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Honey as endurance nutrition(22 posts)

Honey as endurance nutritionDuane Gran
Apr 11, 2001 4:48 AM
Riders may be interested to read an article that summarizes a study of honey usage and endurance cycling. Thei finding was that honey is an effective energy source during exercise. This may be good news for some of us who drop a bit of money on various food-stuff during the ride.

As far as applying this to the real world, can anyone suggest some forms of honey that might be more convenient to use during excercise? It is pretty gooey stuff and I'm at a loss on how to store and consume it. My first thought it is to drop some honey into my water bottle, but I don't think it is very water soluable. Suggestions are welcome. Also, if anyone has a good nutrition background I would be interested to know if some types of honey are better than others. I'm sure there are different approaches to refinement that affect its nutrional value.
Energy DrinkHap
Apr 11, 2001 5:13 AM
My brother makes his own energy drink. I don't have his recipe but it contains water, "lite" salt or potasium cloride, regular salt, honey, lemon, and maybe some other stuff. I drank some of this stuff near the end of a hot metric C last fall. My first reaction was that it tasted like Tomcat Pi$$. But after the intial shock (I had run out of my "sweet" Gatorade/water mix), it really wasn't bad. It's kind of a salty/sweetish stuff. Honey will dissolve in water. I would be happy to get his recipe and post it if anyone is interested. In my old swimming days, we sucked honey right out of the bottle between events.

Only concern i haveIxiz
Apr 11, 2001 5:39 AM
Do you get a similar sugar high and then the next thing you know the bottoms drop out and you are bonking left and right
Just nurse it steadily ...Humma Hah
Apr 11, 2001 10:57 AM
... I've tried it mixed with gel, haven't tried it straight yet. With the mix or straight gel, I put it in a 5-ounce gel flask and use it half an ounce at a time, maybe every 20 minutes or 5 miles, possibly a bit extra 5 minutes before a big climb. That seems to prevent the highs and lows.

With honey, I'd be more concerned about tooth decay. Rinse your mouth out thoroughly after each dose (grab a mouthful of your favorite hydration fluid, work it around, and swallow).
Not a concern...Wayne Scott
Apr 11, 2001 11:27 AM
Pretty sure that there is no sugar high or low during exercise. Most energy supplements; powergel, gu, gatorade, etc. contain simple sugars or something similar. During exercise the body tightly regulates blood glucose levels (via insulin/glucagon) which is what's responsible for the crash after ingesting a large amount of simple carbs (lots of insulin released, glucose all pumped into cells, nothing in blood for brain, etc to work, you crash). The main concern is will you digest it fast and without GI discomfort, don't worry about a sugar crash, it shouldn't happen!
Well, actually ...Humma Hah
Apr 11, 2001 12:36 PM
... I don't think I'd quite classify it as a "crash", but taking infrequent doses of gel can certainly cause highs and lows.

We're not talking a grand-mal hypoglycemia event (I was with a diabetic athlete friend when he had one of these, and it was stunning to watch his coordination go to hell over the course of a few minutes, and to see how fast he recovered when we got some orange juice in him.)

If I put off taking gel until I'm already feeling loss of power in my legs, I'll definitely feel a rejuvinating effect about 5 minutes after taking gel. The effect lasts roughly 15-30 minutes depending on how hard I'm going, then I'll get weak again. If, instead, I take gel in small doses but fairly regularly, I can hammer for hours at a time (I ran on the stuff for 12.3 hours once).
Well, actually ...wayne scott
Apr 12, 2001 3:17 AM
I think your confusing "bonking" with variations in energy levels due the ingestion of simple sugars (energy highs and lows). If your already "feeling a loss of power in your legs" you may be running out of glycogen, i.e. bonking. So taking some sugar will provide some fuel again until its used up, etc. The glucose your muscles need come from 3 main sources: your liver glycogen stores, muscle glycogen stores or from ingestion. By ingesting glucose you spare your liver and muscle stores of glycogen, because the muscles can get the glucose from the blood. So by taking small, doses regularly you decrease the glucose being used from the liver and muscle, and delay the point of bonking. If you wait until your "bonking" then the glucose you take will give you a boost in energy but only until you use it up. Your not going to replace liver and muscle glycogen stores until you stop exercising and eat some substantial food, so those sources of glucose are already shot.
Definitions ...HH
Apr 12, 2001 10:44 AM
... some of you guys have a much tamer definition of "bonking" than I do. Bonking, to me, is not just a little weakness (although that's one warning that you're headed for one). Bonking is a running-out that, while it has some warning symptoms, is fairly abrupt and results in a degree of mental impairment (perhaps confusion, tunnel vision, a sense of defeat). I've bonked three times, twice following severe coughing spells (possibly exercise-induced asthma) and once at the end of a 130-mile ride for which I was not prepared.

