Manuka Honey: Pre-Workout Superfood?


9 minutes

Essential Takeaways

Our bodies need fuel before, during, and after exercise in order to perform and recover well. The key is a good balance of easy-to-digest carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

Manuka honey is a fantastic pre- and post-workout snack. As a carbohydrate containing glucose and amino acids, honey helps the body to prepare for exercise, maintain energy levels during, and repair muscles afterwards.

Honey has even been found to be as good or better than commercial sports snacks. So why wouldn’t you choose the more natural option?

Honey has been a champion for health and wellness for centuries¹.

So it’s only natural to wonder whether this age-old superfood can improve athletic performance too.

The studies suggest that it could. And perhaps not in the ways that you might think.

Here, we’ll break down whether eating honey pre-workout or post-workout can help your body prepare for and recover from exercise.

In this guide to using honey for pre- and post- workouts

NB: Supplementing your diet with honey or any other natural food should be safe, but it’s always best to check with a medical professional. This is particularly important if you are diabetic.

What Your Body Needs for Working Out

Exercise can be damaging to our bodies if we don’t prepare well.

Eating right before working out helps our bodies to perform better, avoid serious damage to muscles, and recover quickly afterwards.

What you should eat is similar regardless of the type of exercise you want to do.

But the ratio of macronutrients that you need will depend on the workout and results you’re looking to achieve².

Carbohydrates are one such macro nurtient that are critical when fuelling your body for exercise.

“It is recommended that consuming carbohydrates prior to, and during, exercise may enhance indices of physical (i.e., time to exhaustion) and skilled (i.e., soccer passing and shooting accuracy) performance.”

The other macronutrients required by the body are protein and fat.

The best way to prepare your body to workout, nutritionally, is to have a “complete” meal around 2-3 hours before exercise.

A “complete” meal includes these three macronutrients.

If you don’t have a couple of hours, stick to foods that are easier to digest and contain mostly carbohydrates².

Like honey.


3 Ways That Eating Manuka Honey Pre-Workout Can Boost Performance

“Combining different forms of carbohydrates may increase oxidation rates and allow for worthwhile ingestion of a greater overall total volume of exogenous energy during prolonged endurance exercise.

Given that honey contains multiple sources of carbohydrates (i.e., primarily fructose and glucose), this natural substance seems intuitively able to offer potential as a “food-first” approach to carbohydrate supplementation.”

You might think that eating honey pre-workout makes sense from an energy perspective.

More sugar means more energy, right?

This appears to be partly true, but far from the end of the story.

Let’s check out the evidence for why eating honey before working out can have a more holistic impact on our health.

1) Honey fuels your body for exercise

When we exercise, our active muscles use the glucose in our blood for energy³.

To keep our blood glucose levels steady, our bodies release hormones that produce more glucose to keep our muscles supplied.

If blood sugar isn’t regulated, this can either be a sign or cause of health problems like diabetes⁴.

But there are ways we can give our bodies a helping hand.

Honey contains mostly carbohydrates including fructose and glucose, which are important nutrients for exercising.

Since our bodies need blood glucose to replace what’s being used up by our muscles, snacking on honey before exercise can help to provide this naturally.

2) Honey helps you to keep exercising for longer

“The honey drink was as good as commercial sports drink in improving running time trial performance and have similar effects on blood glucose.”

Honey is lower on the glycemic index than sugar, so it raises blood sugar levels more slowly.

(It also has much more nutritional value than sugar⁵).

Studies have found that it is as good or better at maintaining blood glucose levels than artifical performance snacks and drinks⁶.

What does all this mean, exactly?

It means that honey does a better job than of drip-feeding you the energy you need to exercise than refined sugar, rather than supply it all in one go and leading to a crash later on.

By consuming honey pre-workout, you can help stabilise your glucose levels in a healthier, more natural way.

3) Honey helps to keep you focused while exercising

“The brain is one of the few human organs that relies heavily on blood glucose to maintain optimal functioning. As cognitive processes are likely to be vital [in skilled or prolonged sports]… nutritional strategies that help maintain or increase blood glucose concentrations could be of benefit.

Given its typical carbohydrate composition (i.e., containing primarily low GI fructose), there exists a theoretical basis to suggest honey as a potentially worthwhile intervention in this context.”

Our active muscles aren’t the only things that need blood glucose to function optimally.

Our brains need it too.

And if glucose levels drop, we can start to feel fatigued and struggle to concentrate⁷.

Studies have found that honey can have similar positive impacts on cognitive functioning, blood glucose concentrations and immunological responses as other types of carbohydrate, particularly when consumed regularly over a few weeks⁸.

So rather than opting for artificial sweeteners, snacks, or drinks, try manuka honey before exercising.

Scroll down for recipe ideas.


3 Reasons Why Using Manuka Honey Post-Workout is Great Too

Exercising is fantastic for our bodies, but it does cause physical strain and stress.

So it’s important to rest afterwards, and let our bodies repair themselves.

Eating manuka honey post-workout is a great way to help the body repair itself.

Here’s why.

1) Honey replaces the glycogen used in working out

“Your muscles store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen. During exercise, your body breaks down glycogen to fuel your workout. Rest gives your body time to replenish these energy stores before your next workout.”

Studies show that the fructose found in honey can help to replenish the glycogen stores in the liver⁹.

