Energy drinks stoke brain to boost athletic performances

April 16th, 2009 - 3:31 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, April 16 (IANS) Sugary drinks and sweets can really boost athletic performance in endurance events, but how?
Ed Chambers and colleagues not only show that sugary drinks can significantly boost performance in an endurance event without ingestion, but so can a tasteless carbohydrate in unexpected ways.

“Much of the benefit from carbohydrate in sports drinks is provided by signalling directly from mouth to brain rather than providing energy for the working muscles,” explained Chambers.

The researchers prepared drinks that contained either glucose (a sugar), maltodextrin (tasteless carbohydrate) or neither, then carefully laced them with artificial sweeteners until they tasted identical.

They asked endurance-trained athletes to complete a challenging time-trial, during which they rinsed their mouths with one of the three concoctions.

The team then used a neuro-imaging technique known as fMRI to monitor the athletes’ brain activity shortly after giving them one of the three compounds.

They found that both glucose and maltodextrin triggered specific areas of the brain associated with reward or pleasure, while the artificial sweetener did not.

The results were striking. Athletes given the glucose or maltodextrin drinks outperformed those on ‘disguised’ water by two to three percent. They also sustained a higher average power output and pulse rate, even though they didn’t feel they were working any harder.

The authors concluded that unidentified receptors in the mouth independent from the usual ’sweet’ taste buds must be responsible, according to a release of Wiley-Blackwell, that publishes The Journal of Physiology, which carried these findings.

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