The oral-pharyngeal cavity and the gastrointestinal tract are richly endowed with receptors that respond to taste, temperature and to a wide range of specific nutrient and non-nutritive food components. Ingestion of carbohydrate-containing drinks has been shown to enhance endurance exercise performance, and these responses have been attributed to post-absorptive effects. It is increasingly recognised, though, that the response to ingested carbohydrate begins in the mouth via specific carbohydrate receptors and continues in the gut via the release of a range of hormones that influence substrate metabolism. Cold drinks can also enhance performance, especially in conditions of thermal stress, and part of the mechanism underlying this effect may be the response to cold fluids in the mouth. There is also some, albeit not entirely consistent, evidence for effects of caffeine, quinine, menthol and acetic acid on performance or other relevant effects. This review summarises current knowledge of responses to mouth sensing of temperature, carbohydrate and other food components, with the goal of assisting athletes to implement practical strategies that make best use of its effects. It also examines the evidence that oral intake of other nutrients or characteristics associated with food/fluid intake during exercise can enhance performance via communication between the mouth/gut and the brain.
Keywords: Mouth rinsing; carbohydrate swilling; gut receptors; nutritional ergogenic aids.