Sugar in the Tank

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If you’re hitting the gym hard, make sure you strike the sugar balance.

1. Monosaccharides
Also known as simple sugars, monosaccharides include glucose, fructose, and galactose. All carbohydrates consumed in the diet are broken down into monosaccharides to be absorbed by the small intestine.

Glucose
Most carbohydrates are converted to glucose during digestion.
Travels via the bloodstream to all tissues in your body and will be readily converted to energy.
Glucose not used immediately will be stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen (to be accessed during exercise for energy).
When your blood sugar is drawn at the doctor’s office, it’s measuring blood glucose.
It can sometimes be listed as dextrose on food labels.

Fructose
Naturally occurring sugar in fruits, vegetables, and honey.
Component of table sugar (sucrose) along with glucose.
Can be derived from sugarcane, sugar beets, and corn.
Converted into glucose by the liver prior to being used as fuel.
Plays a vital role in sports nutrition, albeit lesser discussed as much media dialogue is associated with its over-consumption by the general population and links to obesity and other chronic diseases.

Galactose
Component of milk sugar (lactose) along with glucose.
Less sweet than glucose or fructose.
Component of antigens found on red blood cells that establish blood types.

2. Disaccharides
When monosaccharide molecules join together, they form disaccharides, including sucrose, maltose, and lactose.

Sucrose
Equal parts glucose and fructose.
Commonly known as table sugar.
Once consumed, it’s split into glucose and fructose via sucrose (enzyme).
Found in the stems of sugarcane and roots of sugar beets.
Major sweetening element in confections and desserts.
Has been replaced by high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in many areas of the food industry, especially sodas and junk foods. HFCS is typically 55% fructose and 45% glucose. It’s made my milling corn into corn starch, turning that corn starch into corn syrup (mostly glucose), and then turning some of that glucose into fructose (through the use of enzymes).

Maltose
Formed from two units of glucose during digestion of starch via the enzyme amylase.
Less sweet than glucose, fructose, or sucrose
Also known as malt sugar.

Lactose
Naturally occurring milk sugar.
Made up of glucose and galactose.
Broken down via the enzyme lactase.
Those with lactose intolerance have insufficient levels of lactase.

Peak Performance

When it comes to lazy days on the sofa, sugar should be considered your foe. When it comes to energy and exercise, your body will make friends with the sweet stuff, specifically certain members of the monosaccharide clan. With galactose being poorly oxidized for energy during activity, you’re left with glucose and fructose to provide fuel to your working muscles.

To get from the gut to the bloodstream, you’ll need protein transporters to deliver sugars to needed tissues. Glucose and fructose use different transporters, allowing for greater carbohydrate uptake when consumed together (using the same transporter would cause it to become over saturated, negatively affecting how much and how fast the sugars can be absorbed and utilized as energy).

A combined glucose- and fructose-based sports drink or gel formulation (optimal ratio 2:1) will have a more positive effect on performance than just glucose or fructose alone. This preferred ratio has also been shown to increase gastric emptying (rate at which contents leave the stomach), decrease GI distress, spare stored glycogen, and decrease perceived exertion (all positives).

Looking for sports nutrition products containing this glucose and fructose blend? Check out Gatorade 02 Perform and PowerBar Performance Energy Blasts.

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