Is bonking good for training?

Believe it or not, a well-respected exercise scientist has suggested that it may be beneficial to exercise regularly in training. Bonk or bonking refers to the point at which glycogen stores are depleted. Cyclists call it cursed, endurance runners call it hitting the wall. Bonk training burns more fat and can improve training adaptations and fat burning.

Although it's a potentially fruitful strategy, it's different from trying to overcome a stroke without feeding because you still have glycogen in reserve. Poor Mark was, at the time, suffering with a severe 'hunger floor' - sometimes called a 'bonk' or 'hitting the wall' - because we had been riding for several hours and his body had started to run critically low on stored energy to supply his working muscles. While there doesn't seem to be full consensus on exactly how low your glycogen stores can fall before a hit takes full effect (what constitutes the exact point at which it explodes is, at the end of the day, something of a subjective call), Bob Murray suggests that performance will certainly be affected when drops below 50% of stores and is massively committed to 25% in this excellent podcast on the subject. But the ultimate performance benefits have already been questioned, and a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition presents two more obvious reasons to avoid the hit, or at least approach it with care.

Let's not forget everything bad, a regrettable pot of dehydration, training errors, gastric problems and nutrition errors. Constant bonk training is disadvantageous, and the best training strategy will likely involve a combination of both types of training. Chances are you're not ready for your own body mutiny, in other words, to have sex. Sure, a sports drink balanced with electrolytes might be ideal, but many bonk-savvy cyclists recognize the sugar, caffeine and water trifecta of an icy Coca Cola as “survival in a can.

Either way, carbohydrate loading avoids the classic muscle glycogen hit, in which the body apparently runs out of available sugar and begins to burn an even greater proportion of fat in fuel, a process that, because it must first convert fats to sugars, involves 20 metabolic steps in compared to 10 or more to burn glucose. Most of the time, after a few years of driving in fast groups, the blow comes in the form of reduced torque and nothing else. Therefore, bonk training results in greater training adaptations (due to IL-) than training in a glycogen-packed state. Even if you eat a lot of carbohydrates and slow down to try to recover, the damage is usually done and you won't return to pre-stroke production levels very quickly.

So if you have a restrictive eating plan, take regular sex as a signal to increase your daily calorie intake. Physiologically speaking, a stroke occurs when glycogen stores are depleted to the point where they can no longer adequately supply working muscles with the fuel needed to produce energy or maintain blood glucose levels. To see if the brain is to blame for the catch, the scientists had the athletes exercise until they thought they had hit the wall.

Dolores Blicker
Dolores Blicker

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