Honey Benefits For Athletes

The benefits of honey in endurance sports compared to highly-refined sugars is quickly becoming apparent through a lot of excellent, peer-reviewed science. No longer do athletes need to rely on the highly-refined sugars in other sports drinks. 

Recent research has shown that honey is a simple, effective and inexpensive carbohydrate alternative to the highly-refined sugars found in other sports drinks and bars.

Three of the studies were done by Richard Kreider of Baylor University.

The first trial gave 71 subjects one of seven carbohydrate gels. Honey was found to not induce hypoglycemia, producing only a mild increase in blood sugar and insulin. Kreider said honey actually is a blend of natural sugars and thus takes longer to digest than table sugar. He said this study suggested honey could “operate as a time-released muscle fuel for exercising muscles.”

The second study gave protein shakes with different sweeteners to 39 women and men after intense weight training. The honey sweetened shake was the only one to sustain blood sugar over two hours, suggesting to Kreider that honey is a good carbohydrate source to replenish muscles after a workout.

Most surprising was the third study. Nine competitive cyclists received honey, glucose or a calorie free placebo for each of three weeks, then rode a simulated 40 mile time trial. The cyclists that recieved the honey-based nutrition significantly increased power and speed over those who had the placebo.

This, said Kreider, “convinced us that honey can improve endurance exercise capacity.”

Also of importance is the glycemic index of honey. Honey has a moderate glycemic index, which Kreider measured at 43 on a scale that has white bread at 100. It is known that a high-glycemic index can cause spikes in blood sugar and energy. It is important that atheletes maintain a consistent blood-sugar level throughout their exercise and competion. This is available through honey.

As an added benefit, another study, at the University of Illonois, found that honey slowed the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL’s, the so called “bad” cholesterol) a process that leads to atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries that can bring on heart attack or cardiac arrest.