Endurance athletes will do just about anything to gain an advantage when it comes to natural products that can help with post-workout inflammation. The ability to heal quicker and recover is what often makes the difference in being a top-tier athlete or winning the beer sprint against your buddies and always finishing at the bottom of the order and picking up the tab. Because of some of the antibacterial and antioxidant properties in Manuka honey, athletes are starting to laud it as a natural recovery aid.
Why Use Manuka Honey?
One of the more interesting compounds in Manuka honey is methylglyoxal (MGO). While this compound is known for containing toxic properties, these properties do NOT hurt human cells. However, according to reports, Manuka honey can sometimes attack bacterial cells and promote healing.
What really attracts athletes to Manuka honey, though, is the antioxidants in the honey. Antioxidants play a major role in helping muscles recover due to the anti-inflammatory properties. For an athlete, this is everything. Ginger Hultin, M.S., R.D.N., stated, “It has higher levels of antioxidant phenolic compounds than other honey, so it has been shown to contain strong antimicrobial properties.”
The downside to using Manuka honey, however, is the high sugar content. A teaspoon of Manuka honey is roughly 70 calories with 16 grams of sugar. Point being, it cannot be consumed in great quantity or the athlete will overload on carbs and defeat the purpose of working out. However, some athletes are substituting Manuka honey for energy gels or working it into their endurance food to get the benefits of both the sugar boost as well as the antioxidant benefits of the honey. Other athletes are adding Manuka honey to their pre-workout smoothie or breakfast routine.
Other Natural ‘Healers’ for Athletes
Rather than taking a mouthful of supplements or taking something illegal, most athletes would prefer to use natural ingredients to help recover from workouts or races. When I was riding and competing in endurance events, I regularly added sour cherry juice and beet powder to my smoothie, in addition to the Manuka honey. While this combination may not work for everyone, for me personally, it was very effective. My legs recovered overnight and I rarely had “dead” or “tired” legs the day after a big effort.