The Benefits of Honey for Athletes and Active Individuals

The Benefits of Honey for Athletes and Active Individuals

Executive Summary:

 

Honey for Athletes: Boosting Performance Naturally

At the 1956 Olympics, Bobby Marrow sprinted equal to the 200-meter sprint world record of 20.6 seconds. Fast forward to 2009, and Usain Bolt ran the 200-meter in a record-breaking 19.19 seconds. Yet, how are we enhancing athletic performance so drastically and so quickly? 

Well, a huge part is that individuals are learning sports and refining them from a very young age—creating athletes unlike what the world has ever seen before. Another part of this is the scientific research that has gone into improving performance naturally, such as through recovery strategies, supplements, and dietary choices.

There’s no denying it: Athletic performance is continually pushed to its limits. After all, the stakes are high, and the competition is fierce. In turn, this leads us down the path toward nature’s own powerhouse: Honey! 

However, this liquid gold and its nutritional benefits aren’t only pertinent to the elite or professional athlete. They can also benefit the average gym-goer or weekend warrior. In this article, we dive into how honey can be a beneficial choice for all active individuals—potentially helping you surpass your goals and more.

 

The Nutritional Profile of Honey

Honey, a natural sweetener, has a one-of-a-kind taste and an incredibly beneficial nutritional profile. The nutrient in honey makes it particularly useful for athletes and active individuals who want to level up.

Yet, let’s start with the basics: Honey is an energy-rich carbohydrate. It’s primarily composed of natural sugars like fructose and glucose. These sugars are easily digestible, offering a quick source of energy.

Beyond its carbohydrate content, honey contains various trace minerals and vitamins. It has small amounts of B vitamins, essential for energy production in the body, and antioxidants, which play a significant role in reducing oxidative stress caused by intense physical activity. Minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium are further found in trace amounts and contribute to the proper functioning of muscles and nerves.

Manuka honey also contains plenty of beneficial nutrients beyond the above. Specific nutrients found in Manuka honey, such as Manukora’s Manuka honey, include:

  • Leptosperin: This nutrient is thought to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which can support overall health and athletic performance in various ways.
  • Methylglyoxal (MGO): MGO is the reason Manuka honey is often dubbed a “superfood.” This nutrient gives way to antibacterial properties, which are often associated with this type of honey.
  • Fructooligosaccharides: These carbohydrates help maintain a healthy gut microbiome, which can impact various systems throughout our bodies—such as supporting a healthy mood, good cognition, and more.
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    4 Benefits of Honey for Athletes

    Now that we know a bit more about honey’s incredible nutrient profile, let’s take a closer look at how these nutrients can help athletes and active individuals.

    1. Energy Boost for Athletes

    Honey, with its natural sugars, stands out as an exceptional choice for athletes and active individuals alike. The unique characteristics of honey, especially when compared to other energy supplements or carb-loaded foods, make it a favorite amongst athletes in various disciplines.

    Unlike refined sugars that lead to rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, the sugars in honey provide a more sustained and stable energy release. Honey's energy-boosting power primarily comes from its natural sugars, fructose and glucose. These are steadily absorbed by the body, providing stable energy levels. This is particularly beneficial for athletes during intense training sessions or competitions. Without proper energy, fatigue can hit and hinder performance. 

    The slow delivery of sugar into the bloodstream is what truly sets honey apart from traditional energy supplements. Traditional energy gels and drinks often rely heavily on refined sugars or complex carbohydrates that can cause gastrointestinal discomfort and energy highs and lows. 

    Researchers have even suggested that honey may play a key role in sustained performance during exercise. It’s thought to maintain energy levels by supplying the muscles with a steady supply of glucose, replacing depleted muscle glycogen. In other words, honey might offer a healthier alternative compared to commonly used energy-boosters during exercise.

    2. Endurance and Performance

    Honey’s unique composition also supports prolonged physical exertion, making it a go-to, all-natural supplement for endurance athletes.

    Largely, this is due to honey’s naturally occurring sugars, which, as outlined above, can provide sustained energy over a longer duration—especially when compared to refined sugar alternatives. In fact, research shows that honey supplements, through increasing glycogen stores in the muscles, can contribute to optimal endurance for cyclists, marathon runners, triathlon athletes, and other endurance sports.

    The nutrients in honey also have ample antioxidant properties, which may continually help maintain reduced oxidative stress in the body. In turn, this may mean less inflammation and continued and sustained athletic performance.

