If you observed the football world cup a couple of months ago, you must have seen players swish and spit out their sports drinks over the field during matches! Well, they weren’t doing this because it seemed all too cool, but instead they were following a “during match” nutritional strategy called “carbohydrate rinsing”/ “mouth rinsing”.
Many athletes find it difficult to drink gallops of sports drink during training as they often suffer from bloat and gastric discomfort. Most of the times, they hence avoid drinking anything at all and eventually land up into early fatigue.
Researchers believe that rinsing the mouth with a carbohydrate solution can trick the mind into thinking that more fuel is coming towards the working muscles. This further helps the muscles work more efficiently by being more active, while accepting nutrients and eliminating waste products.
There is however one catch to this, Carb rinsing works well only in when the muscles are too low on fuel stores. This could potentially happen during long training hours or when you start the training session too low on carbohydrates.
It has been noted that this strategy can help in preventing fatigue especially central nervous fatigue- which is ideally more mental fatigue than physical that pushes the mind to think that you are in fact physically fatigued when you are not!
How can swimmers use this strategy?
Well, we swimmers do not have anywhere to spit the rinsed carbs obviously! But this strategy can work well by sipping smaller amounts of carb solutions squishing and rolling around the mouth for faster absorption and then gulping that small sip in. This becomes a better strategy than drinking 150-200ml of carbohydrate solution every 20 minutes.
Alternatively, you could use the carb rinse strategy during events. When you are nervous already, eating or drinking anything before race becomes too difficult. Rinsing the mouth with carbs and spitting it out can activate the muscles just before the race and get you all ready for the race!
Author: Mihira A R Khopkar
B.Sc. Dietetics, M.Sc. Sports Nutrition
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