The consumption of carbohydrate before, during, and after exercise is a central feature of the athlete’s diet, particularly those competing in endurance sports. Sucrose is a carbohydrate present within the diets of athletes. Whether sucrose, by virtue of its component monosaccharides glucose and fructose, exerts a meaningful advantage for athletes over other carbohydrate types or blends is unclear. This narrative reviews the literature on the influence of sucrose, relative to other carbohydrate types, on exercise performance or the metabolic factors that may underpin exercise performance. Inference from the research to date suggests that sucrose appears to be as effective as other highly metabolizable carbohydrates (e.g., glucose, glucose polymers) in providing an exogenous fuel source during endurance exercise, stimulating the synthesis of liver and muscle glycogen during exercise recovery and improving endurance exercise performance. Nonetheless, gaps exist in our understanding of the metabolic and performance consequences of sucrose ingestion before, during, and after exercise relative to other carbohydrate types or blends, particularly when more aggressive carbohydrate intake strategies are adopted. While further research is recommended and discussed in this review, based on the currently available scientific literature it would seem that sucrose should continue to be regarded as one of a variety of options available to help athletes achieve their specific carbohydrate-intake goals.
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Wallis is with the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK. Wittekind is with the World Sugar Research Organization, London, UK.