Players Spitting During The World Cup Is Called ‘Carb Rinsing,’ Here’s How It Could Help Your Performance

SARANSK, RUSSIA - JUNE 25:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal spits water during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Iran and Portugal at Mordovia Arena on June 25, 2018 in Saransk, Russia.  (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

Getty Image / Hector Vivas / Stringer

You may have noticed that a fair amount of players in the World Cup are spitting quite often. And not just hocking a random loogie. We’re talking about players spitting a powerful stream of liquid like they were an ancient Roman marble statue in a fountain. It turns out that some of these players might have a great reason to be spitting like a llama. There’s something called “carb rinsing” or “mouth washing” and it is said to help performance in top soccer players from around the world and it just might help you.

You may have seen Cristiano Ronaldo and England’s captain Harry Kane as well as midfielder Dele Alli spit massive amounts of liquid out during the World Cup 2018 like they were a lawn sprinkler. There is actually scientific reasoning for players spitting out their drinks instead of consuming them. Carb rinsing is a fitness technique where athletes swash around a carbohydrate solution in their mouths for around 10 seconds, but they don’t ingest it. Instead, they deliberately spit out the liquid. The carbohydrate mixture tricks the body into performing better.

Since 2004, researchers from the University of Birmingham have been investigating carb rinsing with athletes such as cyclists and runners. The scientists discovered that the carb rinse activated muscles as if the athletes had consumed carbs despite not consuming any carbs. Receptors in the mouth tell the brain that the body is about to get a flow of yummy carbs. The brain tells the muscles that they are about to get refueled so they can continue to push hard, thus postponing fatigue. Early research has found that the carb rinse boost lasts approximately 15 minutes. The athlete gets the psychological advantage of thinking they are receiving carbs without being weighed down by drinking too much. Researchers found that athletes who carb rinsed performed as well as those who drank a sports drink or consumed food.

Other nutritionists argue that the body needs carbohydrates to perform at optimal levels and you cannot “trick” the body into receiving actual nourishment. Carb rinsing can’t trick the body forever because the body needs to restore the depleted glycogen. Athletes get up to 60% of their daily calories from carbohydrates, so that’s like 400 grams of carbs a day. That’s desperately needed carbs that you’re spitting onto the grass.

Some nutritionists say to rinse your mouth with a sports drink and then swallow it to get the maximum benefit. Carb rinsing proponents say that carb rinsing is only ideal for intense exercise lasting between 30 minutes to an hour. Since soccer matches last at least 90 minutes and can go for two hours, carb rinsing might not be the best approach. Let’s hope that carb rinsing wasn’t what cost England the game against Croatia in the 109th minute.