Sugar: good or bad after exercise?

Sugar: good or bad after exercise?

There’s plenty of evidence that a high-sugar diet can come with some very damaging health risks. Too much added sugar has been linked to increased risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, reduced “good” cholesterol, inflammation, insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. But that doesn’t mean all sugar is bad or that you need to cut it all out, especially because sugar found in a can of cola are is the same as that in a cup of fresh berries.

Natural sugars are the ones found in whole, unprocessed foods, such as the fructose in a banana or the lactose in a glass of a skim milk. They are essential for the healthy balance of the human body since they are sources of glucose: a simple sugar which is an important energy source in living organisms. The main function of glucose is to provide energy to the human brain. An organ that works 24 hours a day, requires a constant stream of glucose and doesn’t have “storage tanks”. Even in a resting state the brain consumes about 60% of the entire body’s glucose consumption.

Why glucose is important for exercise

The predominant form of stored glucose in the body is muscle glycogen. This is important because blood glucose is the main energy substrates for muscle contraction along exercise. Therefore, a lack of muscle glycogen is considered a major limiting factor of prolonged exercise performance, leading to a state of fatigue. Active people can deplete muscle glycogen in 30-60 minutes of high intensity, intermittent exercise. However, when the ingestion of dietary carbohydrates is optimal, it is possible to resynthesize muscle glycogen in approximately 24 hours; muscle glycogen being the major factor in recovery of exercise tolerance. Nevertheless, this requires that a 70-kg person eat at least 50g carbohydrates within the first 2h hours after exercise, beginning a soon as possible.

Why simple carbohydrates such as sugar are better than complex carbohydrates ?

The more complex the source of carbohydrates and other components added to the meal consumed right after exercise, the lowest the absorption of glucose and the restored of glucose as muscle glycogen will be, resulting in an inefficient recovering process.

Fortunately, at least in the first 30-60 minutes after excersie, the body’s ability to release insulin is suppressed, meaning that the high glycemic and simple sugars can be absorbed without the risk of being converted into body fat or causing damage to the body. In effect, this optimizes performance by facilitating rapid re-synthesis of the muscle glycogen store during the recovering process followed after exercise.


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