IF YOU spit out an energy drink after taking a sip, it could still boost your strength. This pre-digestive effect is immediate and seems due to a newly discovered neural pathway that links taste buds to muscles.
Nicholas Gant at the University of Auckland in New Zealand previously showed that mouth-rinsing and then spitting out a carbohydrate solution immediately improved performance at sprinting and cycling – even though it takes at least 10 minutes for carbohydrates to be digested and utilised by muscles.
This time, Gant’s team had 16 participants tire out their biceps by flexing them for 11 minutes before rinsing their mouths with either a carbohydrate drink or a non-calorific, taste-matched one. One second after rinsing, the team applied transcranial magnetic stimulation to the participants’ scalps, which aided the detection of activity in the motor cortex, a brain area known to send signals to biceps.
The team found that the volunteers who swilled with carbohydrates were able to flex with more force immediately afterwards, and had a 30 per cent stronger neural response compared with those given placebo. Gant says it’s likely that taste receptors detect carbohydrates, resulting in a signal to fatigued muscles “that help is on the way” so they continue working hard