    3. Recovery and Muscle Regeneration

    Honey's nutrients are well known for their anti-inflammatory properties. These anti-inflammatory nutrients are particularly high in Manuka honey, which contains unique bioactive compounds like methylglyoxal (MGO). Considering exercise is a stressor on the body, post-exercise inflammation can deter efforts to continue training and also slow recovery.

    Since honey is high in antioxidants, studies suggest that it may help reduce muscle damage and, thus, support muscular recovery. The natural sugars in honey, namely glucose and fructose, further assist in the muscle regeneration process. Post-workout, these sugars help replenish depleted glycogen stores in muscles, an essential step for recovery and preparation for future physical activities. 

    Consuming honey within 30 minutes after a workout can maximize its benefits in glycogen replenishment and muscle recovery. Combining honey with a protein source, such as in a smoothie or with Greek yogurt, can further enhance recovery by providing the essential amino acids needed for muscle repair.

    So, how can you enjoy honey post-workout? Here are some practical ways to include this delicious liquid gold in your post-workout routine: 

    • Honey-Infused Protein Shake: Blend honey with your protein powder and milk or water for a quick recovery drink.
    • Greek Yogurt and Honey: Mix honey into Greek yogurt for a snack rich in protein and carbohydrates.
    • Honey Drizzled on Toast: Spread or drizzle honey on whole-grain toast with a slice of banana for a balanced recovery snack.
    • Homemade Energy Bars: Create energy bars using honey, oats, nuts, and seeds for a portable post-workout snack.

    4. Honey in Hydration and Electrolyte Balance

    Maintaining proper hydration and electrolyte balance is essential for athletes, especially during prolonged physical activities. The nutrients in honey can enhance hydration, aiding in maintaining electrolyte balance and preventing dehydration-related performance decline.

    The natural sugars in honey, glucose and fructose, again play a pivotal role here. When added to water or hydration drinks, these nutrients aid the absorption of fluids into the body, supporting the hydration process. 

    Additionally, honey's trace minerals, such as potassium and magnesium, help maintain balanced electrolytes, which are crucial for muscle function and nerve signaling. In fact, imbalances can lead to cramping and fatigue, reducing performance. 

    It’s also ultra-easy to incorporate honey into your workout routine to support electrolyte balance in your body. Try honey-infused water by mixing a tablespoon of honey into a bottle of water for a natural and energy-boosting hydration drink. Alternatively, you can opt for a honey and lemon electrolyte drink; combine honey, lemon juice, water, and a pinch of salt. This way, you ensure your body is getting exactly what it needs!

     

    Global Standards and Best Practices in Natural Athletic Supplements

    Athletes worldwide are increasingly turning to natural supplements. In this shift, the role of global standards and best practices becomes crucial. These standards ensure that the supplements consumed are effective, safe, pure, and reliable.

    When it comes to Manuka honey, these standards are set by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in New Zealand. MPI ensures that all Manuka honey coming from New Zealand is, in fact, real Manuka honey. As such, every Manuka honey undergoes various third-party testing to ensure it meets credible criteria.

    Manukora further offers transparency on all of our honey products. Each jar has a QR code, which, when scanned, contains various information about your particular honey batch. It includes the beekeeper who cared for it, MGO levels, and more!

     

    Embracing Nature’s Power for Peak Performance

    The nutrients in honey make it an invaluable addition to an active lifestyle. While honey is not a magical cure-all, its integration into an athlete's nutrition plan offers a credible, practical approach to maintaining optimal performance and recovery in various ways. 

    As we continue to uncover the wonders of nature, let honey be a testament to the power of natural supplements in supporting health and athletic achievement. So… Go ahead and use this liquid gold to support your daily movement. It’s not only a yummy daily indulgence but a supportive workout aid, fueling you and your body in the best way possible.

     

     

    Sources:

    Athletics at the 1956 Summer Olympics – Men's 200 metres - Wikipedia 

    Honey | USDA 

    Dynamics of the Cellular Metabolism of Leptosperin Found in Manuka Honey 

    Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) differentially modifies the in vitro gut microbiota in an age-dependent manner

    Use of Honey in Sports Medicine 

    (PDF) A Review of Honey Supplementation on Endurance Performance in Athletes 

    Does antioxidant vitamin supplementation protect against muscle damage? 

    Ensuring mānuka honey is authentic | NZ Government
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