By Aly Walansky
Updated April 19, 2016
Credit: © Erik Isakson/Getty Images

Love the results of your sports drinks but hate the sugar and calories? New research shows that swishing, rather than swallowing, energy drinks may work just as well.

Energy drinks are a mixed bag. They help endurance and energy levels, but they are also often loaded with sugar, carbs, and calories. However, scientists may have just discovered a way around these drawbacks. Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire studied a group of 12 fencers, who were asked to rinse their mouth with an energy drink, known as a carbohydrate mouth rinse (CMR). The energy drink contained maltodextrin, a type of sugar. In another study, they swished with water.

The scientists saw that those who swished with the energy drink experienced better lunge accuracy than those who had the water. Their motivation and accuracy benefited without actually drinking the mixture. However, because they did not actually drink anything, their hydration levels were not increased – which are essential to maintain for endurance.

But there are limitations to these results.

“The study did not find that exercise duration/stamina improved but it did find that accuracy improved when the athletes swished the carbohydrate drink in their mouth versus when they swished water in their mouth (the placebo),” says Alix Turoff, a registered dietitian with Top Balance Nutrition in New York City. “The mouth rinse may lead to afferent signals in the brain which can effect motor output, which would result in more precise movement. “

Despite the increased accuracy, athletes should be cautious of the effects of sports drinks on their teeth when swishing regularly. As Dr. Sivan Finkel, of New York City's Dental Parlour, explains, "the acidity of these drinks can be off the charts, and the fact that people typically drink them during exercise -- a dehydrated state -- makes our tooth enamel especially susceptible to the potential damage a low pH can cause. “