Ever experienced the rather awful feeling of having your body shut down on you during exercise, a race or sporting endeavour?

Ever found yourself in the middle of a particularly intense workout or run, and felt physically unable to push yourself any further?

Hitting the wall is real. It happens and you can no longer continue. Your body is unable to go on, your mind is a muddle and your energy has crashed.

What is ‘hitting the wall’?

Most of us will feel challenged when we exercise, and while it can be possible to break through mental barriers (we’re a big fan of self-pep talks for this one), sometimes it can feel impossible to tell your body to continue when it physically can’t continue.

Put simply, you fatigue during your workout and run into the proverbial wall, unable to continue.

When you hit a wall during intense physical activity (or, as endurance athletes refer to it, if you ‘bonk’!), it is easy to want to give up. You will be disorientated and extremely tired.

As your muscles and liver start to experience glycogen depletion, your whole body is affected. You might start to feel overwhelming full-body fatigue, or heavy legs – you might even experience dizziness or hallucinations.

Fear not, you can minimise your risks of ‘bonking’ and running out of the essential sugars and carbohydrates required for energy-sapping endeavour.

Fuel yourself properly, with these basic tips, and you will reduce your chances of hitting that wall!

Beforehand: eat right and eat enough

An intense workout requires the right amount of fuel to keep you moving. 

If you are a female of average body and build and attempting to lose weight, then as a rule of thumb you should consume roughly 1200-1500 calories per day (but not less). This will depending on a number of factors such as your gender, age and size.

The NHS in the UK suggests that approximately 2000 calories per day is a ‘typical calorific intake’ for females who are not dieting or consciously attempting weight loss (and 2500 calories for men).

However, a major factor to consider when determining your recommended calorie consumption for weight loss are your levels of movement and activity.

If you’re like us at SmartPlay (and most of our readers), then you enjoy exercise and fitness activities and will need considerably more than 1500 calories per day to give you the energy you need to keep going.

Everyone is different though, so listen to your body over time, calculate what your body requires, and stick to it.

Regularly under-consuming calories can deplete your glycogen stores, and make it all the more likely that you’ll run out of steam during a workout – so make sure that you’re eating enough.

Try and get some protein and a decent hit of nutrients into your body before you exercise. If you are about to do a workout or go for a run, you probably won’t want anything too heavy. Something like a couple of energy-boosting Bliss Balls, or maybe a slice of High Protein Banana Bread will give you the lift you need to get moving without hitting the wall.

During exercise: consider electrolytes

On the edge of hitting the wall? Feel it coming on in waves?

At this point, it’s not only essential to get plenty of water (hydrate, hydrate and HYDRATE!), but you should also replenish your body’s electrolytes and glycogen levels.

If you’re in the middle of a particularly long and difficult chunk of exercise, then you may want to consider topping up with a sports drink or gel to keep you on course.

A young woman taking a break from exercise to rehydrate so she can avoid hitting the wall.

Afterwards: protein and carbs

Help your body to recover post-exercise and to potentially avoid future ‘bonking’ by adequately refuelling your muscles. 

Within 30 minutes of intense exercise, your best bet at properly replenishing your glycogen levels is to eat a blend of protein and carbs

A small amount of low fat chocolate milk can be great for this as it will give your body the recommended 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein to help repair and strengthen your muscles.

We’re big believers in protein supplements at this point too.

Post-exercise, one of the easiest ways to refuel is with a nutrient-packed Protein Shake, but if you fancy something a little more substantial, a fruit and seeds rich Protein Bowl maybe be more to your liking.

Of course, if you’ve really gone hard at the gym, you may want to reward yourself with a treat that is both healthy AND high in protein and other good things. A hearty snack like our easy banana oats protein pancakes is great for when you crave something sweet, but want to keep it nourishing.

Similarly, the promise of a chunk of chocolate brownie (with added hazlenut and protein powder) is a great incentive to give your exercise session additional effort. You know you will be well rewarded!


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