What should you do if you get the hunger knock?

21. September 2017

If you suddenly experience a slump in performance during a sporting activity, a lack of carbohydrates is usually responsible. How can you prevent this from happening?

Do you know the feeling? You’ve been running or cycling for two to three hours, when suddenly, from one moment to the next, you feel lethargic and weak, as if your plug has been pulled? 

This is usually because your body has used up its entire carbohydrate reserves and your blood sugar level has dropped sharply as a result. It’s not so bad if this happens in the office. If it happens when you’re doing sports, however, it makes itself felt through a rapid slump in performance, weakness, lack of motivation, as well as dizziness and discomfort. 

No nutrition is necessary for up to one hour

Those who only go jogging or do sports for one hour require neither a special nutrition strategy nor food or fluids during this time. However, after one hour of sports you should drinks fluids, and ideally not only water but a sports drink that contains carbohydrates. In contrast to sweet drinks, which usually contain a carbohydrate concentration of around 12%, sports drinks only have around 6% of carbohydrates. This concentration guarantees quick absorption by the body, which is the reason why apple spritzer (1:1 diluted apple juice, whereby the carbohydrate content is reduced from 12% to 6%) is highly popular in sports.

To ensure your carbohydrate reserves are maintained for as long as possible when doing extensive sports, you should fill up well in advance through so-called carbo-loading. When it comes to longer periods of exertion, you also need to ingest carbohydrates (solid or liquid) on a regular basis, and also adapt the intensity. The higher the intensity, the quicker the carbohydrate reserves are used up.

Should a hunger knock occur despite taking precautions, quickly digestible carbohydrates will help you to get back on your feet. For example, gels, glucose, or even simple sugar cubes; the main thing is that it’s sweet! In an emergency, a nut croissant, doughnut, or Schoggistängeli (nut and chocolate bar) from the next bakery will also help. The advantage of sports drinks and gels is that their carbohydrates have a different composition. They thus stagger the supply of energy (long and short-chain carbohydrates) to the body and thus avoid an abrupt drop in blood sugar levels. Pure glucose may help to bridge a hunger knock, however, the blood sugar level will drop very quickly again after a short time unless you top up with new carbohydrates.