Moniqu Ryan

Sports Nutrition Blog

Your brain on exercise: A carb sensing organ

Sports Nutrition for Enduance AthetesYour mouth is pretty smart!

Researchers at the University of Aukland’s Centre for Brain Research used brain imaging, or a functional MRI to determine how the brain reacts to swishing a carbohydrate solution in your mouth before completing some simple exercise tasks. When the participants swished the solution, the brain regions associated with sensation and muscle performance had greater activation than when a sweet solution without carbs or a tasteless solution without carbs was consumed. This indicates that we are able detect carbohydrates in the mouth separately from sweetness. These finding could have interesting implications for endurance athletes. Have you ever been on a bike ride or a run and felt yourself suddenly “perk up” when you take in a sports drink or other source of carbohydrate- even before the carbs have time to get absorbed into your bloodstream and converted to energy for your muscles?This may be a signal from your mouth to the brain that needed energy is on the way, allowing your depleted body to keep going. But do take in the carbs, don’t just swish them in your mouth, and keep on a fueling schedule as your muscle are depleted of carbs during an endurance workout and will need the fuel!


Monique Ryan is a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics with over 25 years of experience helping active people optimize their nutrition and body composition. Contact us at 847-864-8689 to schedule your consult. Ryan has worked with elite athletes in soccer, football, basketball, triathlon, cycling, and mountain biking.

She is the author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes, 3rd edition.