How Sugar During Exercise Can Make You Stronger and Faster
Posted: August 27, 2010 at 9:03 am
Just about everyone agrees that taking carbohydrates,
particularly sugar, during exercise increases endurance in both
humans and animals. Eating sugar preserves stored muscle sugar called glycogen. However we
have to find a new explanation because recent data show that
taking sugar during exercise does not preserve muscle glycogen
(Sports Medicine, September 2010). The NEW most likely explanation
is that during prolonged, intense exercise, you become exhausted
because you cannot keep up with your requirements for oxygen.
This interferes with the sodium/potassium pumps, inside cell
membranes, that pump potassium into cells and sodium out of cells.
Your brain sends electrical messages along nerves to tell
your muscles to contract. When the electrical message that travels
along nerves reaches its connection with muscles, other electrical
messages travel along muscles to cause them to contract. The
electricity comes from your cells' ability to keep sodium outside
cells and potassium inside cells. This is done by "pumps" in the
During intense exercise, how fast you can move is limited
by how long it takes to get oxygen into muscles. Anything that
reduces your requirements for oxygen will help you to move faster.
Sugar and other carbohydrates require less oxygen than fat and
protein to supply energy to your "pumps", so sugar is a very
efficient source of energy for the sodium/potassium pumps during
exercise. When the sodium/potassium pumps lose their
efficiency from lack of oxygen, potassium leaks from cells and
you can't get enough electrical current to contract your muscles
with the force you need to compete. So your muscles weaken and
you have to slow down.
If you want to compete in sports that last more than 45
minutes, you will probably be faster and have greater endurance if
you take in sugar while you exercise. Taking caffeine with sugar
during prolonged exercise increases endurance even more. We
drink sugared, caffeinated soft drinks when we race, and avoid
them when we are not racing. When muscles contract, they
remove sugar so rapidly from the bloodstream that you do not get
a high rise in blood sugar. However when muscles are not
contracting, you lose this benefit and can develop a high rise
in blood sugar that can damage all of the cells in your body.