Endurance athletes know how to remedy the effects of the “bonk” and how to avoid them all together. Ensuring that you’re preparing days before a long ride or run by hydrating and ingesting carbohydrate rich foods will maximize glycogen levels going into the event and continuing to consume carb rich foods and drinks during the event will help to prevent bonking before the finish line.
A common term with cyclists and endurance runners “to bonk” is more widely referred to as “hitting the wall” which is when an athlete reaches a level of physical exhaustion that prevents them from continuing. The first identified reference to getting “the bonk” was in 1955 in “Cyclists Special”, a color film in the British Transport Films Collection which follows a group of cyclists across the English countryside. While initially a cyclists reference, bonking is now common with all endurance athletes and refers to the physical affects during a ride or run where the intensity is continually high for a period longer than a few hours and you have hit a physical limit, your legs turn to cement, your entire body fatigues, experiencing dizziness and in extreme cases hallucinations. This experience is a physical response to the depletion of glycogen stores in the muscles and liver and is not controlled by your mind or will-power. Immediate relief can be achieved for mild cases in brief rest and the ingestion of carbohydrate rich foods or drinks while more severe cases will require longer rest and attention.