5 Tips for Avoiding the Bonk

Now that we’ve hit the 12-week countdown until The San Francisco Marathon, it’s time to line yourself up for success against the dreaded wall.

For anyone who’s ever bonked during a workout, the feelings of dizziness, heavy legs and brain fog are all things you want to avoid at all costs! “Bonking” or “hitting the wall” are both commonly used terms to describe a sudden and sharp drop in mental and physical energy during exercise.

Running coach & exercise scientist Greg McMillan shares his tips on how to avoid bonking and how UCAN (the Official Pre & Post Race Nutrition of The San Francisco Marathon) will help you maintain steady energy levels to finish your runs strong:

Here are 5 training & nutrition strategies to help you avoid the dreaded wall!

1. Keep Your Blood Sugar Stable

Your blood sugar levels determine your energy levels. When your blood sugar fluctuates, your energy does the same. If you have big swings in energy, you are much more likely to become fatigued during a sustained effort. The traditional strategy of fueling with simple carbs like bananas, bagels, sports drinks or gels before your run will cause a big initial spike in blood sugar, followed by a crash, which doesn’t set you up to get through your run feeling good.

In recent years, alternative fueling strategies with complex carbohydrates have become more popular as a way to sustain energy levels for longer. Having a slow-releasing carb source like UCAN before your run helps keep your blood sugar stable, avoid the spike & the crash, and provides long-lasting energy to keep you fueled and feeling good..

2. Happy Brain = Happy Body

If you have a significant drop in blood sugar, then your brain will not be happy and it will start to tell you that you can’t continue. This can be one of the causes of hitting the wall. If you can keep your brain happy so it doesn’t perceive your race pace for the race distance as a significant threat, it will help power your body along to the finish.

3. Become a Better Fat Burner

We all have exponentially more stored fat available as fuel compared to stored carbohydrate (glycogen). By restricting the intake of simple sugars before and during long workouts, you can tap into your body’s fat stores and use them to fuel your workout. Pairing this nutrition strategy with long, slow runs or carbohydrate-depleted runs for advanced runners promotes efficient fat burning. Avoiding blood sugar and insulin spikes post run also promotes better fat burning. Avoid the temptation to have something sugary after your run and recover with slower-burning carbs like UCAN + protein to replenish your glycogen, repair your muscles, and continue burning fat.

4. Find and Improve Your Bonk Point

To find your bonk point, see how long it takes to run until exhaustion in training. Bonking isn’t just about fatigue. It’s the point where you cannot maintain your pace and have slowed significantly. To improve your bonk point, start challenging it every seven to 14 days. Advanced runners, who have proven that they can complete a distance and want to finish faster, can improve their bonk point with no-carb runs lasting 80-90% of their bonk point.

5. Happy Stomach

A lot of runners find that their stomach can’t handle the traditional fueling recommendations of taking in fast-acting carbohydrates like sugar-based gels, chews, and drinks every 15-20 minutes. When you experience GI distress during a sustained effort, it’s difficult to consume the fuel you need. This puts you at a much higher risk of bonking. Fueling with a slow-burning energy source like UCAN to start your run allows your body to need less fuel for the first 60-90 minutes, so you’re consuming less calories over your long run and minimizing your chances of GI distress.

Check it Out! UCAN has created a specially-discounted SF Marathon UCAN Sample Pack for our runners, offering a chance to try our pre- & post-race products for 50% off + free shipping! Now is a great time to incorporate UCAN into your training plan and avoid the bonk!

UCAN Sample Pack for The San Francisco Marathon

About the Author: Greg McMillan is a runner, exercise scientist and coach with the unique ability to combine the science of endurance performance with the art of real-world coaching. He has worked with Olympians, Boston Marathon qualifiers and new runners training for their first race. The bulk of his athletes are everyday runners balancing work, family and other commitments with their running.

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