HAVE YOU HEARD OF CARBOHYDRATE RINSING?
Could it be that a breakthrough in Sports Nutrition is being developed by a little known company in the heart of Greenwich Village? Unit Nutrition is pioneering a new category of sports nutrition and launched a first-to-market carbohydrate rinse called; Unit Rinse. Cognitive Fueling is the newest category of sports nutrition described by the brand as a way of activating the brain to improve physical performance.
The sports nutrition market is saturated with brands touting the most digestible form of carbohydrate, the perfect balance of electrolytes or the next wonder ingredient hailing from the depth of the Amazonian rain forest. What most fail to mention is that the human body is pretty self-sufficient for the first 75 minutes of exercise. It’s well understood in the scientific community, that athletes have enough glycogen (stores of carbohydrates, our primary source of energy) in muscles and the liver to sustain this duration of exercise. As the body will always utilize its stores first, there is no benefit to performance by eating or drinking anything until these stores are depleted. In other words, if we thought that energy bar before cross-fit, the sports drink that accompanies us to every spin class or even the banana we gobble before hitting the west-side highway for a 5-mile run was necessary, it’s not.
While training for her first IRONMAN, the Founder of Unit Nutrition, Julia Bechtolsheimer, stumbled across some research on carbohydrate rinsing. The study described a technique of fueling that not only improves athletic performance in that short duration time frame (under 75 min.), but does so instantly. The explanation lies in a signaling effect- there is no digestion or absorption of carbohydrate involved. Rinsing a carbohydrate solution in the mouth stimulates carbohydrate receptors that send signals to the brain, activating areas responsible for motivation, reward, motor control, and pleasure. This reduces the athlete’s perception of fatigue and increases power output, resulting in an instant performance boost. The effect is shown to be cumulative; the more often an athlete rinses and the greater the mouth receptor exposure to the carbohydrate solution, the higher the power boost. As an avid triathlete representing Great Britain, and someone obsessed with nutrition, Julia was both dumbfounded that she had never heard of this concept before, and fascinated by the scientific literature surrounding it. So much so, that after a year of studying the research and traveling to sports institutes spanning from Australia to Frankfurt to connect with leading scientists, she created Unit Rinse, the world’s first carb-rinse.
The science on carb-rinsing began in the lab of Dr. Asker Jeukendrup in 2004, with a study conducted on professional cyclists. Jeukendrup and colleagues found that in a 60 min. time trial performance experiment, giving cyclists a carbohydrate solution to drink elicited improvement in their performance. They found this peculiar, as it was widely acknowledged that as humans, our bodies have enough carbohydrate stores to sustain this duration of exercise, without needing any supplementation. They suspected, therefore, that there must be a connection between the presence of carbohydrates in the mouth and performance. They proceeded to investigate the effect of simply rinsing a carbohydrate solution in the mouth for 5 seconds and then spitting it back out during a 1-hour high-intensity cycling time trial. Results showed that the carb-rinse significantly increased power output and reduced the time taken to complete the assigned amount of work. The ground-breaking study concluded:
“CHO (carbohydrate) may exert its effects during high-intensity exercise through a central action, improving motor drive or motivation, mediated by receptors in the mouth.”
Since this pivotal carb-rinsing study, scientists have investigated a whole spectrum of sports such as running, high-intensity interval training, fencing, and soccer. Across the board, the literature typically demonstrates between a 2-3% boost in performance due to carb-rinsing, although some studies state up to 17% depending on the muscle group in question and the physiological state of the subjects (what they ate just before trial).
Olympians and professional sports teams now use carb-rinsing as a unique means of naturally boosting energy with immediate results and no side effects (and if spat out, zero calories). During last summer’s FIFA World Cup, evidence of carb-rinsing by several soccer players, in particular, England’s Captain Harry Kane, caused a flurry of intrigue and excitement amongst international journalists who were intent on uncovering what the players were rinsing with. Track and field athletes have been spotted carb-rinsing before Olympic competition, and professional cycling teams are known to have their carb-rinses prepared in mouth guards for efficient delivery. Within just one year since its launch, Unit Nutrition has teamed up with winning professional triathletes Tim Don and David McNamee and amassed a strong fan base in the triathlon community. Demonstrating the versatility of carb-rinsing, the brand has also partnered with a professional race car driver, Marc Miller, and an Olympic Gold Medal winning Equestrian, Laura Tomlinson.
Most recently, a new wave of studies has highlighted applications for carb-rinsing that reach well beyond sport. Scientists have discovered that in addition to providing a boost in power, carb-rinsing improves mental focus, reaction speeds, concentration, and self-control. Since the regions activated in the brain are responsible for generating a myriad of human behaviors, carb-rinsing could evolve to be used to boost productivity for students studying for exams, enhance the focus of surgeons requiring mental clarity or to promote positive behavioral change by increasing willpower for people trying to overcome addictions.
For Unit Nutrition, the goal is to align with athletes looking for a combination of performance, science, health, and wellness. Although the key to the benefits is in the rinsing process, Unit Rinse has been designed for drinking after rinsing, primarily for practical purposes since there are many situations in which spitting out your sports nutrition is not possible or desirable! Unit Rinse is organic, non-GMO, and contains no caffeine, added sugars, sweeteners, or artificial ingredients. Each compact 3 Oz bottle contains four carb-rinses (each only 5 Calories). It comes in flavors; Peach Mango, Mixed Berry, and Root Beer Float.
So, what’s in the future for the brand? Julia explains that carb-rinsing is just the tip of the iceberg; “Scientists are currently investigating the effects of rinsing different dietary ingredients, and the resultant cognitive and physiological effects. We are only at the beginning of understanding the true extent of the brain’s role in all behavior and responses, and how it may be maximized for performance in sport.”