Effect of Ingesting a Honey-Sweetened Beverage on Soccer Performance and Exercise-Induced Cytokine Response

in International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
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This study compared the effect of a honey-sweetened beverage with those of a commercial sports drink and a placebo on performance and inflammatory response to a 90-min soccer simulation.


Ten experienced male soccer players randomly performed 3 trials (honey [H], sports drink [S], and placebo [P]), consuming the beverage before and during halftime for a total of 1.0 g/kg carbohydrate for H and S. Performance measures included 5 sets (T1–T5) of a high-intensity run and agility and ball-shooting tests followed by a final progressive shuttle-run (PSR) test to exhaustion. Blood samples were drawn pretest, posttest (B2), and 1 hr posttest (B3) for markers of inflammation, oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), and hormone response.


T2–T5 were significantly slower than T1 (p < .05), and a decrease in PSR time was observed from baseline (–22.9%) for all treatments. No significant effect of the interventions was observed for any performance measures. Plasma IL-1ra levels increased posttest for all treatments (65.5% S, 63.9% P, and 25.8% H), but H was significantly less than S at posttest and P at B3. Other cytokines and ORAC increased at B2 (548% IL-6, 514% IL-10, 15% ORAC) with no difference by treatment.


Acute ingestion of honey and a carbohydrate sports drink before and during a soccer-simulation test did not improve performance, although honey attenuated a rise in IL-1ra. Ingestion of carbohydrate and/or antioxidant-containing beverages at frequencies typical of a regulation match may not be beneficial for trained soccer players.

The authors are with the Dept. of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0430.