I routinely do training rides feeling for that edge, allowing my muscles to get a little depleted as my cue to take some gel. It teaches me how much gel I need, and trains my body to utilize fat. I've found that, while it does limit my power and speed a little, it does hasten weight loss. On organized rides or a ride where I'm after performance, I try to take in enough calories to stay well clear of either condition, but you have to tiptoe up to the edge occasionally to know where it is.

One of my cues that I'm running out of sugar is a mild tingling in my arms. If I don't heed that, I start feeling slightly detached. That's time to stop immediately and take a gel, or I'll momentarily be in serious trouble.
Apr 11, 2001 6:18 AM
Honey actually contains the same basic sugar units as table sugar. Both contain glucose and fructose. Table sugar (sucrose) has the glucose and fructose hooked together, whereas in honey the fructose and glucose are in individual units. However, both get metabolized the same way by the body.

The one difference is that honey is more concentrated than table sugar. One tablespoon of honey has 64 Calories while one tablespoon of table sugar has 46 Calories. Other than this they are nutritional equivalents.

Another difference is that pure sucrose in the form of table sugar is highly processed whereas honey has only one processing step -- it is heated to prevent crystallization and yeast fermentation that may occur during storage. This has environmental implications, and also implications on people who believe that minimally processed foods are healthier. Vegan diets do not include honey because it is produced by bees and vegans do not use any animal products.

So, what's the big deal? Honey is pretty much the same as sugar (sucrose). My belief? If you need to avoid a bonk, ANY source of energy is better than nothing. Your body is a multi-fuel engine, and can accept anything from the equivalent of kerosene to nitro-methane. Anything is better than nothing. The study you cited essentially confirmed what should be darn obvious -- that ingesting fuel will make you faster in an endurance event. (I'd like to know what they used as a placebo, though.)

But, ideally you would ingest a combination of fuels that give partly quick energy (fructose?) and partly sustained energy, complex carbs and fat, too. This is a case in which no one thing is ideal. But, if you are on a budget and want to ride a century alone, honey probably is about as good as $2 per serving manufactured gels.

Another big consideration, though, is what will your stomach tolerate when you are tired, dehydrated, and nauseous? Only experimentation will tell you this, and what seems good in your kitchen will likely not be the same under those conditions. No one can tell you what to use -- you must experiment for yourself.

placebo = sugar free jelly (nm)Lon Norder
Apr 11, 2001 12:42 PM
re: Honey as endurance nutritionblackjava
Apr 11, 2001 6:58 AM
I drink honey regularly as a post-ride source of sugar. Nothing fanciful, just plain honey dissolved in water. It satisfies my sugar craving and tastes great too :)
Re consumptionmuncher
Apr 11, 2001 7:02 AM
Don't know about the nutrition of it - Doug seems to have that sewn up, but I do know that if you stir it in hot water and dissolve it, then cool it back down, you can have it in drink form. I suppose eventually you would go past the saturation hot/cold point, but you can get it plenty strong enough like this.

Hope that helps - M
re: Honey as endurance nutritionDG
Apr 11, 2001 8:31 AM
In the Indian Ayruvedic (Herbal-based treatments) system, a mixture of honey and lime juice in water is said to help metabolize fat better. And is often used for weight-loss treatment. Now, don't ask me for a "scientific" explanation because I don't know the Ayruvedic system very well.

Some time ago, Bicycling mag recommended honey as a good source of energy for cyclists. I use GU occasionally and find it as sickeningly sweet and syrupy as honey. But I guess GU provides slow-burning energy with its "ultra-long-chain glucose polymers" compared to honey. Additionally, GU contains amino acids, and antioxidants to protect from tissue damage. For me it's a no-brainer. GU bought in bulk costs me less than $1, no reason to switch to honey yet. Unless like other energy sources (read petroleum products), GU prices shoot thru the ceiling.

