Maple syrup – Is it nature’s performance fuel?

As an endurance athlete, you’re no doubt familiar with fast acting carbohydrates used to keep you fuelled. Energy gels are the most common of these but they’re often difficult to digest due to both their composition and artificial ingredients. Some people struggle to digest fructose and maltodextrin – common ingredients in running gels, and it’s important that water is used with these gels to aid digestion. This chemical factory often leads to the energy gel sitting in the gut, causing gastrointestinal (GI) upset, accelerating dehydration, and not providing the vital energy you need.

In fact, runner’s belly is common, especially among distance runners. Researchers estimate that between 30 to 90 percent  of runners and endurance sport athletes experience GI symptoms during their training and racing events.

In one study of 145 endurance runners, men experienced GI discomfort on 84 percent of training runs over the course of 30 days. Women reported symptoms 78 percent of the time.

A combination of glucose and sucrose are easier to digest while providing the energy you need, and some will find that this combination also tastes better. However, there’s no need to resort to lab-made ingredients to create a glucose and sucrose gel, nature has created it for us in the form of maple syrup.

A natural energy gel

Maple syrup is predominately sucrose, providing balanced energy as it’s made up of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose joined together.

The sugars in maple syrup begin to break down and deliver glucose the moment it enters your bloodstream. And because it has a lower glycemic index than other sugars, it continues to break down over a longer stretch of time to keep you fuelled for longer without the threat of GI distress.

And that’s not all! Maple syrup provides far more nutrition than traditional gels. As an energy gel alternative, it contains manganese, zinc, potassium, magnesium and antioxidants, so while you are refuelling your body with much-needed sugar, you’re also helping to replenish vitamins and minerals.

Just ¼ cup of pure maple syrup provides 216 low glycemic calories and upwards of 100 percent of your daily value of manganese, a mineral known to play key roles in bone health, blood sugar regulation and converting carbohydrates to energy, so the manganese is naturally helping you get fuelled faster. Plus, the naturally occurring magnesium supports muscle and nerve function and will lower your risk of muscle cramps.

maple syrup nutional values compared to 3 natural sweeteners

So how does maple syrup compare to honey? More ‘honey energy gel’ brands are popping up and like maple syrup, honey is a natural energy gel - an alternative to chemically laden gels. Honey has many health benefits, however honey is undesirable for IBS sufferers. This is because honey is high in fructose (fructose is a monosaccharide) which is the “M” in FODMAP. It’s also not an option for vegans.

And when it comes to sustainability, you can’t get much more sustainable than maple syrup. Maple syrup from maple trees is extremely sustainable as the maple tree is capable of bearing sap for over 200 years. In fact, it’s a renewable source of energy. Plus, the maple trees sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere! An estimated 100 pounds of carbon dioxide are sequestered per gallon of maple syrup.

So, maple syrup is nature’s performance fuel, making the perfect natural running energy gel. Ideal for providing sustained energy with low risk of GI issues, and with added nutrients and sustainability credentials, maple syrup is simply hard to beat!

We brought our Maple Ignite natural energy gels to life through a Kickstarter fundraiser, launching the product in January 2023. You can view our Kickstarter page here

Maple Ignite is now the best natural energy gel on the U.K. market, having won awards from Women's Running Magazine and the Men's Fitness Nutrition Awards.