Effects of Fructose on Athletes

Fructose is a naturally-occurring sugar that's found in many sports drinks and gels. So what are the effects of fructose on athletes?
Effects of Fructose on Athletes

Last update: 09 July, 2020

Fructose is the sugar that’s naturally found in fruits. Sports drinks and gels that athletes frequently consume, contain it. Consuming this nutrient has demonstrated concrete effects, especially when we’re talking about athletes. So what exactly are the effects of fructose on athletes?

Metabolizing fructose

Your metabolism moves more slowly than glucoseThis means that it’s not unheard of for it to cause certain types of gastrointestinal problems. However, fructose taken in small quantities in combination with glucose doesn’t slow down the absorption of fluids. This can be a big plus when we’re talking about the efficiency of hydrating.

Scientific literature shows that consuming fructose and glucose together can be beneficial for sports performance. One of the principal reasons is that it lowers feelings of fatigue.

Effects of fructose on athletes: malabsorption

It’s relatively common for people to show a fructose intolerance. This can be due, in part, to the fact that the sugar isn’t correctly absorbed by the small intestine. Because of this, the glucose then passes on to the large intestine where it ferments and can cause uncomfortable gas.

Normally, the symptoms of fructose malabsorption are the following:

  • Flatulence (passing gas)
  • Swelling
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramps

However, there are people with this problem who never develop symptoms, as long as they keep their fructose consumption below 25 grams a day. But this shouldn’t be confused with genetic fructose intolerance. This is a rare illness where a person has to completely refrain from consuming fructose.

Citrus fruits contain fructose


Effects of fructose on athletes: benefits of consuming post-exercise

A study published in Nutrients magazine confirms that the recuperation of muscular glycogen happens most efficiently when glucose and fructose are consumed together. 

This effect is due to the fact that each sugar is absorbed via different routes in the body. Consuming them together elevates the total absorption of carbohydrates. This gives us an effective strategy when we’re searching for ways to recover our muscles after a strenuous workout.

The “recovery” type formulas that you see on supermarket shelves usually contain both types of sugars in their recipes. They usually also contain an elevated quantity of high-quality biological proteins to help with muscular recovery.

The importance of a good recovery

Making sure that you get enough macro and micronutrients after a strenuous workout is of utmost importance. If you don’t, you could be increasing the likelihood of injury in future workout sessions.

Doing strength training with empty glycogen deposits could mean you are putting yourself at risk for muscular tears. This means that it’s not recommended to have a low-carb diet if you’re frequently doing strength training exercises.

In addition, it’s also crucial to ensure that you’re getting enough protein intake so that your anabolic pathways and muscle adaptations are supported. By doing this, you’re ensuring that your body is able to reconstruct damaged muscle tissue and muscular hypertrophy can occur. These adaptations help your muscles become stronger and more efficient according to the “super-compensation” theory.

Effects of fructose on athletes: fruits or supplements?

One of the biggest questions that arise when we talk about athletic nutrition is whether or not supplements are a good alternative for solid foods in terms of recovery. While the ease of supplements isn’t debatable, it’s also quite easy to make a food or smoothie with nutritional characteristics that perform the same functions as a supplement.

However, it’s important to note that the prepared formulas you find in supermarkets usually have a precise mixture of nutrients. This can save us time and energy. They’re also offered in a wide variety of flavors and textures so they can adapt to many preferences.

Dietary sports supplements

With this in mind, we do admit that they’re an easy solution to carry along with you and take after a workout or training session. However, you should always consult a nutritionist before beginning to supplement with these products.

Things to keep in mind!

Fructose is a sugar that aids the recuperation of muscular glycogen in the body. However, we have to keep in mind that its gastric emptying and absorption is slower than that of glucose, which can cause problems.

It’s necessary to pay attention to whether or not your body is able to correctly absorb fructose. Its digestion can cause secondary intestinal effects such as flatulence or diarrhea. These symptoms can cause a noticeable decrease in an athlete’s performance and become a serious problem if they happen in the middle of a sporting competition!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Rosset R., Egli L., Lecoultre V., Glucosse fructose ingestion and exercise performance: the gastrointestinal tract and beyond. Eur J Sport Sci, 2017. 17 (7): 874-884.
  • Gonzalez JT., Fuchs CJ., Betts JA., Van Loon LJ., Glucose plus fructose ingestión for post exercise recovery greater than the sum of its parts? Nutrients, 2017.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.