Sugar has a bad rap but avoiding it 100% is neither smart nor necessary, particularly as an athlete. The key to sweet success is the sugar you choose, so if you want to know the best sugar for athletes, which can be consumed in limitless amounts here it is
It's fruit sugar, by which we mean 'the sugar in fruit'.
This should be so simple that no more need be said, but with a sports nutrition industry hell bent on pulling the wool over your eyes and with your health and performance on the line, there's clarification needed because not all fruit sugar is equal.
Fructose: alcohol without the buzz
There's a time and a place for shots. The middle of your race is not it, but if you're using a fructose-based energy gel that's exactly what you're liver's experiencing
Fructose is the catch-all term for sugar derived from fruit. The key word here is 'derived' as in the sugar has been removed from the food containing it which matters quite a lot as you'll soon see.
Fructose is very widely used across sports nutrition, often with a picture of a nice red apple or juicy orange on the packaging to encourage the idea it's healthy, natural and hearty.
Which is very wide of the mark for two reasons:
- Fructose found in regular sports nutrition and other processed foods is not from quality fruit, but is processed from industrially produced corn or wheat and laced with chemicals you wouldn't even want to clean your bathroom with
- Once extracted from the food source that contained it, fructose is free to rocket through the body and hits the liver in the same way as alcohol
Which is why fructose is better known these days as 'alcohol without the buzz' because you get all the downsides of alcohol (liver damage, high blood pressure, etc) without any of the upside.
That's right, your liver can't tell the difference between a shot of tequila, and the shot of fructose in that energy gel you just blasted down.
Do you want to be banging shots mid-race?
Us neither, which is why when we made our 33Fuel Chia Energy Gel we ignored the toxic maltodextrin/fructose/rice syrup formula everyone else is using and started from scratch instead, creating the only energy gel on the market that won't give your liver a pasting and which naturally regulates its carbohydrate delivery so you get stable energy that lasts, not a flash/crash candy bomb.
Fruit juice: also a bad idea
Just when you thought a pint of orange juice was sorting you out post-run, we have to come along and spoil everything. Sorry about that.
Once again, the fructose in your fruit juice has been removed from the food containing it and is now free to bugger you up. An occasional glass is fine, particularly if you're squeezing your own fresh, but if you're sinking the stuff like water it's time to swap it for... well, water actually.
Fructose: so how can something so good be so bad?
Don't monkey around with nature. Keep your fructose in the fruit it came from for ace results every time
It's all in the fibre. So when you have a piece of fruit, or a vegetable, containing fructose it is a perfectly-balanced piece of natural brilliance.
See, the fructose delivers a great carbohydrate source to cover your carb needs, while the fibre in the fruit/veg naturally regulates how quickly that fructose is absorbed by your body.
You digest the food by breaking down the fibre, the fructose is released gradually and you get an awesome, stable, and 100% healthy dose of sweet goodness.
But mess about with that finely-tuned piece of magic by extracting that fructose and removing it from the fibre to become fructose powder or liquid, and boom, you just messed everything up big time and turned it into the world's least fun tequila shot.
As we learned a long time ago, when it comes to health and performance nature is the business and the less you mess with it the better.
We go to extreme lengths at 33Fuel to always deliver every ingredient in every one of our products in its most natural - and powerful - state so you get all of the benefits, not some watered-down shoddy substitute.
It costs us a boatload more, but we wouldn't have it any other way and this is something we will never compromise on.
The best sugar for athletes
So in conclusion, you can eat as much whole fruit as you like. Smash down those bananas, gorge on those oranges, load your plate with as much pineapple as you can carry (bonus tip: pineapple is an incredible anti-inflammatory, use instead of ibuprofen for way better, and way healthier, results), and pound them berries into your porridge.
As long as you're eating the whole fruit you just can't go wrong.
Yours in performance
Want sports nutrition that delivers a performance upgrade on race day, and a health upgrade for life?
Head to 33Fuel.com and check out our sports nutrition gamechangers
Energy gels that destroy your liver like alcohol? Leaf it out. The unique formula of 33Fuel's Chia Energy Gels has been developed specifically for 100% performance upside with zero health downside making you faster, happier and healthier in one delicious hit. Boom!
More performance-boosting content
From the 33Fuel Podcast
From the 33Fuel Vlog