Bonking – Get your nutrition right

It’s a strange world that of a cycle shop. You’d think that the number one topic would be kit, well it has an important place as riders either embarking on a lifelong passion for cycling or they discover the way to buy  success or personal gratification. However, Quest Adventure is a little different. A while ago the S.I.S. rep was in and while he expounded the benefits of his latest product I looked up how may SIS gels we sold. It was around 360 for each flavour over a year. He expressed surprise and said that it was an indication of the type of customer we had. They were athletes. They took their sport seriously.

Nutrition for the South Downs Way
This, in that order, plus a salami sandwich and some malt loaf got me through the 160K of the South Downs Way.

Now we often find some of our male customers discussing their weight (or lack of it) and how they are controlling it, or the number of calories in olive oil or how they can consume over 100 grams of protein per day. I say male customers as, to date, none of the 30% of our bike customers who are women have discussed their weight and diet with me – yet.

One such customer has taken his diet way too far and he told us about his 2,000 calories a day and no proteins – nature’s building blocks. He is losing weight, training hard and, as you’d expect is getting slower. So, as our dieter, Simon, drifted back, our conversation turned to food and this tough group of riders began sharing recipes. We don’t discuss hardware, riding: yes, kit: no. It was really windy that day and as Chris and I continued to drive on into the 40mph head wind I boasted of my “fast” rides (fast – not eating before a ride). I also bragged that since October I had had no gels, bars or energy powder in my drinks. I didn’t need them. Or so I thought.

For the last four months I have made a point of trying to ride easier. I was happy to stop and chat and generally cruise. But it is now late February, we’ve done our first race and all my mates have got faster.

I should have spotted the signs: I was so tired after my race, I’ve missed most of the Tuesday Night Thrashes, the previous Sunday’s ride was really tough and I got dropped on Tuesday. I have slowed down! I need to get some power back.

Back to that Sunday, I felt fine in the queue to do the Denture at Whyteways. Believe it or not there were three groups of four riders there at 8:30 am in the cold and wet. I took a gel. Why I wondered. We blasted through the forest and down the singletrack of Houghton Hill when it happened. I couldn’t overtake with wind behind, I began to struggle. I started losing control on the mud. My hands felt numb. My feet got cold. My arms hurt so much I could hardly hold on. I was in pain. As for my legs: agony with every pedal stroke. I was bonking and bonking bad.

A week later was different, pasta the night before, banana and toast for breakfast, energy drink in my pack and two gels during the ride. I did not bonk but I did suffer. They say no pain no gain so judging by Sinday’s effort I should have gained a lot. We’ll see.

You are what you eat so think about your daily diet (but be reasonable) and plan you nutrition on your rides.

Here are the rides: Bonking Bad – Whiteways and back, and The South Downs Rough Ride (30 mins off my PB!). Both good rides, the later is great if you are training for tough road rides too.


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