Pre- and Post-Fueling

bonk (verb) : 1 knock or hit (something) so as to cause a reverberating sound

2 [this website shall remain PG (for now), so go look up the second definition yourself]

3 (of a cyclist or runner) reach a point of exhaustion that makes one unable to go further

It’s the third definition that, God willing, you’ve never experienced.  It’s quite unenjoyable, and usually leaves one internally shouting expletives to their barely moving body parts. 

The culprit?  9 times out of 10, it’s poor fueling. So, let’s take a brief look at how to prevent the dreaded bonk, and even more, how to best prepare and recover from training.

Key Considerations:

  1. 1. Just because your BFF at the gym has a bowl of oatmeal in the morning and sails effortlessly through her workout, doesn’t mean you’ll reap the same rewards.  Everyone’s body, more specifically GI tract, handles food differently.  Trial and error is sometimes necessary before you find the right fuel.
  2. 2.If you’re performing a light training day, your fueling will look different from the day(s) when you’re power output or endurance are greater. 


1-4 hours before, a mixed meal (carbs, lean protein, healthy fats) with the emphasis on carbohydrates.  For most folks (hard-core athletes excluded) 1-2.5 grams carb/kg body weight is ideal (less carb/calories the closer you are to your workout).  Ideas: oatmeal with walnuts and 2 hard boiled egg whites, 1/2-1 wheat bagel with 1 Tbsp peanut butter, left over chicken stir-fry, left-over whole wheat pasta with sauce and lean meat.

15-30 minutes pre-training:  Easily digestible carb source. Banana, sports drink, fat-free fruited yogurt, gel or 1/2-1 sports bar.  Again, you’re going to have to experiment with this one.  Also, recent research suggests that adding a little fast-absorbing whey protein isolate to your pre-training beverage or snack increases lean muscle gains as much as consuming it after training.  Hmm...something to consider.


Going back to consideration #2.  If you do a light training day, just wait until your next balanced meal or snack to “recover.”  However, if you perform moderate to intense or endurance training, you’ll need to replenish your muscle and liver glycogen, and protect your lean muscle mass from being gobbled up.

After 45 minutes-1 hour of exhaustive training, 0.7-1 gram/kg.  For 90 minutes or more, 1.2-1.5 grams/kg.  Protein with carbohydrate doesn’t increase glycogen resynthesis, but has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis.  A 3/1 or 4/1 carb/protein ratio is ideal.  Ideas: Sports drink with whey protein, fruit smoothie, fat-free fruited yogurt and banana. 

About 2 hours later, a meal with 1.2-1.5 grams carb/kg, lean protein, and healthy fat is also very important to continue the recovery process for those hard-core trainers.

Of course, there is “during” fueling that’s critical, too.  Every 45 minutes-1 hour of extended, moderate-high intensity training, 30-60 grams of carb will do the trick.  Avoid fructose, shoot for sucrose, glucose, or glucose polymers.  This is one of the biggest fueling “must do’s” to avoid the bonk. Be prepared!

Remember!  Everyone is different, and therefore needs and tolerance are different as well.  Contact your trusted dietitian for a plan that is most appropriate for you and your training needs.  :-)

Train on.  Fuel well.