Evening exercise and temporarily feeling totally drained.
February 9, 2015 8:05 AM   Subscribe

I do quite a bit of sport and have done so all my life. I’ve also had this temporary ‘totally drained’ feeling all my life too but I’m not sure what it is. YANMD but I'd appreciate your input anyway...

I know I had this temporary "drained feeling" when I was a young kid (mother confirms) and have definite, clear memories of having it when playing squash in the evening with friends from age 16. I’ve never had it when mountain biking in the morning, even for long, three-hour rides except when I started riding in the evening (back from work), so it’s more of an evening thing but I have sometimes experienced it during the daytime but not when exercising. As I cycle regularly, I know the exact time it happens but as I leave at pretty much the same time, it’s unclear whether it’s after half an hour of exercise (half way home) or at 6.15-30pm. I cycle in twice a week but on the other days, I’m back home and eating with the kids – mealtime around 6.30-7.00pm. When I take the bus home, I don’t get this feeling. I’d say it happens on 2 out of 3 evening rides I do.

This is the feeling. I start to get an empty feeling in my stomach that then leads to a cold sweat and a feeling of being totally out of energy, even breathing is a hassle and I have a total muscle slouch posture where I can’t be bothered to hold up my shoulders or my face-muscles and I feel slightly spaced out and can only be bothered to say “ahhh shit I’m f*cking dead, eeeeurrrgh”. This comes on within a minute, is strong for the initial 3-4 minutes, gradually fades and then within about 10 mins it’s totally gone and I’m back to high speed biking through the woods. It was the same thing with squash.

Obviously, it seems like food or mealtimes is a factor, and I do feel the need to eat. I’ve tried eating a load of pasta at lunch, or in the afternoon, or before I leave, or eating bananas or dextrose as soon as I feel it coming on, and whatever I do it still seems to happen. The only time I think I had an extended break from it was when I tried reducing my carbs and increasing my fat intake for a couple of weeks to see if it would help me complete the 3hr+ weekend rides.

Does anyone know what it is (is it just “hitting a wall” at usual mealtime?) or have a solution to avoid it? I’m not worried by it (should I be?), it’s just a hassle to have to wait out the 10 mins whilst feeling like my battery indicator is showing “low-charge”… 40y/o Male
posted by guy72277 to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not a doctor or your doctor but this sounds like low blood sugar to me. Have you tried the bananas/dextrose before you feel this coming on? It sounds like you're eating once you feel it come on. When I get low blood sugar the banana/sugar things help me get back up but it's better to avoid it altogether obviously.
posted by zutalors! at 9:05 AM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's never happened to me because I don't do long-duration endurance stuff, but it sounds like what people have described as "bonking" (first Google cycling-related result here).

Although I wouldn't call 30 minutes long-duration, it probably does have to do with meal timing.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:14 AM on February 9, 2015

You almost certainly have low blood sugar from expending energy. If you know when this happens, eat a banana or drink a gatorade or whatever about fifteen minutes before you expect to feel this way. IANAD, and I assume you've checked with yours to make sure there's no underlying problem.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:54 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

It does sound like low blood sugar but it could also be exercise induced asthma or allergies. Food allergies can make me feel like that.
posted by myselfasme at 10:12 AM on February 9, 2015


What you describe sounds like what I feel when my blood sugar is tanks. Sometimes, it comes on suddenly, with shakes, sweats, spaciness and so on. For me, those symptoms don't spontaneously resolve. If I eat something, they improve. If that something is pure sugar, the resolution is temporary and another, harder crash is around the corner. If I include healthful fats and a bit of protein, and have carbs that are more complex, I feel better longer.

You mention a big load of pasta as something you eat to try to fend off these events. I used to do the same thing (because, you know, carbs are good). When I started distance running, I couldn't do that anymore. I tried adding lean protein, and that helped, but things didn't get noticeably better 'til I added healthful fats (salmon, kippers, sardines, avacados) and incorporated more complex carbs into my diet in general (sweet potatoes, whole wheat bread, oatmeal). I've consistently done better in half- and full-marathons when I've stuck to my pre-race meal.

During long runs and races, I use sports gels every hour or so, and usually have Hammer's Perpetuum powder in one of my water bottles. Sipping on that throughout the run helps me keep my blood sugar stable longer. One of my triathlete friends hipped me to Perpetuum, and it's magic.

You might want to see an endocrinologist and/or a dietician to figure out 1) if this is low blpod sugar 2) what's causing it (diet, fast metabolism, something else 3) How to manage it.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 10:13 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

In addition to the above suggestions, it might be from exceeding your max heart rate (I get this if I overdo it in a cardio class, especially if I've been out of class for a couple weeks, or same for really pushing it when I bike to work after some time off. You lose cardio capacity very quickly but it's easy to feel like you should start up right where you left off.)

Another suggestion is to make sure you're well hydrated. Not just while you're working out, but before.

I bike to/from work and try to have a granola bar or similar snack around 30 minutes before I leave the office (long enough for it to not be sitting heavy in my stomach) because that lunch I ate at noon is no longer around to fuel me. I also drink water at work all day.
posted by misskaz at 10:42 AM on February 9, 2015

It does sound a lot like bonking as cotton dress sock says, though half an hour is a bit early (it's usually when your glycogen stores are depleted, so 40-60mins in). Try eating a small biscuit or piece of fruit before you set off, see if it still happens. Eating when it comes on is too late, because you need to digest the food (which takes about half an hour).
posted by tinkletown at 10:48 AM on February 9, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for the info everyone. I've tried pretty much every combination of eating carbs/bananas before riding, from hours before, to 20 mins before, to when it comes on, and have not managed to avoid it. I'm going to give the lean protein, healthy fats and slow carbs diet a go, plus make sure I'm sufficiently hydrated - I don't want to get into buying powders so I'll skip those for the time being. I think I can rule out max heart rate as a cause as the feeling comes on independently of whether I'm going full steam or taking it easier. And I don't think I have any food allergies, but I'll see if there is any link between and of the foods and the drained feeling.
posted by guy72277 at 12:22 AM on February 10, 2015

In that case, time to go to the doctor.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:32 AM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

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