little as 50 grams of carbohydrates [4] can bring your brain back to normal in 10 or 15 minutes. Getting plenty of water is essential, but replenishing your body's electrolytes and glycogen levels with a smart sports drink, gel, or chew can help you skip the bonk and stay on course.

Post-Workout: Replenish With Protein and Carbs

To prevent future bonking breakouts, adequately refueling and replenishing your muscles after a workout puts your body in the healthiest position to safely recover and do it all again! Within 30 minutes of intense exercise, it's important to eat a blend of protein and carbs for maximum muscle-glycogen replenishment. Chocolate milk or this banana almond coconut smoothie [5] are both ideal recovery drinks, since they both provide you with the recommended 4:1 ratio of carbs [6] to protein to repair and strengthen muscles.

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