By Kelvin Tan, Editor for Men’s Health Singapore
Usually, when you get a bottle of sport drink, you guzzle it, right? But going by how football stars like Harry Kane have been seen spitting out their drink, maybe we’re doing it wrong.
The England star was seen taking long squirts from his sports-drink bottle, and then spitting it all out, and even Cristiano Ronaldo was seen doing this as well. But why?
It’s basically a habit known as carb-rinsing. According to a study published in the European Journal of Sport Science, carb-rinsing was shown to help athletes in their mid-20s run faster, jump higher, and lift heavier.
How does carb-rinsing work?
“When you carb-rinse, it activates the reward and arousal areas of the brain,” says Neil Clarke, a sports and exercise scientist at Coventry University. “The brain expects a carbohydrate boost, so it gets aroused. You’re almost tricking the brain. The brain says: ‘OK, carbs are on the way, we can push harder now.’”
Clarke also suggests that the effects of carb-rinsing take place on a subconscious level and that it can feasibly boost performance by 2 to 3 percent.
Other experts agree, with a report in the New York Times revealing the mind-trickery actually works. “You’re sort of tricking the brain a little bit; that’s what we think the mechanism is,” said Asker Jeukendrup, an exercise physiologist and sports nutritionist who, with colleagues at the University of Birmingham in England, detected in 2004 that carb rinsing made cyclists about a minute faster in 40-kilometer (nearly 25-mile) cycling time trials.
The New York Times also reported that a person familiar with the English national team shared that carb rinsing was something that their squad did and was a “fairly standard practice”, and a fitness official from the English Premier League saying it was used to boost energy, avoid a feeling of heaviness in the stomach and try to prevent cramps.
But is football the right sport to do it?
Not according to Lindsay Bottoms, an exercise physiologist and a lead researcher for sport, health and science at the University of Hertfordshire in England. the trouble is research shows carb rinsing is optimal for intense exercises lasting between 30 minutes and an hour, but football is at least 90 minutes long.
And carb rinsing help England finally win a penalty-kick game though?
“I would not go that far,” Ian Rollo, the principal scientist for the Gatorade Sports Science Institute in Britain, laughs. “No way do we take credit for any penalty successes at the moment.” But given there’s some benefit to the technique, “why wouldn’t you do it,” he adds.
Well, for a start, sports drinks aren’t free for us mere mortals, that’s why!