Sugar in sports: What you should know about it as an endurance athlete
This is the role of sugar in sports
Sugar: A differentiated view
Sugar is the subject of much debate – its reputation is not the best. The role of sugar in sports is also often talked about. However, some things are often mixed up in the process
Most people associate the word sugar with the white, crystal-like substance we use in baking, for example. This is the household sugar, it is called sucrose in technical language and belongs to the group of disacharides.
Sucrose is not the only sugar, however. In addition to disacharids, there are also monosacharids, which are chemically consist of only one ring. So the name says it all. Monosaccharides include, for example, glucose, fructose or galactose.
Monosacharides and disacharides can also occur together – e.g. in the form of maltodextrin (maltose & dextrose).
All these different types of sugar are grouped together as “carbohydrates”.
Over the last century, annual sugar consumption skyrocketed. For example, we currently consume about 50kg of sugar a year – that’s about 25 times as much as we did 100 years ago.
According to studies, we consume a very large proportion of sugar via soft drinks. Depending on age, a lot of sugar is also consumed via sweets or baked goods. Alcohol and sweetened dairy products are also not entirely innocent of the increase in sugar consumption, which (briefly!) activates our reward system in the brain.
We consume the most added simple sugars between the ages of 11 and 18, where the average sugar consumption is 70g per day. With increasing age, sugar consumption decreases again on average.
How sugar affects health
Countless studies confirm the link between increased sugar intake and an increased risk of diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disorders, tooth decay, and many more.
This is due, among other things, to the high energy density and simultaneously low nutrient density of sugar. Simply put, sugar takes the place of other, healthier nutrients such as minerals, trace elements, vitamins and protective substances from vegetables and fruits, for example.
It should also be noted that there is often a correlation between increased sugar intake and increased saturated fat intake.
This was also reflected in the eating behavior of the study participants. Many of the participants observed were consuming excessive levels of other harmful substances in addition to sugar.
The reason this is important is that you always look at the big picture.
You will hardly save your health if you eat only fast food from morning to night and give up chocolate cake for it. On the other hand, if you are physically active and eat a fundamentally healthy diet, you can also treat yourself to a dessert or a little treat.
The fact that sugar intake has declined somewhat over the past 10 years, but cases of obesity have not, confirms this statement.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that too much sugar consumption isn’t harmful to health. As always, the dose makes the poison.
Correctly interpret sugar quantity recommendations
Very often you hear that you should not eat more than 50g of sugar a day. This is, for example, 5 tablespoons of Nutella or about half a bottle of cola.
The mentioned value of 50g comes from a recommendation of the WHO. This states that the intake of free sugars should be reduced to below 10 energy percent. For an adult with a calorie intake of 2,000 kcal, this equates to no more than 50g of sugar a day.
However, when interpreting this recommendation, the actual statement of the 10 energy percent is often confused with the 50g of sugar.
As an athlete, however, your calorie intake is usually (significantly) higher than 2,000 kcal. Therefore, the mentioned 50g are often not designed for you. If you metabolize significantly more carbohydrates, you “may” consume more with a clear conscience.
And that is extremely important for you as an athlete.
The importance of sugar in sports
Especially monosaccharides are important for athletes because they can be quickly processed by our body due to their simple chemical structure. Fast processing means fast energy – perfect for athletes on a hard training day.
It is therefore understandable that athletes have an increased consumption of these simple carbohydrates. And that’s no reason at all to panic about your own health.
During sports you consume high amounts of carbohydrates. This leaves enough “space” to add other healthy nutrients at the “normal meals”.
Especially on rest days, it also makes sense to consciously reduce your sugar consumption. How a balanced diet for you as an athlete looks like, we show you HERE .
If you consciously manage your sugar consumption away from units, there is no reason not to use its powerful attributes.
With regard to the respective training units, the selection of the appropriate carbohydrate product is extremely important. Depending on the training goal, different carbohydrates should be used. We go into more detail on this topic HERE and in the following you will find out how we have designed our products with this in mind.
Sugar in our products
Simple sugars are often the best choice of energy supply for athletes. Thus, sugar is also contained in our products. However, for each product we have carefully considered which sugar to add – geared to the specific goals of our athletes.
We have also completely dispensed with white table sugar. Instead of food we use, among other things, raw cane sugar. This is healthier than white household sugar and still provides quick energy.
You can find the raw cane sugar in our regeneration products.
For optimal regeneration provides the RECOVERY SHAKE. In addition to raw cane sugar, it also contains also contains vegetable proteins and real cocoa powder. The combination of these ingredients allows for a quick replenishment of glycogen stores and thus a fast regeneration.
In the RECOVERY 8 also contains raw cane sugar. Here, together with the mango powder, it enables rapid transport of nutrients into the muscle cell. This property, coupled with the high-quality protein sources, makes the R8 the optimal recovery drink after hard, muscular stress.
For the products used during the training we have selected ISOMALTULOSIS , FRUCTOSE and MALTODEXTRIN resorted to. All are carbohydrate mixtures that allow a high content of carbohydrates to be transported into the cell.
In fact, by mixing different carbohydrate sources, multiple carbohydrate transporters are used. This is essential for an intake of more than 60g of carbohydrates per (training) hour.
FAST CARB contains a mixture of maltodextrin and fructose in a ratio of 3:1. Also the added real RIMBERRY POWDER provides some glucose and fructose. This mixture enables a high, fast carbohydrate transport, and makes FAST CARB the optimal drink for stressful workouts.
SLOW CARB primarily contains ISOMALTULOSIS . Isomaltulose is a slowly available sugar that takes longer to metabolize. This results in keeping blood glucose levels constant and insulin secretion low. This makes SLOW CARB ideal to support fat metabolism.
POWER CARB is our competition drink. In terms of general composition, it is similar to the FAST CARB similar. However, the POWER CARB even more maltodextrin and extra ANANAS. This allows for a particularly high intake of carbohydrates.
In our PORRIDGE BARS we use oats and rice syrup as natural sugarsinaddition to isumaltose .
You can find detailed recommendations for the correct, sport-specific use of our products in our KNOWLEDGE CENTER.
4 simple tips to better manage sugar
The following tips will help you to deal sensibly with sugar in order to live an energetic AND healthy life as an athlete.
1. reduce the intake of sugary soft drinks outside of the workout
As mentioned earlier, these are responsible for a large portion of annual sugar consumption.
Leave soft drinks out as much as possible, water quenches your thirst much better anyway 😉
2. prepare your own meals and use alternatives to table sugar
If you still don’t want to give up sweet foods, use alternative sweeteners such as honey, syrup, thick juice or whole cane sugar. These foods contain sugar as well, but are less processed.
Furthermore, these ingredients often have a strong inherent taste. This allows the amount to be reduced and the dish still tastes sweet.
3. pay attention to the ingredients of your sports nutrition products
There are big differences between the various sports nutrition products. It is advantageous if the (short) list of ingredients contains as many natural ingredients as possible – and no unnecessary flavorings and additives.
In addition, you don’t have to resort to sugary drinks, gels or bars for every training session. For less intense sessions under an hour, for example, a few healthy dried fruits are enough beforehand.
4. adjust your snacks to your daily goal
If you have made it a habit to eat a piece of dry cake 1-2 hours before your workout, there is not much wrong with that – you metabolize the carbohydrates immediately anyway.
On the rest day, on the other hand, the cake should be swapped for a handful of nuts, for example – so the (unnecessary) sugar intake can be easily reduced and replaced with nutrients.
Sport Nutrition; Third Edition; Asker Jeukendrup, Michael Gleeson