We have all been through a ride where every last calorie seems to have been squeezed out of our muscles. Usually this occurs in the middle of a ride, or the tail end of it – where the hardest part of the trip has already passed, and you’re perhaps riding home or just reached the trailhead.

Why we bonk

Think of your body as a 3 stage rocket. While exerting yourself, your body’s energy stores are depleted in this order. First, calories in your blood stream as well as your digestive tract are used up, and these represent ready-to-burn energy available for your immediate disposal. These are responsible for your immediate output of energy.

After you’ve burnt through these however, your body turns next to glycogen, found in your muscles and liver cells. This is a longer-lasting source of energy, and consequently fuels your endurance and stamina through most of your ride.

Finally, when your glycogen stores are used up, your body begins to metabolise body fat in adipose cells for energy. This takes much longer than the 2 stages described above – and as a result lasts much longer, taking up to 3 days to reach full efficiency, and in the worst case, you begin burning protein, found in your muscles, to prevent your body from starving.

Now, obviously, as much as you would like to lose weight, you’ll want to avoid the 3rd stage. Here’s some ways to get enough energy to continue your ride home or survive the rest of your day.

#1. Kick back into gear with caffeine

Caffeine, found in coffee, tea and the principal ingredient in energy or sports beverages, can lead to a powerful surge in your energy levels and beat fatigue back. Beware, however, as this is a short-term solution. A typical adult takes about 3 to 4 hours to metabolise half of the caffeine in his or her body through the liver, which means you feel only half the effects of caffeine in about that time.

And too much caffeine can lead to headaches, tremors, nervousness, irritability, and increased sensitivity, which means you might find yourself snapping at your fellow riders for no apparent reason!

#2. Shake your way back to life

Protein and fruit juice shakes are a source of concentrated energy and nutrients that can really kickstart your engine. The sugar content in these alone can give you a sugar-high that boosts your energy levels. Note that however, these sugar-highs are temporary as the sugar is rapidly broken down and absorbed into the body, and may leave you feeling even more tired later on.

Combine your favourite fruit juice with a protein powder however, such as soy protein or spirulina, and you’ll have an ideal situation for your body. The protein powders prevent the sugar from being broken down too quickly and contribute to steady blood sugar levels, elevating you out of a bonk and providing a buzz that lasts until you get home.

#3. Power up with energy drinks and bars

Energy drinks and snack bars are marketed as energy-boosters that you can buy off the shelf in stores to boost your mental and physical performance. The main ingredients in many of the more popular drinks are caffeine and taurine. But although taurine has been shown to reduce muscle fatigue, there is no clear evidence that you can get a boost of energy from it.

There’s probably no harm though, but as with all food and drinks, it is always best to consume these in moderation. The main reason why snack bars work is an abundance of quickly absorbed sugar, so be mindful that you don’t spiral back into lethargy after a while.

#4. Soup up with supplements & chicken essence

It is not entirely clear how chicken essence works to boost mental clarity and relieve mental fatigue. However, scientific studies have revealed that its effects are said to include the control of anxiety, the promotion of attention span and memory, reduction of blood pressure in anxiety-prone individuals, and higher recovery rates from mental fatique.

Supplements too can help maintain your energy levels pre and post-rides. A regular regime of multi-vitamins and supplements that are said to complement wakefulness and promote general well-being can be your key to avoiding a mid-ride bonk by keeping you mentally sharp all day long.

Apart from the things you can eat or drink, there are also things you can do to keep yourself going.



Most people are shallow breathers, which is worsened by sitting on a saddle for hours on end. Breathing in shallow breaths reduce the amount of oxygen that is delivered to your brain, and is the precursor to fatigue and what sets us yawning. Learn a meditation exercise that teaches you how to take deep breaths!

Sleep well the night before

No matter what you do, nothing can make you more energetic if you’re sleeping poorly. Tackle the sleepy problem at its cause to give your ride performance the wakefulness it deserves.

And don’t forget that it isn’t absolutely necessary to stuff yourself at every meal.

While you are riding after a heavy meal, blood is diverted away from your brain and muscles to the intestinal tract to aid digestion. That could explain why instead of feeling energised, you feel tired instead. The next meal  or snack is probably less than 6 hours away, so aim for feeling 2/3rd full instead. Anyway, how is it possible to ride with a full stomach? Your gut will be in the way!