Last updated on November 1st, 2022 at 04:12 pm
It seems weird to ask, “Why Do BodyBuilders Eat Honey?”
I mean, honey is basically sugar.
Okay, it’s not the same as granulated sugar that most lifters avoid like the plague, but still.
However, even bodybuilders need a source of carbs and sugar, but only if consumed in the right way and at the right times.
Allow me to explain why and when bodybuilders consume the golden nectar.
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Why Do BodyBuilders Eat Honey?
The main reason bodybuilders eat honey is because it can increase and improve their overall performance. Honey taken as a pre-workout will slowly and steadily release glucose into the body. If taken during your workout it can help to increase your power output. Whereas, honey taken after your workout can help to nourish the muscles. However, all bodybuilders will only ingest raw and organic honey. Many supermarket varieties that are even labelled “100% honey” will have been heated to excess and filtered, thus removing many of the benefits.
1. Even BodyBuilders Need “Sugar”
You’d immediately think that bodybuilders wouldn’t go near honey because of the carb/sugar content.
Honey, just like sugar, contains glucose and fructose.
With that being said, the fructose content isn’t the refined version that is typically found in sweeteners.
Unfortunately, refined fructose will be metabolized by the liver, and it is this that generally causes obesity.
However, honey is very different to these “bad” sugars, but it should still only be consumed in moderation by bodybuilders, and those watching their weight.
Honey is actually the only product that contains all the necessary ingredients to keep you alive and healthy.
In other words, if you had to, you could live solely off honey (although I wouldn’t recommend it).
Honey contains vitamins, enzymes, minerals, and water, all of which the human body requires.
So, honey is definitely as healthy as we are led to believe.
But, as a bodybuilder, there are certain times that it is best to ingest honey.
Plus, from a bodybuilder’s perspective they will include their honey intake when they track calories and macros.
2. Arnie Used Honey as a Pre-Workout
The great Arnold Schwarzenegger has spoken of how he used honey and lime juice in water as a pre-workout.
So, let’s face facts, if it’s good enough for Arnie, it’s good enough for any bodybuilder.
If you choose to consume honey prior to your workout there are various benefits.
However, the major benefit is that honey slowly and steadily releases glucose into the blood.
This will actually stop your body from using stored muscle glycogen as fuel.
The longer you can avoid dipping into your stores of muscle glycogen, the more you can keep fatigue at bay.
I can tell you now that consuming honey before a workout is far better than the range of sports drinks and pre-workout shakes that most of us turn to.
These typically contain caffeine, sugars, and various artificial ingredients.
In fact, most pre-workout drinks will usually leave you feeling bloated and they are likely to irritate your digestive system.
Honey on the other hand is easily digestible and has completely natural ingredients.
From a bodybuilder’s perspective this is perfect in terms of ingredients and the fact that consuming honey can spare muscle glycogen.
3. Steve Reeves Used Honey Mid-Workout
The late actor and bodybuilder, Steve Reeves, had a slightly different take on honey than Arnie.
However, he still consumed it regularly and was aware of its many benefits.
Steve would actually take a jar of honey to the gym with him and consume it while he was working out.
In fact, Steve started a trend, as other Gold’s Gym members spotted his honey swilling and soon followed suit.
You will even regularly see modern-day bodybuilders pull a jar or bottle of honey from their kit bag and take some while they train.
This, once more, is done for the glucose content.
While you’re working out your blood glucose will drop.
So, in effect, taking a few slugs of honey while you train will supply the body with glucose.
You are basically topping up your glycogen levels while you work out (remember that the body typically uses stored muscle glycogen for fuel).
This will help to increase the power output of the muscles, which will of course improve your overall performance.
You will typically find that the body’s glycogen level drops significantly when you go past the 60-minute training mark.
So, as a professional bodybuilder you are probably regularly training well in excess of 60 minutes each workout.
Therefore, taking honey during your workout can help you to train more effectively for longer
Honey at the Gym
4. You Can Use Honey Post-Workout
One of the best times to consume carbs and sugar is after your workout.
In fact, when performing intense strength training later in the day you can probably get away with far more than you’d ever think.
This is especially true if you have limited your carb intake during the day.
Anyway, back to honey.
Most of us view our post-workout meal as an ideal time to consume protein.
Basically, we want our protein intake to go straight to the muscles.
This is why protein shakes are most commonly taken straight after a workout.
However, honey can also play an important role.
Honey will be the ideal source of glucose to restore the body’s glycogen levels.
Plus, the various nutrients found in honey will help to nourish the muscles after a tough workout.
In fact, you could get the best of both worlds by adding a couple of teaspoons of honey to your protein shake.
5. Not All Honey is Created Equal
All this talk of honey, I think it’s important to state that not all honey is as “natural” as you’re led to believe.
In fact, most of the jars labelled “100% honey” at the supermarket or local store are not what they seem.
Bodybuilders will only ever consume raw honey.
The main difference between raw honey and probably 95% of supermarket honey is the way it is prepared.
Raw honey will never be heated above 115 degrees, whereas the mass-produced supermarket varieties will typically be heated to higher temperatures.
Unfortunately, this will remove most of the valuable enzymes that make honey such a healthy food.
In effect, the overheating process will simply leave you with just the sucrose version of sugar.
You should always check the label to ensure it is raw honey.
Plus, the honey you’re looking for will be solid at room temperature, dark and cloudy.
So, whenever you see honey that is clear, bright, and viscous it will have been treated in some way.
That being said, bodybuilders will always be wary of how much honey they consume, as it is basically sugar.
And this is still true of the raw and organic variety.
Okay, it’s sugar that contains healthy enzymes, therefore it’s far better than the spoonfuls of sucrose you may add to your tea or coffee, but it’s still sugar.
So, even with all the benefits, most bodybuilders would never consume more than a few teaspoons a day.
And, of course, these would be counted towards their daily macros.
Raw Honey vs. Commercial Honey
So, as you can see the main reason that bodybuilders eat honey is for the glucose content.
Honey can be consumed before, during, or after a workout.
The main benefit is that it will keep muscle glycogen levels topped up.
As a pre-workout this ensures that muscle glycogen is spared, which helps to keep fatigue at bay.
During a workout, honey can increase the power output of your muscles.
And after a workout it will nourish the muscles and replace lost glycogen.
With that said, all bodybuilders will be wary of the amount of honey they consume.
Plus, they will only ever eat the raw variety.
If you thought honey was bad, you’ll want to check out my article about why bodybuilders eat cheesecake.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.