Whilst our bodies should do this on their own, some have a harder time than others.

Consuming honey after working out can help you give your body a natural helping hand.

2) Honey contains carbohydrates and amino acids for muscle repair

Protein and carbohydrates are best for post-workout snacks, and that’s why protein shakes are so popular.

But the carbs found in commercial sports snacks and drinks are often filled with refined sugars and artificial additives.

That’s not ideal, especially when you’re exercising to improve your health and wellness.

Manuka honey is a fantastic natural alternative that also contains amino acids¹⁰; the building blocks of muscle.

So rather than turning to a highly processed sports drink, try a manuka honey post-workout smoothie or warm drink.

3) Honey may reduce the damaging effects of free radicals

Exhaustive exercise can produce free radicals, which damage the cells in our bodies¹¹.

This can actually have a counterproductive effect in building muscle mass.

Manuka honey is rich in antioxidants¹² which help to neutralise free radicals¹³.

By consuming manuka honey post-workout, you can replenish your body’s antioxidants and help it to bounce back stronger.


Ideas for Honey Snacks Before, During, and After Working Out

Studies suggest that the best way to maintain stable glucose levels using honey is to consume it in small, regular intervals before, during, and after exercise.

You can of course just lick it off the spoon!

But if you’re keen for some creative ways to use manuka honey for exercise, here are some ideas.

Pre-workout honey snacks

Here are some fantastic pre-workout snacks to make with honey:

  • Whole wheat toast topped with manuka honey and avocado.

  • Low fat or fat-free yoghurt with manuka honey and berries.

  • Lean protein on brown rice with a manuka honey dressing.

  • A cup of oatmeal with fresh berries and manuka honey.

Mid-workout isotonic honey water

Create your own isotonic drink by adding manuka honey to your water.

This supplies your body with a steady source of carbohydrates while working out and replaces the lost fluids and electrolytes from sweat.

Or better yet - help your body absorb the drink quicker by making it hypotonic. You can do this by simply adding a pinch of salt.

Post-workout honey and protein shake

Protein shakes are quick and easy ways to get good nutrients into your system quickly. And you can get creative with the fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats you use.

Here are some ideas for delicious protein shake ingredients with manuka honey:

  • Protein powder, banana, peanut butter, cacao, and manuka honey.

  • Protein powder, mango, pineapple, greek yoghurt, and manuka honey.

  • Protein powder, orange, a frozen banana, greek yoghurt, and manuka honey.

  • Protein powder, avocado, ice, milk, and manuka honey.

Where to Buy the Best Honey for Working Out

Manuka honey is famous throughout the world for its unique potency of antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties¹².

And manuka honey that features a UMF™ grading (like ours) has been subjected to stringent independent testing.

So you know that it isn’t one of the many fake honey products filling supermarket shelves.

If you’re looking for an all-natural product bursting with health goodness, you’ve come to the right place.

Shop our manuka honey.

Unsure what UMF™ grade is right for you? Take the quiz.

Honey Pre- and Post-Workout FAQs

Get quick-fire answer to your questions about honey and exercise here.

Is honey good before a workout?

Yes. Studies show that honey is an easy-to-digest carbohydrate which makes it ideal as a pre-workout snack. It releases energy slowly, and helps to maintain blood glucose levels. These things enable exercise for prolonged periods while maintaining optimal cognitive function.

How much honey should you take pre-workout?

It’s best to consume small amounts of honey at regular intervals before, during, and after exercise. A teaspoon of honey on some whole wheat toast, greek yoghurt, or a smoothie gives you a delicious sweet hit of all the good stuff you need.

When should you eat honey pre-workout?

It’s best to have a complete meal 2-3 hours before a workout. This includes protein, fat, and carbohydrates. If you have less time, try a smaller snack like yoghurt and honey around 45 minutes before exercise.

When should you eat honey post-workout?

It’s best to give your muscles fuel to repair themselves as soon after working out as possible. Honey contains amino acids and glucose, which can help the body rejuvenate. Consume in a protein shake for added nutrients.

Why do bodybuilders eat honey?

Honey is an easy-to-digest carbohydrate that contains glucose and amino acids, two key components in exercise and muscle repair. Bodybuilders may choose honey as a natural, effective alternative to the more artificial and sugary performance products on the market.

Is honey good for gaining muscle?

As with any health and fitness goal, one food or action won’t do all the work for you. Studies suggest that honey, in combination with a good exercise regime and the right protein intake, may help in building muscle.


¹ Traditional and modern uses of honey in human diseases, National Library of Medicine.

² Pre-workout nutrition, Healthline.

³ Why does exercise sometimes raise your blood sugar? Healthline.

What to know about blood sugar spikes in diabetes, Medical News Today.

Honey vs. sugar, Medical News Today.

Is honey an effective pre-workout snack? Muscle and Fitness.

CNS fatigue and prolonged exercise, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Honey supplementation and exercise, National Library of Medicine.

Effects of post-exercise honey drink ingestion, National Library of Medicine.

¹⁰ Analysis of amino acids in mānuka honey, Waikato University.

¹¹ Free radicals in exhaustive physical exercise, National Library of Medicine.

¹² Antibacterial activity of manuka honey, National Library of Medicine.

¹³ Free radicals, antioxidants, and functional foods, National Library of Medicine.

Your wellness journey starts with a spoonful a day.

Thank you!

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