Researchers from the Centre for Nutraceuticals at the University of Westminster believe they might have found a way to give people a running boost by simply changing the color of their drinks. It turns out that pink drinks could trick our brain into going faster.
As reported in Frontiers in Nutrition, the team had ten healthy and habitually active volunteers doing three runs, a trial test, and then two 30-minutes runs. In the trial, they were shown a presentation about the benefits of rinsing their mouth with a sweet drink.
During each run, the participants had to either rinse their mouths with a low-calorie artificially sweetened drink that was clear colored or one that was pink colored. Each participant was able to select their own pace and was just required to keep it at a relatively tough level.
Most of the participants showed an improvement when they rinsed their mouth with the pink drink and could run further distances while their speed saw a 4.4 percent improvement. Given the small number of participants, there’s a large uncertainty of 5.1 percent which means no big conclusions can be drawn based on these findings. Nevertheless, it seemed that some participants benefited a lot from the pink drink and others not so much. Most of them also reported that they enjoyed the run more after the pink drink.
The punchline is that there was no physical enhancement in the pink drink compared to the clear one. The two drinks were exactly the same; the only difference was that one had a food dye dissolved in it. The work forms part of an investigation of how colors can have beneficial effects on sports performances.
“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,” corresponding author Dr Sanjoy Deb said in a statement.
“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.”
The team believes that the enhanced performance is due to a possible placebo effect. If people think that pink is equal to sweeter then they might think they are getting more sugars. And more sugars mean more energy and more energy means an easier run.
More research is obviously needed to confirm the findings and to work out the mechanisms behind the reported effect.