The placebo effect of a pink non-caloric, artificially sweetened solution on strength endurance performance and psychological responses in trained individuals

Nutr Health. 2023 Aug 22:2601060231196590. doi: 10.1177/02601060231196590. Online ahead of print.


Background: The pink color enhances the perceived sweetness, increasing the individuals' expectation of the presence of sugar/carbohydrate in a beverage. Hence, it is plausible to speculate that providing a pink solution during exercise could induce an ergogenic benefit through a potential placebo effect. Aim: We examined whether ingesting a pink non-caloric, artificially sweetened solution can improve endurance strength exercise performance and psychological responses. Methods: Eighteen strength-trained individuals (34 ± 7 y; 1.74 ± 0.06 m; 79.86 ± 10.91 kg) completed three experimental trials in a randomized, single-blind, crossover counterbalanced fashion. In each trial, participants performed a 5-set strength endurance test at 70% of the one-repetition maximum in the bench press exercise, interspersed by 2 min. Before each set, participants ingested either a pink (PINK) or a transparent (TRANSP) non-caloric, artificially sweetened solution. A session without ingestion (CON) was also completed. Total number of repetitions and psychological responses such as motivation, emotional arousal, affect, and ratings of perceived exertion were obtained throughout the exercise protocol. Results: Total repetitions improved in PINK (60 ± 12 reps) compared to TRANSP (p = 0.03; 56 ± 10 reps; ES = 0.22; ±3.8%) and CON (p = 0.01; 56 ± 9 reps; ES = 0.33; ±6.6%), but no difference occurred between TRANSP and CON (p = 0.84; ES = 0.12; ±2.4%). Comparable responses were observed in motivation, emotional arousal, affect, and ratings of perceived exertion in PINK, TRANSP, and CON trials (all, p > 0.05), despite the greater total physical work performed in PINK trial. Conclusion: Ingesting a pink non-caloric, artificially sweetened solution improved strength endurance performance with comparable psychological responses. These results have implications for future nutritional studies and performance assessments in real-world sports scenarios.

Keywords: Muscle endurance; ergogenic; placebo; psychological responses; resistance.