Regarding storing honey. Powerbar has re-sealable multi-serve container for gels that you can use for your honey. GU also has a Gel flask for storing gels in large quantities (good for century rides). You can use those too for storing honey.
re: Honey as endurance nutritionspeedchump
Apr 11, 2001 8:50 AM
I use it all the time. Buy a 6 - 8 oz. plastic bottle of honey with the twist open spout. Sqeeze out about one ounce, and replace with water. Shake vigorously, and it will mix. It'll now be fluid enough to squirt easily. Keep it in your jersey pocket. You can twist open the spout with your mouth. Buy more in a larger, more economical container, and just keep using the plastic one as a dispenser. You'll be really cool if you can find one of the bear shaped bottles with a twist top.

I don't experience any up and down sugar rush feelings with honey, but I always bring something solid as well if the ride goes over 50 miles. Enjoy!
Another alternative: malt extract ...Humma Hah
Apr 11, 2001 10:06 AM
... last week one poster here suggested malt extract, a liquid used in brewing beer, very economical, can be bought from suppliers of home-brewing products. It contains a mixture of sugars and longer polysaccharides which may burn a little more evenly than honey. It is not quite the same as refined maltodextrose, but should be close.

I expect to try some soon.
T'was I....E3
Apr 11, 2001 12:07 PM
I don't know if you're familiar with the different types. I suggest buying the light extract. Make sure it's unhopped.

Leave it in your hot jersey pocket long enough, you'll catch a buzz along with your energy by the end of your next century.
I worked on a Honey Farm...JBergland
Apr 11, 2001 10:18 AM
... during the summers while in high school and for about a year during a break from college. Honey can provide a sugar buzzz and be a good source of fast energy... breaks down quick!! I can remember many long hot days that a couple spoons full of honey helped get me going again.

Honey can also help with allergies (in some cases). The bees use pollen as a big part of the processing of the end product... honey. These pollens are collected from the local area in a radious of 2-5 miles from their hives. This collection of 'local pollen' is very concentrated in the honey. By eating and/or using this honey in cooking, a person can be exposed to the pollens that bother them. Eventually, the body will (to some degree) build up a resistance to these pollens. As with anything, check with your Doc. before trying this. Some people's allergies are severe!!

I have also heard that bee stings help with arthritis. I would guess that the swelling from the sting helps with circulation. Most bee stings I have experienced... HURT LIKE HELL!!:) Although, during the high point of my 'bee-keeping' career, I would be stung 2-3 dozen time per day and not even notice it!! It's amazing what the body can build up a tolerance to.
interseting. study was done at the univ of memphis...Haiku d'état
Apr 11, 2001 1:51 PM
...(according to the article's footnote) and they used several "competitive cyclists". that's my back yard.

wonder if my phone was on the fritz during test subject selection.

a buddy of mine swears by itgrandemamou
Apr 11, 2001 4:31 PM
Puts it in a Gu flask and Nurses it. At a buck a pack (Gu)I think I'll give it a shot.
anyone else tried rasins?Made in Taiwan
Apr 11, 2001 11:30 PM
you know those little 1 inch by 1 inch tiny boxes of rasins? they work great for me.
They give me a headache ...HH
Apr 12, 2001 11:01 AM
... but I can handle most other dried fruit. They do provide a good jolt of energy, some electrolytes, and some vitamins and fiber.

One thing to watch with any dehydrated foods, you have to take in enough water to make up for what they contained when fresh, and then some.
re: Honey as endurance nutritionMike P.
Apr 12, 2001 3:46 AM
I like to take along a peanut butter and honey sandwhich on long rides. I put a good layer of honey on both slices of wheat bread, then some peanut butter. The bread soaks up most of the honey but it is still a bit messy/sticky. I cut it in half and put each half in seperate plastic bags. I also like to eat one of these when I get back to the house after every ride. Sometimes I even eat one on the off days.

Another note on honey, and I have not seen any real proof to support this, I have heard if you use "local" honey, it can help decrease the effects of allergies brought on by pollen.