Heightened by Honey: How Honey Can Enhance Your Athletic Performance
We all wish we could sprint faster, run harder, and lift heavier. While honey isn’t going to magically transform you into a star athlete, it may still have the ability to boost your athletic performance.
Honey isn’t only popular for its delicious, natural sweetness and anti-inflammatory properties, but also for its ability to improve the physical attributes of the musculoskeletal system. In fact, it has been used for this reason for more than 5,000 years. It is honey’s predominant composition of carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins that contribute to its general health and athletic benefits.
Honey has been shown to improve bone health and boost the immune system, factors that enhance your general health and wellbeing, and athletic abilities. Whether you are an athlete, work an arduous job, or simply enjoy a leisurely walk, you can reap countless benefits of the combination of honey and exercise.
The health and sports industry can be quite overwhelming, flooded by different supplements, recommendations and suggestions, so it is hard to know what products are actually beneficial. If you are looking for a completely natural and simple supplement, honey could be your gold at the end of the rainbow. Honey is an energy source proven to be just as effective as sports gels and could be the secret to achieving your fitness goals.
If you have been mindlessly purchasing energy drinks or sports gels to fuel your workout, you may want to keep reading. Honey may just be the simple and natural alternative you are looking for. As while supplements do have their benefits, we cannot forget how our human bodies have been designed to live active lifestyles and consume natural products. If health, wellness and athleticism align with your goals, honey as a natural energy source might just be the best option for you.
How does Honey Assist Athletic Performance?
Honey is a natural substance formed primarily of 80% carbohydrates among other compounds that benefit human health when consumed. These compounds include organic acids, proteins, amino acids, minerals, polyphenols, vitamins, aroma compounds, and approximately 500 enzymes. This diverse nutrient profile of honey is why it’s often used for a variety of different health and medicinal purposes. The composition of honey means it can assist athletic performance, provide numerous health benefits, and is also shown to have antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
The good news is, these benefits prevail in over 320 varieties of honey. However, not all varieties of honey are the same. In fact, the availability of benefits can vary depending on both the types of plant bees pollinate from and the manufacturing process. Specifically, store-bought honey is generally highly pasteurised, contains fewer health benefits, and may even be diluted with additives like high fructose corn syrup.
However, it is possible to find the right honey that meets your health requirements. Specifically, honey’s high in carbohydrate content, with a low glycaemic index, and fructose and glucose properties can be a suitable energy source if you’re looking to boost your athletic and exercise performance. This nutrient composition can provide consumers with a slower delivery of energy that helps to maintain blood glucose concentrations. Ultimately, allowing consumers to maintain energy steadily, and stay fuelled for longer.
Whether you’re an elite athlete, competitive sportsperson, or enjoy leisurely exercise, it can be difficult to find opportunities to fuel up and consume energy supplements while you’re exercising. Carbohydrate-rich foods, like honey, can be extremely useful to optimise fitness performance, reduce mid exercise energy crashes, and contribute to long-term health improvements.
Long-term nutritional inadequacy can result in energy deficits that can accumulate and decrease muscle strength and performance, increase injury risk, decrease coordination and even provoke irritability and depressive symptoms. Consuming the right honey can help you avoid under-fuelling before exercise, decrease early fatigue, and improve your athletic performance.
A scientific study tested the effects of dextrose gel against honey on a group of nine competitive male cyclists to determine which would lead to better speed times and more cycling power. While the dextrose gel did slightly outperform honey, the difference was so slim that the researchers concluded that honey is arguably as suitable as the gel because of its added natural appeal.
Honey vs Other Energy Supplements
In the fitness industry, honey versus artificial sports supplements can be a rather sticky subject.
In comparison to other natural liquid carbohydrates, honey’s composition is unique in that it contains both fructose and glucose. This structure allows for the absorption of glucose through its transporters and fructose through others. What the slower absorption of fructose means is that energy is more steadily delivered into the blood, and its composition may allow for more sustained energy over time, versus a spike and decline.
Not only is honey beneficial for energy levels, but studies have also shown that honey consumption prior to exercise can provide nearly identical benefits to that of popular sports drinks and gels. Plus, it is found to be effective for both endurance and resistance exercise.
