Most athletes know the importance of carbohydrate ingestion during endurance events to help prevent “hitting the wall.” Athletes participating in endurance events that can deplete carbohydrate stores are encouraged to consume gels, sports drinks and other carbohydrate containing products. But what about athletes participating in sports that don’t deplete carbohydrate stores? Are there any benefits for these athletes to consume carbohydrates? Read on to find out.
While events less than 60 minutes such as stop and go sports like hockey and soccer are not long enough to deplete carbohydrate stores, research shows that carbohydrates can still be used to improve performance, just likely not in the way you would think. In these events, carbohydrates improve performance through taste receptor cells in the mouth. The exact mechanism is unknown, but it is hypothesized that carbohydrates activate the receptors in the mouth so that perceptions of fatigue are reduced. This is why studies looking at providing carbohydrates to athletes directly through the bloodstream find no improvement in performance and why performance advantages are seen when the carbohydrates are just swished in the mouth and then spit out without being consumed. Interestingly, even in cases where the carbohydrates provided are not sweet and athletes are not aware they’re in the mouth, performance is still advanced.
Ever wonder when you watch high level sports like hockey or soccer why athletes often spit out their sports drink on the ice or field? They’re incorporating the carbohydrate mouth rinse as a performance advantage. If you’re an athlete competing in high intensity sports less than 60 minutes duration, try swishing a sports drink in your mouth during practice or games to delay fatigue so that you can perform at your best.
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