Study finds pink drinks may improve running performance

Man standing holding a pink drink - Tifosi Sports

Study finds pink drinks may improve running performance

South Africans will remember the famous beer advertisement a few years back in which a man is about to take a sip of a pink drink a lady sent from across the bar, only to be sternly told, “We don’t drink pink drinks, Dave. Always keep it real.”

One new study led by the Centre for Neutraceuticals at the University of Westminster has found that pink drinks may, in fact, be worth having, especially if it is to improve running perfomance.

The study is the first of its kind to investigate the effect that the colour of a drink has on exercise performance, and found that drinks with a pink colour can increase performance by 4.4%, in addition to enhancing a “feel good” effect that can make exercise seem easier.

The study had participants run on a treadmill for 30 minutes at a speed that was comfortable to them. As they were running, participants rinsed their mouth with either a clear drink that was artificially sweetened and low in calories, or a pink drink that was also artificially sweetened and low in calories. Aside from a little food dye to turn one beverage pink, the two drinks were exactly the same. Pink was chosen due to its association with perceived sweetness, which leads to an increased expectation of sugar and carbohydrate intake.

Some other previous studies had shown that rinsing the mouth with carbohydrates can improve exercise performance by reducing the perceived intensity of said exercise, and this specific investigation was launched to see whether a pink drink without any carbohydrate stimulus could create a placebo effect with the same results.

Participants who had the pink drink ran an average of 212 metres further than their counterparts who had the clear drink, and had a mean speed that was 4.4% higher. The participants who had the pink drink also found the exercise to be more enjoyable, and feelings of pleasure were enhanced.

Corresponding author on the paper Dr Sanjoy Deb linked the study to previous studies about colour and performance.

“The influence of colour on athletic performance has received interest previously, from its effect on a sportsperson’s kit to its impact on testosterone and muscular power. Similarly, the role of colour in gastronomy has received widespread interest, with research published on how visual cues or colour can affect subsequent flavour perception when eating and drinking.

“The findings from our study combine the art of gastronomy with performance nutrition, as adding a pink colourant to an artificially sweetened solution not only enhanced the perception of sweetness, but also enhanced feelings of pleasure, self-selected running speed and distance covered during a run.”

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