A sweet science has found its way into the baseball clubhouses. No, players are not duking it out in boxing matches. Instead, the Kansas City Royals and their minor league affiliates are using the energizing properties of honey, nature's very own sweetener, to help them through extra innings and what can be a grueling season.
What's the buzz about honey? The sweet stuff can act as a natural nutritional aid to help players get out of sticky situations and return to the diamond with a sting. (Enough honey puns for you?)
"I encourage all my players to eat clean and know the ingredients they are putting in their body by avoiding artificial foods and sweeteners," said Mitzi Dulan, the Kansas City Royals' nutritionist. "That's why I love honey; it's a natural energy booster all by itself."
Honey contains no artificial ingredients and is filled with carbohydrates, providing 17 grams per tablespoon. That makes it ideal for a quick jolt of energy when players begin to feel the tiring effects of travel and practice. Carbohydrates are necessary to help maintain muscle glycogen, which is the most important fuel source for athletes, according to the National Honey Board. It can also keep a player ready for action after sitting in the dugout while the other team is at bat.
I encourage all my players to eat clean and know the ingredients they are putting in their body by avoiding artificial foods and sweeteners. That's why I love honey; it's a natural energy booster all by itself.” -- Mitzi Dulan, the Kansas City Royals' nutritionist
Dulan, a longtime professional sports nutritionist, has teamed up with the National Honey Board as a spokesperson and to help sweeten the lives of major league players in a more natural way. Since adding honey to the team menu and encouraging a cleaner diet for players, Dulan has seen a change in their recovery time and overall energy.
"Most clubhouses, especially visiting ones, are filled with high-fat foods like burgers, macaroni and cheese and not much fruit," Dulan said. "Players are very limited in options, especially when they are on the road, because they can't access their own kitchens. Honey gives them at least one healthy option."
Dulan said some players, like Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, try hard to eat healthy. Others struggle with their diet.
"Once a player brought in a bucket of fried chicken and got busted by me," Dulan said. "From then on they said there should be a siren that goes off when I come into the clubhouse."
Instead of something fried, Dulan recommends mixing nut butter and honey, or honey and light cream cheese, as a dip for fresh fruits or vegetables. Players with culinary talents can attempt to make honey-cherry energy bars with dates, almonds, coconut and cherries for a tasty treat to optimize energy levels.
Wil Myers, outfielder for Royals' Triple-A affiliate Omaha Storm Chasers, has picked up on major league eating habits and likes to incorporate honey into one of his favorite sandwiches for an energy boost.
"Before a game I like to have a peanut butter, banana and honey sandwich; it holds me over while keeping me energized," Myers said. "I never thought of doing that, but now I try to put honey on a bunch of different things to sweeten it up."
Another honeyed hint Dulan gives players is using the syrupy gold as an inexpensive way to make a sports drink. A few drops of honey can turn a bland bottle of water into a sweet hydrating treat sans artificial coloring and sweeteners.
While sugar can be substituted for honey, in most cases Dulan pushes for honey because of its antioxidant properties, minimal processing and versatility. There are 300 varieties of honey in the United States.
Clover honey is most often found on supermarket shelves. Orange blossom honey is good in tea for a citrusy kick, while buckwheat honey is a great cough suppressant. Honey in its raw form, straight from the hive, is sought after by allergy sufferers because the bits of pollen it contains are thought to reduce hay fever symptoms.
With all its nifty uses, honey still hasn't translated into wins for the Royals, who have the worst record in the American League (41-60).
Guess it's not the answer to everything, but honey sure does sweeten the deal.