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Bonking: Causes, Symptoms, And How Endurance Athletes Can Prevent It

EndurElite Chief Endurance Officer Matt Mosman discusses what bonking is, the likely culprit is (hypoglycemia) and how endurance athletes can prevent it from happening to them.

Video Transcription:

Bonking, Hypoglycemia, And How Runners, Cyclists, OCR, And Other Endurance Athletes Can Prevent It From Happening.

Good morning, family of fast. Matt Mosman the chief endurance officer over at EndurElite. Do you ever roll out of bed first thing in the morning, you put your exercise clothes on and you head out for like a run or a ride and immediately you feel light headed, you feel dizzy, you feel a grumbling in your stomach and you're just downright hangry, and if you a saw a deer on the side of the road, you would swear you would chase that son of a bitch down just to satisfy your hunger? If so, you may be hungover. Okay, just kidding. If all these symptoms are happening to you, you may be experiencing hypoglycemia. Now, it maybe for other reasons that this is happening, but for the purposes of this video let's talk about hypoglycemia a little bit as far as what it is and how can you prevent it from happening to you. 

What Is Hypoglycemia And What Causes It?

Now, hypoglycemia in the simplest sense is low blood sugar or low blood glucose. And a lot of symptoms of hypoglycemia are the lightheadedness, the dizziness, the hangry feeling you have in your stomach, and it can happen for a lot of different reasons. You know, if you wake up first thing in the morning, you roll out of bed, basically you haven't eaten for eight to ten hours depending on how long you sleep. So, blood glucose is decreased. It can also happen if you, you know, don't eat any kind of food between meals, like, say you go four or six hours stretch without eating anything, hypoglycemia can happen too. And also it can happen during longer endurance races as glycogen becomes depleted and blood glucose is down and you're not consuming enough carbohydrates to replace that glucose. So, hypoglycemia just sitting around by itself sucks. But when you exercise and you're hypoglycemic it sucks even more. So, what can you do about it?

How To Prevent Hypoglycemia In The Morning

So let's talk about this in three stages. If you're the type of person that wakes up early in the morning, here's what you wanna do. The night before, I would suggest eating a higher carbohydrate snack before you go to bed to top off your glycogen stores. Now, first thing in the morning, you want to get some food or energy in you from high glycemic foods. Meaning, they're basically quick digesting. They're gonna elevate blood sugar, so that when you head out for a run, you're blood glucose is a little bit elevated. Now, I would suggest something either a gel or a juice or a piece of fruit, and eat that about, if you can, like, 30 minutes before you head out the door in the morning. Now if you absolutely can't do that because you got three kids, a busy job and stuff like that and you literally have to get out of the door right away first thing in the morning, like, within five minutes, I would suggest, like, taking a gel real quick with a sip of water and then heading out the door. So that's how you can prevent hypoglycemia in most cases if you exercise first thing in the morning. 

How To Prevent Hypoglycemia Between Meals

Now, what about between meals? Well basically, here's how you wanna time that. Like, say you usually workout after work, you wanna time your lunch and make it a higher carbohydrate lunch with a protein and eat that about three to four hours before you know you're gonna workout. So about 200 to 300 grams of carbs, a little bit of protein, a little bit of fat, and then within 30 minutes of going to your workout, again just take a quick digesting carbohydrate, again, like a gel, a piece of fruit or something like that. 

How To Prevent Hypoglycemia During Endurance Races Like The Marathon

Lastly, to prevent hypoglycemia during endurance exercise, especially as you go above the hour to two hour mark and you had a meal before that going in to the workout, what you really wanna do here is depending on the length and intensity of the exercise, I would shoot to consume about 30 up to 90 grams of carbs an hour during prolonged endurance exercise. Now, for under two hours you're probably gonna be okay with 30 grams of carbs an hour. You go two to four hours, you're probably gonna be good or looking at about 60 grams of carbs an hour. And then as you go on to the ultra endurance type stuff, you know, four hours plus, you're gonna shoot for about 90 grams of carbs an hour which is a lot and takes some training of the gut which we'll discuss in another video. But basically, that'll keep blood glucose levels elevated, hopefully spare muscle glycogen later down the line, so you have the energy and you won't, you know, go hypoglycemic.

What If You Absolutely Can't Eat Before Exercise

Now, the last question is some people absolutely can't eat or drink before they go out the door first thing in the morning or right before a workout or they may just do the endurance exercise in a fasted state. Well, your body is pretty darn clever actually, and it will get energy from the stored glycogen, and then also during exercise and when you're in kind of like fasted state, your body's able to use certain amino acids, the main one being alanine to produce glucose. So the point here been is if you go into endurance exercise in a fasted state, yeah, that first 15 minutes might really suck and you might get hypoglycemic until your body can actually start taking over and break down glycogen, release glucose in the blood and use the amino acids for energy as well. So again, you may not, you know...you may get hypoglycemic within that first 15 minutes, but after that it may be okay. It really just depends on the person. 

At the end of the day though, like, you really wanna experiment with having carbohydrates within the hour before endurance exercise. In a lot of cases, I would say for the majority of the population it is very beneficial for elevating blood glucose. But for some people it will have a little more negative response, it will actually make them more hypoglycemic, and this is due to a role that insulin plays that we won't get into. But the main point been is experiment with carbs right before exercise and see if it works basically to increase your performance or make you feel better during the run or if it's not gonna be good for you at all. I mean, really people differ the way they metabolize certain things and everybody is not the same. So again, experiment with carbohydrate consumption about an hour before exercise. See if it works for you. 

So, that is all I have on hypoglycemia today. If you have a buddy that gets absolutely hangry during their endurance exercise, please share this video with them. If you want other videos like this on endurance training, nutrition and supplementation, subscribe to the EndurElite YouTube channel or head on over to the EndurElite blog at www.endurelite.com. Get social with us on Instagram and our Facebook training and nutrition club page. And until next time my endurance friends, stay fueled, stay focused, stay fast, and stay informed.

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