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How do I stop cycling bonking?

This question is about Cycling
Elle Penner, MPH, RD
If you’re trying to stop cycling bonking, fueling strategically before and during your ride can be the difference between setting a new PR and crashing midway through. Here’s when and what you should eat to stop cycling bonking:
  • 2-4 hours before: Eat a full, carbohydrate-rich meal 2-4 hours before your ride, preferably one that contains complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fat. Eating carbohydrates before a workout helps top off glycogen stores and provides readily-available fuel for working muscles when you get on the bike [1]. 
  • 15-30 minutes before: Have a small snack that consists mostly of easily digestible carbohydrates that are low in fiber, protein and fat. Some good options include a banana, 8-ounces of a sports drink, or an energy gel [1]. 
  • During: If you’ll be on the bike 90 minutes or more, aim to consume 10-20 grams of carbohydrates and 4-ounces of electrolyte-enhanced fluids every 20 minutes (for a total of 30-60 g/carbs and 12-ounces fluid/hour) to keep energy and hydration levels up [1, 2,3].
woman with orange helmet cycling

References

  1. Mata, F., Valenzuela, P. L., Gimenez, J., Tur, C., Ferreria, D., Domínguez, R., Sanchez-Oliver, A. J., & Martínez Sanz, J. M. (2019). Carbohydrate Availability and Physical Performance: Physiological Overview and Practical Recommendations. Nutrients, 11(5), 1084. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11051084 
  2. Backes, T. P., & Fitzgerald, K. (2016). Fluid consumption, exercise, and cognitive performance. Biology of sport, 33(3), 291–296. https://doi.org/10.5604/20831862.1208485
  3. Kerksick, C.M., Wilborn, C.D., Roberts, M.D. et al. ISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: research & recommendations. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 15, 38 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-018-0242-y