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Sports drinks enhance performance

Published: 21st April 2009

Sports drinks don’t have to be swallowed for an enhanced performance, according to scientists at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Simply rinsing the mouth with an energy drink can improve your sports performance, significantly, says Professor David Jones, of the Institute for Research into Human Movement.

The study was carried out by MMU and the University of Birmingham and showed that certain receptors in the mouth acknowledge the presence of sugar and send reward and pleasure signals to the brain.

Although sports drinks and sweets are known to improve performance, it seems the sugar does not even need to be absorbed by the body’s muscles to have an effect.

Tests on athletes

Simply rinsing the mouth with a drink and spitting it out "instead of swallowing" helps boost performance.

They gave eight endurance-trained cyclists a drink containing 6.4% of glucose (a form of carbohydrate) and compared the results with those for a drink containing the artificial sweetener saccharin.

A second group were given a drink containing 6.4% of maltodextrin (a tasteless form of carbohydrate) and the results were compared with those for a drink containing another artificial sweetener.

Everybody taking part in the trial rinsed their mouths with their drink and spat it out before completing a one-hour cycle challenge. All the drinks were sweetened artificially with another sweetener to make them all taste the same.

Power boost

In both trials, the cyclists swilling their mouths with the carbohydrate drink performed significantly better than those given the artificial sweetener drink. It took them an average of 2% less time to complete the set workload and they displayed an increase in average power to help them cycle, even though they did not feel they were working any harder.

Dr Edward Chambers, from the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Birmingham, said: "Much of the benefit from carbohydrate in sports drinks is provided by signalling directly from mouth to brain rather than providing energy for the working muscles."