Sports drinks are sometimes best when swished, not swallowed
Do sports drinks have what your body craves, or maybe just your mouth? While these beverages have a number of ingredients and formulations, like salts that can help rehydrate your body, one of the key components is sugar. When you’ve been working hard for extended periods of time in aerobic activities like running or cycling, the water, salt and sugar can be a benefit, generally increasing people’s endurance by as much as an hour. For anything else, the benefits of guzzling Gatorade become a little murkier, to the point where you might as well just be swishing the stuff around in your mouth instead of swallowing it.
Depending on what you’re doing, gargling Gatorade may be just as helpful to your performance as ingesting it. For activities where concentration and accuracy are critical, such as fencing, merely exposing your body to the beverage’s sugars seems to offer plenty of benefit. Athletes were given either water or water dosed with maltodextrin, a flavorless sugar that couldn’t be detected, and asked to swish and spit between practicing lunges. Reaction times weren’t improved, but after spitting sugar water, fencers’ accuracy didn’t decline as quickly as they became otherwise fatigued. Even if participants couldn’t taste it, the maltodextrin had time to bond and activate receptors in their mouths, stimulating brain regions associated with motivation. This has also been found to benefit performance in endurance-oriented sports, like cycling.
The reason to avoid actually ingesting sports drinks is probably more obvious for a fencer than cyclist. While both activities require exertion, fencing is a bit less aerobic, burning fewer calories than cycling or running. As such, athletes may want to have better control over the amount of calories they take in, especially if they don’t need to replenish lost carbohydrates. While they can be beneficial if you’re exercising, especially in hot weather, it’s good to consider how many calories really need to be replaced while rehydrating. Otherwise, sports drinks generally have close to the sugar found in a soda, which isn’t good for anyone exercising to lose weight. Of course, if you’re also concerned about the effect of sugar on your teeth, maybe rinse with water after you finish swishing your sports drink.
Source: Why spitting is as good as swallowing when it comes to sports drinks by Lindsay Bottoms, The Conversation