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4 Strange Yet Effective Ways To Improve Athletic Performance

Medical Daily logo Medical Daily 2/16/2017 Dana Dovey

For athletes, improving performance can be tricky, and there’s only so much that training and eating clean can do. This is where science steps in. A new study suggests that swishing with mouthwash that contains a small amount of sugar can help to significantly improve the performance of endurance athletes. This new finding adds to the list of little tricks you can try to help you better performance at your next event.  

The study, now published online in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, found that simply rinsing with sweet-flavored mouth wash, but not swallowing any, can help to improve the running times of endurance athletes. Athletes who swished with sucrose had about a five percent improvement in time, compared to those who swished with only water. In addition, the same results were not seen with athletes who swished with artificial sweeteners, so they key was in the sugar, not flavor. According to the researchers, this is because the sucrose solution provided a small amount of energy that may stimulate the “reward areas” of the brain related to motor control, which in turn may boost endurance performance.

Read: Sexual Activity Can Actually Boost Performance, Scientists Say

"It was surprising to us how drastic the improvement in times was," said study author Jamie Cooper in a recent statement. "These were endurance-trained individuals, so to see a 5 percent improvement in performance—almost three minutes on average—was huge."

Using mouthwash before a big race could improve your running time. © Photo Courtesy of Pixabay Using mouthwash before a big race could improve your running time.

Not a fan of mouthwash? There are other strange yet effective ways to ensure you get a personal best at every race. Try some of these.

Dark Chocolate

This idea is along the same vein as the mouthwash idea, although slightly more delicious. A 2016 study from Kingston University in England found that eating dark chocolate as a daily snack could improve an athlete's performance. This is due to a component in chocolate called epicatechin, which is a type of flavanol found in cocoa beans. Epicatechin increases nitric oxide production in the body which in turn dilates blood passages, reduces oxygen consumption, and allows athletes to go further for longer.

Sex

Is there anything that sex doesn’t improve? Probably not. Although the urban legend suggests that athletes shouldn't have sex before a “big game,” science actually proved the opposite. In fact, sex before sports may actually boost performance. This is because sex actually stimulates the production of testosterone, which can help boost aggression, and in turn improve athlete's abilities. A 2016 study found that in truth, sex before an athletic event didn't really affect the performance of most athletes, although it did improve the times of marathon runners.

Mind Games

Many people hate being on the receiving end of a mind game, but a 2014 study found that tricking athletes just a little bit could be the push they needed to perform a little better. The brain is a powerful organ, and tricking athletes into thinking they are performing slower than average, even though they are actually working slightly harder, may be enough to get them to work a little harder than they thought even possible.

“The idea is that there's some sort of governor in your brain that regulates exercise intensity so you don't overheat, or run out of gas, so to speak," said Ren-Jay Shei, a doctoral student in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington who studied this phenomena, in a press release. "In this case, the governor was reset to a higher upper limit, allowing for improved performance."

Source: Hawkins KH, Krishnan S, Ringos L, Garcia V, Cooper JA. Running Performance with Nutritive and Non-Nutritive Sweetened Mouth Rinses. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance . 2017

See Also:

Athletes' Performance Improved With Mind Games

Brain Scans Reveal Structural Differences In Athletes With And Without History Of Concussion

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