The role of carbohydrates, including fructose, on athletic performance reaffirmed by several health organizations

While most adults need to watch their caloric intake, athletes need to be conscious of the amount, type and timing of calories to help ensure optimal performance. The recent position by several professional organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine, continues to support the importance of carbohydrates as a fuel for muscles, the brain and the central nervous system. Since the body’s carbohydrate stores are somewhat limited, an important strategy for optimizing performance is to match the body’s needs for energy with the proper amount of carbohydrates before, during or in the recovery phase. Not consuming an adequate amount of carbohydrates at the right time can impede performance during prolonged sustained or intermittent high-intensity exercise lasting longer than one hour.

More recent research has shown that consuming different types of simple carbohydrates can improve the rate at which your body changes energy from food into the form of energy that your body uses. This may be because different proteins help transport different simple carbohydrates into the cell. Blends of fructose and glucose termed “multiple transportable carbohydrates” can increase absorption of carbohydrates and may improve the rates of oxidation during exercise.  For example, authors of one study suggest that exercise following fructose intake increases the conversion of fructose to lactic acid and oxidation by exercising skeletal muscle, resulting in decreased fructose and net glycogen storage. The authors concluded, “Compared with sedentary conditions, exercise performed immediately after fructose ingestion increases fructose oxidation and decreases fructose storage.”

Researchers continue to explore if this results in better performance or other benefits.