We already know that mouthwash is where it’s at when it comes to conquering bad breath, but a recent study has found that mouthwash has another more unexpected use as well. Researchers are claiming that gargling a homemade oral mouthwash can actually shave a significant amount of time off your long-distance running time.
According to a small study conducted by the University of Georgia, when marathon runners swished (but not ingested) a little mouthwash around during a timed trial, their performance improved by 5 percent. While it may sound like an insignificant figure, in reality it equated to a whopping three-minute improvement in time.
“It was surprising to us how drastic the improvement in times was,” Jamie Cooper, an associate professor of food and nutrition at the University of Georgia, said. “These were endurance-trained individuals, so to see a 5 percent improvement in performance — almost three minutes on average — was huge.”
Nine men and seven women participated in the experiment, featuring a 7.9-mile timed trial on an indoor track. Individuals swigged and spat out a mouthwash solution eight times over the course of each run, completing the trial four times each. During each of the trials they swigged a different solution — two made with the artificial sweetener sucralose of different intensities; one with a basic sucrose (aka table sugar) solution; and a fourth control solution of water. Only the solution made with real sugar increased performance. Scientists believe that the taste of the energy solution in the mouthwash triggers the brain’s reward zones, which are related to motor control.
“It’s more the presence of energy in the mouth rinse than it is the sweet taste,” Cooper explains. “Sweet taste might have a small effect because we did have some trends for differences, but the energy definitely seems to be the main driving force behind it.”
This isn’t the first time mouthwash has been linked to performance enhancement. A 2013 systematic review of experiments found a correlation between improvement in performance and carbohydrate mouthwashes, while an alternative 2012 study conducted at the University of Georgia concluded that gargling sugar water boosts self-control, having a seemingly similar result on people attempting to focus as on the marathon runners.
“It seems that glucose stimulates the simple carbohydrate sensors on the tongue. This, in turn, signals the motivational centers of the brain where our self-related goals are represented. These signals tell your body to pay attention,” explains professor of psychology Leonard Martin, who authored the study.
If you want to really shave time off your run, sugar water isn’t going to totally do the trick: The blood, sweat, tears and discipline of weekly training is going to get you closer to nailing your goal time than gargling.
What Do YOU Think?
Have you ever tried gargling with mouthwash during a long-distance run? Would you ever try gargling while running? What other things help you shave time off your finish?