Honey is a source of simple carbohydrates. Its composition on average, is 17.1% water, 82.4 % total carbohydrate and 0.5% proteins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. The average carbohydrate content is mainly fructose (38.5%) and glucose (31.0%). The remaining 12.9% of carbohydrate is made up of maltose, sucrose and other sugars.
As a carbohydrate, honey supplies energy at 68 calories per tablespoon, providing fuel to working muscles. A study at the University of Memphis Exercise and Sports Nutrition Laboratory found honey to be one of the most effective forms of carbohydrate gels to ingest just prior to exercise. According to Dr. Richard Kreider, the study’s lead investigator, “honey appears to be a carbohydrate source that is relatively mild on its effects upon blood sugar compared to other carbohydrate sources.” Continuing research is examining the effects of honey in comparison to different types of carbohydrate gels prior to weightlifting on the effect on glucose, insulin and markers of protein breakdown.
More recent studies performed in Dr. Kreider’s lab have shown that honey may comprise half of the secret to post-workout recuperation. Many post-workout products on the market combine a large amount of carbohydrates with protein. The most common carbohydrate source used is maltodextrin, a mildly sweet carbohydrate usually derived from corn. Upon comparison of a honey-protein vs. a maltodextrin-protein shake taken after a vigorous weightlifting workout, the honey-protein combination fared as well in promoting markers of muscle recuperation. More importantly, the honey group’s blood sugar was sustained for at least two hours post-workout. “Our data suggest that honey functions well in all of the aspects associated with post-workout recuperation and energy repletion. In addition, honey appears to stand out as perhaps a better source of carbohydrate to ingest with post-workout protein supplements. These findings support our previous study presented at the annual Experimental Biology meeting in April 2000,” added Dr. Kreider. “In addition to promoting muscle recuperation and glycogen [carbohydrates stored in muscle] restoration, honey-protein combinations also seem well suited to sustain favorable blood sugar concentrations after training.”