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Why Exercise Experts Say You Should Spit Out Your Energy Drink

According to new research from exercise physiology researchers at the University of Hertfordshire, you may not need to swallow sports drinks to get their promised energy boost. Swilling the liquid around your mouth could be just as effective.
Phoebe Hurst
London, GB
Photo via Flickr user Matteo Paciotti

In case you didn't get the memo: energy drinks are bad for you.

Not surprising, really. Anything with that much caffeine-per-milligram in that particular shade of E161f-magenta probably isn't going to help you on the way to sensible lifestyle choices or improved brain capacity.

But if you're using the sugar, salt, and carbohydrate-fortified drinks for their intended purpose—i.e. as an immediate energy boost before high intensity exercise, not to keep you from falling asleep at your desk after last night's five-hour Parks and Rec binge—then the 200-strong calorie count of that Lucozade can usually be offset.


READ MORE: This Bartender Is Leading the Energy Drink Cocktail Revolution

But according to new research, you may not actually need to swallow sports drinks to get their promised energy boost. Just swilling the liquid around your mouth could be as effective—and without the accompanying calories.

In the study, carried out by the University of Hertfordshire, a group of 12 fencers (the ones with the fake swords, not the guys you call to fix your front gate) were asked to rinse their mouths for five seconds with an energy drink containing maltodextrin, a type of easily digestible sugar often used in sports supplements. In a separate trial, they rinsed their mouths with water.

Because the maltodextrin solution was flavourless, the fencers did not know which solution they had swilled with.

The researchers then compared the accuracy of lunge movements carried out by the fencers after having rinsed their mouths with the two liquids. The results? Swilling with maltodextrin resulted in better performance and less fatigue than water alone. In fact, the accuracy of the fencers' lunges after a swill-and-spit of maltodextrin increased by an average of 6.4 percent.

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According to researchers, this shows that the presence of maltodextrin in the mouth alone is enough to stimulate areas of the brain associated with motivation and accuracy. As The Daily Telegraph reports, study author and exercise physiology lecturer Dr. Lindsay Bottoms added that simply rinsing your mouth with a sports drink can have the same effect as swallowing for exercise that lasts between 30 and 60 minutes.

This may not be as useful for endurance athletes taking sports drinks for hydration purposes as well as increased energy levels, but the study's findings will be welcomed by sportsmen and women worried about the high calorie-count of their liquid pick-me-ups. A study from the University of Oxford in 2012 found that many energy drinks contain as many calories as high-sugar chocolate bars, "cancelling out exercise gain" of those who drink them before working out.

Get ready to add "wantonly gargling and spitting sugary, saliva-infused liquids" to the list of annoying traits exhibited by gym-goers.