3rd December 2015
Isn’t it ironic that just as MPs debate the evils of sugar during Sugar Awareness Week, a new study turns up in the scientific press demonstrating the performance-enhancing benefits of sugar for athletes. This new research shows that that stirring sugar into your water bottle is just as good at fighting fatigue during prolonged endurance exercise as expensive brand name sports drinks.
The multi-centre team led by Javier Gonzalez from the University of Bath tested various drinks on 14 long-distance cyclists to see how different sugars could help delay fatigue during endurance exercise. They found that both glucose and sucrose-based drinks were effective in fighting fatigue by preventing the depletion of liver glycogen stores and thus maintaining stable blood sugar levels.
However, what the researchers also found was that when cyclists drank sucrose-based drinks – or simply sugar in water –the exercise felt easier and their gut felt better and compared to glucose-only drinks. In other words sucrose is a better bet if you’re planning to exercise for more than 2 ½ hours.
Both sucrose and glucose are ‘simple sugars’. The major difference between them is that each sucrose molecule is made up of one glucose and one fructose molecule linked together. It appears combining different sources of sugars improves the rate at which we can absorb these from the gut.
An increasing number of sports drinks contain sucrose or mixtures of glucose and fructose – but some contain just glucose. These can produce gut discomfort during hard prolonged exercise.
So, if you are planning to exercise for more than two and a half hours, drinking 8g sugar per 100ml water is a better and cheaper option than purchasing a brand name energy drink.
DIY energy drink recipe (for exercise lasting more than two and a half hours)
- Dissolve 8g (roughly two teaspoons) of sugar in 100ml of water
- Consume up to 90g of sugar (or 1.1 l of the sugar solution) per hour
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