role of sugar in a sport diet
Sugar, a carbohydrate, is often considered not part of a healthy diet. If consumed excessively it can lead to a higher accumulation of fat.1 However, sugar is an important part of an athlete's’ diet and can make a big difference in sports' performance. Whatever sport you do, sugar, and other carbohydrates, provide important energy that avoid fatigue and keep peak performance. Whether you are an elite or an everyday athlete, the right energy intake is fundamental for a healthy diet and the outcome of your activity.2
Energy is stored in our body in form of glycogen, that are carbohydrates in our muscles.3 When you exercise, we need that glycogen to move our muscles and hence we lower our storage of glycogen over time. As our body has limited glycogen storage, we are at risk at some point to run out of glycogen - the feeling of tiredness kicks in. To avoid that state, we need to fuel our body with energy before and during the exercise.4
A few hours up to 60 minutes before a longer exercise (> 60 minutes), it is generally advised to get 0.5-4 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of bodyweight.5 If you are planning to do a very long exercise (>3 hours), you need to consume more carbohydrates starting from 3 hours before the exercise. Enjoy our Lecka Energy Bites (~120 Calories, ~20g Carbohydrates) in combination with cereal, yoghurt, oats, juices or fruits. Avoid any food that has high content of fibres, protein and fats.
For shorter exercises (<60 minutes) the body should have enough glycogen stored to get through the exercise, and not much intake is necessary. For any exercise longer than 60 minutes, especially for anything longer than 3 hours, more energy is required to avoid fatigue. It is generally advised to consume 250-400 calories per hour of exercise.5 Lecka Energy Bites have around 120 Calories, so taking one per hour in combination with other food, like gels, fruits or nuts, provide enough sustained energy.
It is well known that Protein is the key nutrient for recovery. However, carbohydrates are important too to replenish the energy levels and rebuild muscles.6 Within 30 minutes after your exercise, take a snack that combines protein and carbohydrates.
Sustained Energy vs. Energy Boost:
Depending on your activity, you need either long lasting energy or a quick energy boost. Both can be achieved by taking different types of sugar. The Glycemic Index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar (glucose) levels after eating. A high GI means that the food is broken down much faster resulting in a high blood sugar, a.k.a. an energy boost.
Coconut Nectar, a natural sweetener and binder, is one of the ingredients in the Lecka Energy Bites and has a GI of around 35. It is considered a low GI and provides a mix of fast blood sugar level rising and some sustained energy.
1: (2014), JAMA Internal Medicine, Hu, ‘Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults’
2: Asker E. Jeukendrup (2008) Carbohydrate feeding during exercise, European Journal of Sport Science, 8:2, 77-86, DOI: 10.1080/17461390801918971.
3: Ivy JL, Lee MC, Brozinick JT, Reed MJ. Muscle glycogen storage after different amounts of carbohydrate ingestion. J Appl Physiol. 1988;65:2018-2023.
4: Ormsbee MJ, Bach CW, Baur DA. Pre-exercise nutrition: the role of macronutrients, modified starches and supplements on metabolism and endurance performance. Nutrients. 2014;6(5):1782–1808. Published 2014 Apr 29. doi:10.3390/nu6051782.
5: Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016;116:501-528.
6: Blom PC, Hostmark AT, Vaage O, Kardel KR, Maehlum S. Effect of different post-exercise sugar diets on the rate of muscle glycogen synthesis. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1987;19:491-6.