We have great news for gym rats with a sweet tooth. A new study published in the March issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise showed that people who work out regularly can stop needlessly worrying about consuming sugar, giving even moderate exercisers some license to enjoy their desserts.

Researchers gave 10 male cyclists energy drinks containing one of three types of sugar—galactose, fructose, or glucose—after exercise, and measured the effectiveness of the different sugars in replenishing the body’s energy stores. Most interestingly, the data showed that consuming any type of sugar was beneficial to both the liver and muscles in post-workout recovery.

This study confirms what other researchers have been discovering in recent years. On Tara Parker-Pope’s Well Blog for The New York Times, a post cites another report with the same conclusion:

Activity can “significantly reduce the health risks associated with fructose and other forms of sugar,” said Dr. Robert J. Johnson, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver, who has long studied fructose metabolism and was an author of a review article last year about fructose and exercise. …

Over all, Dr. Johnson said, the “current science suggests that exercise exerts a positive physiological influence” on some of the same metabolic pathways that sugar harms. “Exercise may make you resistant to the undesirable effects of sugar,” he said.

Best of all, you don’t even need to be an elite athlete to offset the effects of sweets in your diet. An analysis of 47 randomized clinical studies, published this week in The Journal of the American Medical Association, found that moderate exercise — defined as 30 minutes a day, five times a week — is all it takes to control blood sugar levels in a person with Type 2 diabetes.

This wealth of new research should silence critics of high fructose corn syrup and other equivalent sugars — provided that consumers are also getting regular exercise, which is critical for good health to begin with. Moderation is hardly a radical concept for weight control. But for the media to pick up on it, sometimes it takes committed scientists to show that it was the right strategy all along.