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Race Fueling

Should I Swish Or Swallow My Sports Drink?

Considering the high incidence of race-day GI distress among triathletes, it’s worth exploring the “rinsing protocol.”

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Considering the high incidence of race-day GI distress among triathletes, it’s worth exploring the “rinsing protocol” which applies to short- and potentially long-distance racing.

Here’s What You Do

Just swish a sport drink in your mouth for 5-10 seconds and then spit. Why? Because the performance benefits of swishing during high intensity events and activities lasting less than an hour appear to be similar to that of carbohydrate ingestion—without having to actually swallow a sports drink. That’s because receptors in the mouth activate regions in the brain that sense pleasure and reward, so you can essentially trick your brain into thinking it received fuel to keep you going strong.

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That said, you can’t trick your brain forever. During any exercise or event lasting longer than an hour, you need to actually ingest carbs to keep your muscles working optimally. But here are two reasons triathletes might want to experiment with the swish- and-spit protocol, even in longer races:

1) If you experience GI distress (ex. bloating, belching), you can try giving your gut a short rest by putting a halt to your fueling protocol for 10-15 minutes. Dial back the effort and occasionally swish and spit a sport drink to aid neuromuscular ring.

2) Perceived effort, motivation, and mood play an important role in training and racing. So anytime you need a pick-me up— particularly when you don’t have a bunch of carbs readily available and your muscles are fatigued—just swish and spit.

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