What Is Carb Rinsing? The Benefits For Runners

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Studies suggest carb rinsing, or swishing a sports drink without swallowing, boost exercise performance. What Is Carb Rinsing? The Benefits For Runners www.runnerclick.com

There is nothing more satisfying than taking a big gulp of that electrolyte-filled sports drink during that speedy run. Imagine feeling thirsty and knowing that refreshment is just a sip away. Then imagine seeing a runner pass by spitting out their sports drink while mid-stride instead of swallowing it. What the runner just witness is someone carb rinsing. So should we actually be carb rinsing instead of swallowing our drink during the run?

What Is Carb Rinsing?

“Carb rinsing” is the term for when an athlete swishes around a carbohydrate beverage such as a sports drink before spitting it out instead of actually drinking it.

The act of carb rinsing is popular among professional athletes. It made headlines after many noticing players doing so at the 2018 World Cup. Interestingly enough, there is little scientific evidence of the benefits of carb rinsing for soccer players. Instead, there is solid research for the benefits of runners andcyclists.

Photo by Ethan McArthur on Unsplash

Swishing not swallowing a carb drink is believed to refresh and provide a boost of energy during a workout without getting stomach cramps that often come with drinking too fast or too much during exercise.

The Science Behind Carb Rinsing

The idea is that the brain is being tricked when it comes to the pleasure of drinking something refreshing. Just tasting the liquid triggers the reward and arousal spots of the brain. The mind is signaled that carbs are coming so that the body knows it can continue to work harder.

And there is real science behind the fact that performance increased with those who carb rinse.

The first study to suggest that carb rising influences performance was conducted in 2004. The study found that cyclists who carb rinsed were a minute faster during a 40k time trial workout than those who did not.

A study from the University of Birmingham from 2009 went on to find that carb rinsing, or “carbohydrate sensing in the human mouth” found that the brain was activated by rinsing the mouth with carb drinks. The study further suggests that there was an improvement in exercise performance than doing so. This conclusion was further backed by physiologist Trent Stellingwerf of the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific in 2014.

The journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise published another study in 2016 that serves as the more in-depth research on the practice yet. Researchers found that cyclists benefited the most from carb rinsing when their glucose stores were reduced.

The researchers tested the performance of male cyclists when they were fed, when they fasted and when their energy was depleted. All the cyclists during the different conditions (fed, fasted or depleted state) conducted 30 minutes of intense cycling and a 20k time-trial. During these workouts, the cyclists’ carb rinsed throughout to rinsed with a placebo.

The results found that carb rinsing cyclists worked the best when stores were depleted. It did not have a significant influence when cyclists were fed.

They believe that since the latter group worked harder that carb rinsing does trick the brain into thinking fuel is coming so that it can work through fatigue knowing that energy is on its way.

This study also found that muscles were activated by carb rinsing. The researchers used EMG sensors on the quads of the cyclists and found that muscle activity was low when they were in the depleted state, but that carb rinsing reversed this.

Should Runners Practice Carb Rinsing

Since there was no positive effect in cyclists in the fed state who carb-rinsed (in fact, they had worse time trial times), the research suggests that those we are properly fed and fueled for a workout don’t need to carb rinse.

There is research that found carb rinsing only decreases fatigue and boosts performance for 15 minutes. This might mean it’s not really worth it. Runners might benefit from carb rinsing. This might be a good way to get an extra push during their long run, but they also need to be drinking the sports drink. Runners need carbs to replenish glycogen stores or else they will hit the wall or suffer from cramps. Runs 2 hours need a combo of carb rinsing and fuel.

Keep in mind that there was a study that found carb rinsing did not affect performance during an hour-long run. Instead, it might be best for short and fast runs.