If you've been buying sports gels to keep you going during your workout, you might want to try honey instead. According to findings presented today at the annual Experimental Biology conference, honey delivers a significant performance boost to athletes during strenuous exercise.

"Numerous studies have singled out carbohydrates as a critical nutrient in endurance exercise," says principal investigator Richard Kreider of the University of Memphis Exercise and Sport Nutrition Laboratory. "Most of the studies to date have shown supplementation with glucose to provide the extra staying power. We were pleased to find that honey, a 'cocktail' of various natural sugars, performed just as well."

The team let nine competitive male cyclists cycle for 64 kilometers each week for three weeks, feeding them honey, dextrose gel or a flavored, calorie-free placebo. Participants received 15 grams of that supplement along with 250 milliliters of water before they raced and then every 16 kilometers while cycling.

Both the honey and the dextrose gel led to better times and more cycling power among the athletes, as compared with the placebo¿s effects. While the dextrose gel slightly outperformed honey, the difference was negligible, leading the researchers to conclude that honey can be a natural and effective carbohydrate source for endurance athletes.