You forgot to bring enough food, or maybe the ride was harder or longer than you expected. Whatever the reason, you’re completely depleted and feel useless and exhausted. Bonking—fatigue resulting from muscle glycogen depletion—will happen to every cyclist at some point. Once you’re off the bike and sitting deliriously on your couch, follow these steps to speed up your recovery and get back to normal.
While hydration might seem like an obvious course of action when you immediately get off the bike, its important for the hours after the ride as well. If you’ve pushed yourself to your limit you almost certainly haven’t replaced all the fluid you’ve lost during your ride. Throw your favorite electrolyte powder or tabs in your bottle and continue to hydrate regularly for the rest of the day. Quick sugars and proteins will help you in your recovery so if you can, grab yourself some juice or chocolate milk before you get home.
Your glycogen stores have been completely expended. Sometimes you’ll feel ravenous after a bonk, other times you’ll feel a bit sick or have a lack of appetite. Regardless of how you feel, it’s important to eat as soon as possible to get your body feeling back to normal. Ideally, you should be eating a nice balance of carbs and protein, such as pasta with chicken, a peanut butter sandwich or eggs on rice. In practice, these foods might not be immediately available, especially if you weren’t expecting to feel this exhausted and depleted after your ride. The most important part of recovering from a bonk is eating to restore your glycogen stores, so get some food where you can and dig in.
3. Skip the post-ride beer
You might feel like you deserve a drink right now, but a post-ride beer will not help you feel any better. The alcohol can act as a diuretic will actually dehydrate you further, hindering your re-hydration process (and possibly giving you a headache). Alcohol also inhibits muscle repair and glycogen repletion, impairing recovery.
Try an get out of any afternoon plans if you can. Your body needs time to repair and recover, so, if possible, taking a little nap after you eat or lying down on the couch is the ideal course of action.
5. Think about why you bonked
Now is a good time to think back on the circumstances of your ride; When did you start to feel exhaustion and how much nutrition did you bring/consume? Use this experience as a lesson when planning nutrition and hydration for your next ride.