As a completely natural, single-ingredient product, this is extremely enticing and appealing for health-conscious consumers and athletes. Honey is also more cost-effective, and an easy, delicious choice to opt for before a workout or during long, intense exercise.
When Should Honey be Consumed?
Carbohydrates have been recognised as an important fuel for exercise since the early 1900s. More recent research has established that high concentrations of muscle glycogen can enhance physical performance, considering carbohydrates the most efficient energy source to fuel muscles during exercise.
Getting enough carbohydrates throughout the day is extremely important. For optimal athletic performance, it is recommended to consume additional carbohydrates prior to activity and exercise that lasts longer than an hour. Consuming carbohydrates immediately prior to, and during exercise, can help to maintain performance throughout both prolonged endurance events.
Consuming Honey as an Athlete
The research regarding honey and sports nutrition recommends an individual approach to honey consumption depending on the athlete. This means, adapting your honey consumption to your body weight, and specific times.
For optimal performance, consider the following methods when consuming honey before exercise.
- Four hours before exercise, consume 4g honey per kg of body weight
- One hour before exercise, take 1g of honey per kg of body weight
- 10 minutes before exercise, take 0.5g of honey per kg of body weight
For added energy and performance enhancement, take 30-60g every hour.
For optimal recovery, take dry honey with whey protein in a 3:1 ratio within 15 minutes after exercise. Athletes should consume approximately 1g per kg of body weight, and repeat the procedure for the next 4-6 hours.
Research has shown that when consuming carbohydrates after exercise, they should be complemented with protein. Additionally, when pairing supplements with protein, honey is more effective than glucose or maltodextrin for inhibiting protein catabolism after exercise.
Who Should Consume Honey as an Energy Supplement?
There are no rules regarding your level of athletic ability or competitiveness as to whether or not you should consume energy supplements. However, if you are currently using sports energy supplements or drinks to assist you to power through your gym or training, switching to a natural supplement like honey is proven to be a great idea.
While energy gels usually contain maltodextrin and glucose, useful for a portable, mid-workout boost, they can also be loaded with many lab-made chemicals and additives. Honey contains similar amounts of B vitamins, potassium and iron to artificial supplements, but with an added natural and simple appeal.
If you participate in endurance sports, honey is a particularly great option. Its combination of glucose and fructose can diminish any GI upset that commercial products often cause, and keep you exercising for longer.
If you enjoy consuming energy supplements in liquid form, honey is still an option for you. While store-bought sports drinks are often loaded with roughly 51 grams and your daily allowance of sugar in one bottle, melting two tablespoons of honey in warm water can give you the same effects without the extra sugar. It is important to note not to add honey to boiling water, as high temperatures can destroy some of its health benefits. Simply wait until the water cools down a little, and add natural juice or Himalayan pink salt for electrolytes and flavour if your taste acquires.
Why is Honey Better Than Energy Alternatives?
The abundance of research indicates that honey shares similar properties and health benefits to artificial energy supplements. In this sense, both products could be considered on a level playing field in terms of effectiveness.
However, with honey consumption, there is a lower likelihood of gastrointestinal discomfort than with other forms of carbohydrates due to its natural, simple composition. It is easy to overlook the connection between GI discomfort and endurance sports. However, the timing and type of fuel intake greatly influence stress and its effect on the gut. This concern often means athletes forgo eating prior to exercise and end up under-fuelling.
Additionally, honey as fuel for endurance exercise is more economical than modern sports gels, blocks, beans and beverages that can end up being quite costly. Honey is a great cost-effective option, that won’t affect the gut and supplies adequate energy to optimise athletic performance.
Other Benefits of Honey for Exercise
In addition to consuming honey as a pre-workout and for post-workout recovery, studies have shown that consuming honey as a drink while exercising can improve running performance and carbohydrate metabolism. It is evident that honey in combination with water and sodium can assist with rehydration for athletes, and especially those who compete in warmer environments.
Regarding immunity, endurance athletes can also benefit from extra nutrients and antioxidants, which honey can provide. Ways to consume honey as a drink include adding it to warm or cool water, with natural juices, or mixed into a nutrient-dense smoothie.
Vallentine’s Honey has a range of honey available to set you up on your optimal and natural, athletic journey. Contact us today for any questions you may have, and visit our blog to learn more about the wonderful benefits and uses of natural honey.
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