Honey as an Energy Source

Honey is an excellent source of glucose and fructose and is easily assimilated in the human body because it has been predigested: bees temporarily store the nectar in a special part of their stomachs, where it is partially digested. The bees' digestive fluids contain enzymes that transform the nectar into honey.

The glucose units are either used directly for energy, and converted to pyruvate and APT through glycolysis, or joined together to make glycogen a storage form of carbohydrate. When more energy is required, the liver converts glycogen into glucose, which is delivered by the bloodstream to muscles and most importantly the brain. The overall reaction that occurs on metabolism of glucose is:

Glucose + 2Pi + 2ADP + 2NAD+  ---->    2 pyruvate + 2NADH + 2H+ + 2H2O                                                           

The fructose units are also rapidly incorporated into the glycolysis cycle. In muscle and adipose tissue, fructose can be phosphorylated by hexokinase to fructose-6-phosphate, which then enters glycolysis. Alternatively, in the liver fructose id phosphorylated via the fructose-1-phoshate pathway forming glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate, which also enters glycolysis.

Recent developments in the world of athletics mean that it has become fashionable for athletes for ingest carbohydrates prior to, during and/or following exercise in the form of a gel. Since honey is a unique, naturally occurring combination of various sugars and antioxidants in a gel form, it has become a very popular replacement to the many sports gels available on the market to fuel strenuous exercise. Recent clinical studies have shown that honey performs as well as glucose in sustaining endurance and power.

Honey may also help muscles recuperate faster after training. Using honey as the carbohydrate source, researchers found that when it is combined with a protein supplement, subjects maintained better glucose levels, or blood sugar levels, which is an important part of post-workout recovery. Honey was also shown to have a more favourable profile than typical carbohydrates on hormone metabolism and performance, thus leading to quicker recuperation after exercise.  

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