Tuesday, July 17, 2012


For athletes who need to perform at their best, optimal nutrition is essential. One small nutritional change that may have modest benefits is switching traditional sugar for honey. Not only is honey low in calories and a good source of carbohydrates, but it also has been shown to increase antibodies and have more favorable effects on inflammation.

Increases Antibodies

One reason that switching sugar for honey may be beneficial is due to honey's effects on the immune system. According to 2004 research in the "Journal of Medicinal Food," those who were administered honey had significantly higher antibody production during both primary and secondary immune responses. Because intense physical training can potentially compromise the immune system over time, having increased antibodies due to honey can be particularly beneficial for hard-training athletes.

Decreases Inflammation

Another reason that switching traditional sugar for honey may be beneficial is due to the improved effect on inflammation. According to 2004 research in the "Journal of Medicinal Food," subjects who consumed honey had significantly lower increases in markers of inflammation, compared with the ingestion of other types of sugar such as sucrose and dextrose. While some inflammation is inevitable, too much chronic inflammation can wreak havoc on an athlete's health and performance. Thus, honey may be beneficial by decreasing overall systemic inflammation in the body.

High in Carbohydrates

Because honey contains carbohydrates, this also may be beneficial for athletes who compete in carbohydrate-depleting events. When carbohydrates are low, the body is forced to turn to fats and amino acids for fuel, which is significantly less efficient. One study in the "Journal of Clinical Investigation" in 1981 found that even when calorie consumption is equal, subjects who do not consume ample amounts of carbohydrates suffer in athletic performance. Thus, athletes who are not already consuming large amounts of carbohydrates may find that adding honey to their diet yields positive effects on their performance.

Low in Calories

Another reason that honey may be beneficial is that it is lower in calories compared to other types of sugar. For instance, simply switching a 12 oz. can of cola with a cup of honey sweetened tea can reduce your caloric intake from 140 to 70 calories. For athletes who compete in sports that require low body weight, simple changes such as this can cut your caloric intake from beverages in half and make it much easier to remain at a beneficial weight. Conversely, those who have a difficult time consuming ample amounts of calories necessary to maintain intense training may want to avoid honey due to its lower caloric content.

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