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Why You May Be “Bonking”… And How To Fix It

If you’re doing P90X or Insanity, you know they put a hit out on your endurance and leave you panting with exhaustion/mopping your floor with a towel. But just like anything, the hard work you’re putting in will pay off in big, awesome rewards. As you progress in the program, there can be times you feel like you’ve run into a wall in your workout; when you can’t summon the energy to perform the next set of moves– it’s at this point many people “bonk”.

“Bonk” isn’t a technical term but since its origin in cycling 50+ years ago, it’s become slang’s indisputable heavy-weight to describe “hitting the wall”– the moment where your body has burned through its glycogen stores (IE- it’s stored energy) and curses you for not supplying it enough fuel to get you through your workout. “Bonking” can be frustrating (and in extreme cases even dangerous) but it’s something that can easily be fixed so you can maximize your workouts and get through them with flying colors 50-90 minutes later.

Analogy time: Imagine your body as a super-tuned sports car. Think of the energy (glycogen) your body will be using to get through your workout as fuel in the tank (generally, the body can store about 380 grams of glycogen tucked away throughout various muscles). Just like a car, your body can’t drive to its destination unless it’s filled with enough gasoline/petrol do cover the distance. If your tank is only 1/4 full and it takes 1/2 a tank of gas to reach your destination, you’re going to be practicing your hitching skills when you run out of fuel halfway there. On the other hand, if you’ve filled your tank to “Full”, you’ll be able to reach your destination and then some.

That said, try these tips:

Eat More Carbs

I know adding carbs sounds scary, but… get over it. If you’ve trimmed your carbs to burn fat, your body may be adjusted and asking for more. This is a good thing, so listen up because your body is promising it won’t turn those extra carbs into fat– it wants to use them to fuel your workouts and make you look GOOD. If you’re feeling tired or lethargic by late afternoon or find you’re bonking, add another serving of carbs into your day and see how you feel. Remember, as your fitness level and intensity increases, so does the friendship between carbs and your body.

In-Flight Refueling

Recovery Drink… ahoy! You see Tony and Sean T. sipping recovery formula as they work out. In short, they’re fueling as they go, using the Recovery Drink to quickly fill depleted glycogen. Since sugar is quickly converted to stored energy (and excess stored energy converted to fat), the sugar content of of the recovery drink is just what your body needs for easily accessible energy. It’s also why you take the Recovery Drink after your workout… to refill the tank and give your body the energy it will immediately soak back up and use.

*NOTE: Your body takes a bit to absorb the Recovery Drink… if you’re bonking a half hour in and then taking the drink, you’ll have to wait at least a half hour to start feeling its effects. Better to “top off the tank” before you get started than to try and refill it on empty. On the flip side, you won’t always need the recovery drink when you’re finished, either.

QUICK TIP: Anything less than an hour of high intensity exercise probably needs only half a serving, if anything at all. Remember, listen to your body. If you’re hungry a half hour to an hour after taking in your Recovery Drink, chances are you needed it. If it keeps you full… cut back next time.

Enjoy a CLEAN Snack Before Bedtime

Going to bed hungry is dumb. There, I said it. The perils of eating at night is a hotly debated topic (much of it based off a very disputable study on lab rats fed saturated fat at night) but in my experience, I don’t subscribe to the idea what you eat at night goes straight to fat… ESPECIALLY if you workout early in the morning. You’ll have stored energy to work out on an empty stomach and that’s a plus. But take note: I’m NOT talking a calorie-rich, fat-laden super-shake before bed or eating if you’re not hungry. I’m talking about something dense and reasonable like cottage cheese with half an apple or something IF it’s been 3+ hours since you’ve last eaten. Personally, I enjoy a cup of Greek Yogurt before I hit the sack (6-8 oz.). Loaded with slow-digesting casein protein, it fuels my muscles and throws a little energy in the tank when I’m high-fiving my alarm clock at 5:30 AM.


Carbohydrates supply the quick-energy glycogen your body uses. Your workouts deplete them and as you push yourself in high intensity workouts like P90X and Insanity, you take in more oxygen and increase your heart rate, which uses more stored fuel (that glycogen we keep talking about) at a much higher rate. If your glycogen stores aren’t not stocked to with enough energy to do the job before or during your exercise, you run out of fuel and “bonk”.

Solution: Fuel your body with carbs and avoid “The Bonk”.

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2 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. Brad says:

    As always Dan a clear and easy to understand explanation… And so right, a little added carbs is really helping!

  2. Dan says:

    Thanks, Brad! Glad it helped and things are working out!

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