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Improving performance: A question of taste?


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Taste is one of our most powerful and useful senses, it has the potential to inform us of foods’ nutrient availability and readiness to eat, as well as evoke halcyon childhood memories and elicit seemingly unrelated physiological responses. Taste and experiences related to taste are made up of several sub-senses including smell, sight and receptor stimulation e.g. the trigeminal nerve with wasabi. So, taste, is not one sense, but a manifestation of multiple pathways working in synergy with one another.
Through processes of evolutionary economy, the chemosensory highways that are responsible for our experience of taste, often share lanes with more deep rooted physiological effects such hedonic experiences, muscle recruitment or thermoregulation1. This is particularly apparent in individuals who have lost their sense of taste, but can still experience psychobiological responses to tastants, or when foods and beverages are served at different temperatures and their flavour profile appears to be intensified or supressed e.g. coffee, chocolate or wine.
Over the last decade, sports scientists and nutrition practitioners have begun
to explore the effects of taste in the lab and in the field, with further mechanistic insights from neuroscientists and practical application facilitated by food scientists. Two approaches to applying tastes have emerged in sports performance: swilling and ingestion. Swilling consists of taking in a small amount (typically 25-50ml of fluid) and coating the oral cavity with the substance before expectorating it, much like a sommelier would recommend one samples wine. Ingestion, one the other hand, is the ‘traditional’ approach to tasting – where one briefly tastes the substance and then swallows it, to undergo further digestion and metabolism. Both approaches have merit in the field and in the lab, so where appropriate are discussed in this article.
In the following sections, we’ll explore the range of tastes that have been shown to be of benefit in sport and exercise to date, emerging tastes and the potential for placebo effects (and maximising them), concluding with a short checklist of which taste to administer and when to do so. It is important to emphasise that these supporting strategies can be easily personalised, and sports nutrition practitioners are encouraged to work closely
with athletes and other support staff to achieve performance outcomes (Figure 1).

Item Type: Journal article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Taste, Bitter, Carbohydrate, Menthol, Capsaicin, Pickle Juice, Nitrate
Subjects: Q Science > QP Physiology
Divisions: Schools > Centre for Sport Science and Human Performance
Depositing User: Russell Best
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2021 22:16
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 09:16

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