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Why Maple Syrup is a Good Choice for Endurance Athletes

As warmth returns to New England, some of us will be dusting off our running sneakers. The fresh air invites Vermonters outdoors year-round, but with buds blossoming we’re stowing our skis for the season. As the green returns, running, hiking and brisk walks become our outdoor exercise of choice. A good way to sustain yourself while practicing these endurance sports? Pure maple syrup.

Don’t just take it from a Vermonter. We spoke with sports dietician Molly Bremer MS, RDN of Mosaic Nutrition and she clued us into the benefits of maple syrup for endurance athletes.

Sports gels and candies have been a long-favored source of replenishing fuel lost during endurance exercises. But pure maple syrup has the necessary nutrition to be an ideal choice of fuel for endurance athletes. “Most athletes are using during the workouts to replace or supplement other high carbohydrate fuel sources. It is a good option because it is considered a quick carbohydrate, meaning our body digests it easily (unlike a high fat or high fiber meal),” Bremer shares.

Why do runners need to refuel?

It’s crucial to keep your body fueled to maintain energy for your performance. “When exercising, our body is depleting glycogen stores. To refill stores, we must consume carbohydrates. This helps maintain blood sugar and give us the energy and stamina to optimally perform,” Bremer explains.

And running a marathon with a bagel just seems inconvenient. “When you are going on a long run along Lake Champlain, hiking Camel’s Hump, or biking up the App Gap, slurping down some maple syrup is more feasible than pulling out a meatball sub,” Bremer says. “Maple syrup is quick digesting and involves no chewing.”

No disrespect to bagels and meatball subs.

Pure maple syrup is now packaged similar to sports gels for accessible refueling.

Benefits of using maple syrup in endurance sports

It’s not just in the midst of activity that maple syrup and fueling comes into play. The work starts before the workout! And pure maple syrup can support endurance athletes from pre- to post-work out.

Bremer breaks it down for us:

“You can start by having a generous amount of maple syrup with pancakes and a banana for breakfast to increase quick carbs before your workout. During your activity you can use 1oz shots of maple syrup to keep your blood glucose levels up. Of note, maple syrup has some potassium in it, but if you are concerned about replenishing electrolytes during your workout I would pair the maple syrup with a sports/electrolyte replacement drink or gel. After the workout you can make a smoothie with frozen bananas and berries, Greek yogurt, peanut butter, and flax seeds. This will help with taste and replenishing lost glycogen stores.”

Additional Advice

You’ll want to make sure you have enough fuel to avoid the possibility of “bonking.” This is what happens when “our body depletes our glycogen stores to the point where they can no longer adequately support our working muscles and brain.” You may start to feel loopy, but this can all be prevented by “eating enough and replenishing carbohydrates throughout the workout.”

If you haven’t trained with pure maple syrup, don’t start on race day! “I tell my clients to match your training and event day fueling. Meaning, do not try new products during the event … trust me, your GI system will thank you!”

Stick to what you know and try new ways to refuel, like with pure maple syrup, during training for your next big event!

Mosaic Nutrition is a nutrition counseling private practice based in Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland. You can learn more about Molly and Mosaic Nutrition through her website.