Hitting the Wall

Is this you?

Is this you?

Ok, so you’re killing your workout at the gym, you’re feeling pretty good about life, jamming to your music, getting a good sweat going, and wait . . . that sweat doesn’t feel so good after all. You started feeling a little dizzy on the last set, but surely that was because you were really bringing it—you know, that icky exertion dizziness. But now, you’ve stopped your set and that feeling is still there. Cold clamminess spreads down your back across your skin, and a wave of nausea washes over you. Your heart starts racing as the sounds around you fade, and your fingers shake as you reach for your water—is this it? Are you really going to yak right there in front of everybody? For anyone standing in your 3-ft. radius, let’s hope not! You, my friend, have just hit the wall.

Exercise-Induced Hypoglycemia

This aptly named, totally gross-feeling phenomenon has another familiar name—exercise-induced hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Tales of this wall-hitting, or bonking, abound among runners, cyclists, and marathoners, but take it from me (who is none of these things)—it can very easily happen to you. All it takes is an unusual amount of activity one has not nutritionally planned for, or simply a normal amount of exertion in a poorly fed body.

What’s Really Going On?

The body’s main source of fuel is glucose, found most abundantly in carbohydrates. When you eat, the body stores glucose as glycogen in the muscles and the liver, ready to be used when needed. If you have not eaten well enough to fuel your body’s activities and replenish those precious glycogen stores, when you engage in high-intensity and/or endurance exercise, your body will tear through those energy stores and your blood sugar will soon plummet into those nasty “sugar shakes.” Depending on your own biochemistry, you may experience fatigue, nausea, shakiness, chills, clamminess, rapid heartbeat, fogginess, or inability to think clearly. Left untreated, these symptoms could progress into vomiting, disorientation, irregular heartbeat, and coma (especially dangerous for diabetics).

fuel up

The Solution

If you find yourself in the middle of this yuck-inducing episode during an event or other social occasion, ask for help. Tell someone around you what’s going on and that you need quick sugar—orange juice, chocolate milk, crackers, bread, or in extreme cases, candy. Something your body can digest FAST! I still remember this happening to me . . . twice . . . at a small gym I used to frequent. Once, I had to go search for the one staff member still there that night and beg for crackers. The next time, I thankfully had squirreled away an amazingly delicious chocolate chip cookie from work that day, and I ran down to my car to scarf it down. I’ve rarely been so embarrassed—I felt like some pathetic character having a crisis-point sugar binge in some after-school special right before she was wheeled away to a recovery program. All because I couldn’t be bothered to eat well enough before working out. I’ve learned my lesson—I always carry some little bar in my gym bag in case of another lapse in planning.

Fill Your Tank!

Even better is fueling up appropriately before working out. Here are a few good snacks to think about as you plan your active life:

3-4 hours before workout

  • Water
  • Oatmeal and scrambled eggs
  • Bowl of cereal
  • Yogurt
  • Baked potato
  • Rice with beans or other protein source
  • Pasta with tomato sauce
  • Fresh fruit
  • Bagel or bread
  • Sandwich with lean protein and cheese

good snakcs

1-2 hours before workout (trend toward lower protein, higher carb, more easily-digestible food the closer you get to your workout)

  • Water
  • Fresh fruit
  • Bread or bagel with peanut butter or jelly (or my childhood fave—PB & honey sandwich)
  • Energy bar
  • Yogurt
  • Bowl of cereal
  • Granola

30 minutes before workout

  • Water or glucose drink
  • Fresh fruit

During your workout

  • Water or glucose drink

wall

Just be smart and take the time to feed yourself and fuel that beautiful body of yours. It will love you back, I promise.

Blessings and happy snacking!

Brooke

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