Why Athletes Spit Out Their Sports Drink Instead Of Swallowing It

Whenever I’m at a professional sporting event, or at least watching one on TV, I sometimes notice athletes on the sideline who take a drink of their water or sports drink, swish it around their mouth, and immediately spit it out.

I’ve always wondered what the point of that is — I mean, why even drink the sports drink if you’re not going to fully swallow it?

After repeatedly noticing this speculation, I actually looked into it, and here’s what I found. Yes, athletes are aware that they’re doing this, and yes, it’s totally on purpose.

According to a study done by the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, “rinsing the mouth with a carbohydrate-containing solution is associated with improved high-intensity endurance exercise performance.”

In other words, rinsing a carb-induced sports drink in your mouth (versus swallowing it) can actually make athletes perform better at their prospective sports.

Another thing to note — the study specifically named “carbohydrate-containing solutions” meaning that this isn’t effective with water. Sports drinks only.

Here’s another low-blow for H2O – a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine tested two cyclists and had them perform two trials in which they had to do a set of exercises as quickly as possible. In one trial, the cyclists rinsed their mouth with water. In the other, they rinsed their mouth with maltodextrin (a sugar).

The results showed that the participants performed significantly better when they rinsed with the sugar solution compared to rinsing with only water.

So the next time you’re playing sports and want to impress your friends, consider spitting out your drink. (Just don’t be gross about it.)