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The term bonk for cyclingfatigue is presumably derived from the original meaning "to hit", and dates back at least half a century. A 2005 video issued by the British Transport Films Collection contains several old films, one of which entitled "Cyclists Special", a color film produced in 1955, tells the story of a party of cyclists touring the English countryside. At one point they stop for refreshments and the film's commentator states that if they didn't rest and eat they would get "the bonk".
The term is used colloquially both as a noun ("hitting the bonk") and a verb ("to bonk halfway through the race"). The condition is also known to long-distance (marathon) runners, who usually refer to it as "hitting the wall". The British may refer to it as "hunger knock," while "hunger bonk" was used by South African cyclists in the 1960s.
The rising levels of serotonin are caused by increased delivery of tryptophan to the brain. What’s interesting, Davis says, is that the increase in free tryptophan in the blood is very much related to the increase in free fatty acids in the blood. “While many people believe that the increase in free fatty acids is very important to delaying fatigue in the muscle,” says Davis, “we think it has a negative effect in terms of central fatigue.”
To make matters worse for the marathon runner, the brain’s production of dopamine (the neurotransmitter responsible for generating feelings of excitement, reward, motivation, and pleasure) begins to drop even as serotonin levels are rising, which can be the cause of the mental voices in your head telling you "I can't do it" according to Luis Manzo, Ph.D., a sports psychologist and running coach in New York City,which he wrote in Against the wall