Review Article

Sports Medicine

, Volume 41, Issue 6, pp 449-461

First online:

Effect of Mouth-Rinsing Carbohydrate Solutions on Endurance Performance

  • Ian RolloAffiliated withSchool of Sport and Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University Email author 
  • , Clyde WilliamsAffiliated withSchool of Sport and Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University

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Ingesting carbohydrate-electrolyte solutions during exercise has been reported to benefit self-paced time-trial performance. The mechanism responsible for this ergogenic effect is unclear. For example, during short duration (≤1 hour), intense (>70% maximal oxygen consumption) exercise, euglycaemia is rarely challenged and adequate muscle glycogen remains at the cessation of exercise. The absence of a clear metabolic explanation has led authors to speculate that ingesting carbohydrate solutions during exercise may have a ‘non-metabolic’ or ‘central effect’ on endurance performance. This hypothesis has been explored by studies investigating the performance responses of subjects when carbohydrate solutions are mouth rinsed during exercise. The solution is expectorated before ingestion, thus removing the provision of carbohydrate to the peripheral circulation. Studies using this method have reported that simply having carbohydrate in the mouth is associated with improvements in endurance performance. However, the performance response appears to be dependent upon the pre-exercise nutritional status of the subject. Furthermore, the ability to identify a central effect of a carbohydrate mouth rinse maybe affected by the protocol used to assess its impact on performance. Studies using functional MRI and transcranial stimulation have provided evidence that carbohydrate in the mouth stimulates reward centres in the brain and increases corticomotor excitability, respectively. However, further research is needed to determine whether the central effects of mouth-rinsing carbohydrates, which have been seen at rest and during fatiguing exercise, are responsible for improved endurance performance.