Fuel running with honey

Humans’ love affair with honey began some 8000 years ago.   Ancient civilizations used it for everything, from sweetening cakes and cooking to embalming the dead.  Today honey is a valued commodity all over the world.  In Jewish culture it is a symbol of a New Year, in Hinduism it is one of the five elixirs of immortality and in the Middle East it is considered to be a source of health and nutrition.  Even honey as a word has entered every day vocabulary and is used to address those we love.

Nutritionally speaking honey is predominantly a carbohydrate, containing trace amounts of protein, vitamins, aroma compounds, polyphenols, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants. It has been shown to have antimicrobial, antiviral, antitumor, anti-mutagenic, anti-parasitory, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Because of its high carbohydrate content honey is considered a perfect fuel for a recreational or a professional athlete.  Even Olympian runners of the ancient Greece used honey as a source of energy. It’s simple unrefined sugars are easily absorbed by the body.  Research shows honey to be one of the most effective energy producing carbohydrates to consume before exercise. The glycemic index of honey can range from 32 to 85, meaning that honey from different sources is absorbed by the body at a different rate depending on the sugar composition.  Typically, however, it takes about 15 minutes for the energy obtained by eating honey to reach your muscle. You can use it  as any other carbohydrate gel.  When running, to replenish glycogen stores, the body requires 30-60g of carbohydrates  every  hour.  Two to three tablespoons of honey consumed hourly should do the trick and keep your glycogen stores in tip top shape. If doing a marathon mix honey with some electrolyte powder and voila, you have created a homemade cheap alternative energy gel.  So next time when you go out for a run, try experimenting with different types of honey and find the one that works for you.

Honey for Nutrition and Health: A Review

Stefan Bogdanov, PhD, Tomislav Jurendic,  Robert Sieber, PhD and Peter Gallmann, PhD. J Am Coll Nutr December 2008 vol. 27, pp. 677-689

Written by Nina Zisko