Is chewing gum while running a good idea?
Chewing gum while running will not directly improve your running performance, but it will help you prevent dry mouth and keep your thoughts occupied. On the other hand, if you run at high intensity there is a risk of choking and dehydration.
InfoDuring easy runs, I like to have chewing gum in my mouth to create more saliva. During faster runs, I never have chewing gum since it affects my concentration and I cannot focus on the training.
Below I will explain in detail what are the advantages and disadvantages of chewing gum while running.
Advantages of chewing gum while running
Generally speaking, there is no scientific evidence that chewing gum while running improves your running performance. However, many runners developed this habit because of numerous other benefits.
1. It prevents dry mouth
While running, you must have had a dry mouth at times. It’s not a pleasant feeling in the slightest.
Chewing gum stimulates glands to produce greater amounts of saliva. This greatly helps in eliminating dryness of the oral cavity and other problems related to dry mouth.
2. It keeps the runner’s mind occupied
Long and slow runs can be boring and monotonous. Sometimes it feels like time stops altogether.
Runners often find it hard to motivate themselves during long and slow runs and thus keep checking their watches. Chewing gum can keep your mind occupied and help you focus on something other than running time.
3. It boosts concentration and alertness
Many studies have shown that chewing gum boosts mental capabilities. Cognitive functions like memory, concentration, and reaction time improved with chewing.
It is considered that the reason for this is the increase in blood flow to the brain by 25% to 40%, which means improved memory and other cognitive functions.
According to a study from 2013, chewing gum actually helps you better focus on your tasks due to its effect on the cognitive areas of the brain.
Besides concentration, many studies have shown that chewing gum can boost alertness.
Through increased blood flow during chewing, jaw movements stimulate nerves and parts of the brain associated with arousal. That way, it keeps you more alert. It is considered that mint-flavored chewing gum is the best for that purpose.
Due to that, chewing gum can help you maintain focus while running.
4. It improves blood flow by increasing your heart rate
A study conducted on 46 female and male participants has shown that chewing gum while walking significantly increased the heart rate of women and men. Heart rate of participants who didn’t chew gum while walking stayed the same.
Although the exact reason for the elevated heart rate was not named in the study, scientists discovered that it might be due to the synchronization of heart rhythm with the rhythm of movement.
Increasing the heart rate during cardio activities such as running is good as it enables faster and more efficient blood flow to the muscles. Muscles then take in oxygen and nutrients from the blood and are thus able to work longer and better.
5. It reduces stress
Chewing gum can help reduce stress. This is supported by a study that has shown that chewing gum can help reduce the secretion of cortisol (stress hormone) in many participants and had a positive effect on mood.
Therefore, if you are nervous or stressed before a certain race, take chewing gum to relax.
6. It reduces acid reflux
If you are one of the runners who struggle with acid reflux, chewing gum can help you reduce acid in your esophagus. Chewing gum increases saliva production, which allows for a much faster reduction of acidity in your mouth.
Research has shown that chewing sugar-free gum half an hour after a meal can reduce acidic postprandial esophageal reflux. However, not everyone agrees. On the contrary, some believe it to be smarter to avoid chewing peppermint and spearmint gums because they can increase acid levels and thus actually worsen acid reflux.
7. It freshens your breath
Chewing gum is very effective at neutralizing scents. For all those who like food with a strong flavor, such as onion and garlic, it is useful to chew gum while running in order to freshen your breath.
Furthermore, by using minty chewing gums, your nasal passages will be cleansed and you will be able to breathe better and easier and thus improve your running.
8. It helps maintain rhythm
Some runners claim that chewing gum while running helps develop a rhythm. The rhythm that you get by chewing gum can improve your performance by adding additional rhythm to your running.
9. It can improve your running performance
A study from 2019 has shown that experienced runners who chewed caffeinated chewing gums while running improved their performance by up to 18%, that is, they ran greater distances and got less tired.
However, the improvement is largely related to caffeine, which is already known to improve athletic performances.
Caffeine is used by athletes who focus on endurance. Besides chewing gum, caffeine can be ingested by drinking coffee and taking energy gels or tablets.
Sadly, chewing gum while running will not improve your performance if it does not contain caffeine.
Disadvantages of chewing gum while running
Although chewing gum while running has many benefits, there are also many disadvantages and risks.
1. It increases the risk of choking
One of the greatest risks of chewing gum while running is the risk of choking. This is especially pronounced if you do high-intensity training such as interval training or tempo run, as chewing gum prevents you from breathing through your mouth.
By running at a high intensity, your muscles require more oxygen to work, so it is necessary to breathe through the mouth. By breathing through the mouth, more air can enter your lungs, meaning that more oxygen can get to your muscles. By breathing through your mouth, you are likely to swallow your chewing gum. In these situations, there is a great risk of choking.
AdviceIf you like to chew gum while running, do it only during low-intensity runs. During high-intensity runs, that is, when you are doing interval training or tempo run, be sure to run without chewing gum, since the risk of choking is too great.
2. It keeps you from breathing through the mouth
As I have already said, running at a higher intensity will increase your muscle’s need for oxygen, which will result with you breathing through the mouth. By breathing through the mouth, you provide more oxygen to your muscles, allowing them to work faster and longer.
Since chewing gum while running prevents you from breathing through your mouth, you will not be able to run at a high intensity. Therefore, it is important to limit chewing gum only to low-intensity running.
3. It can negatively affect your concentration
Due to the previous reasons, if you chew gum during training, you will not be able to get the most out of your workout. Because of that, many runners will tell you that, if you chew gum while running, you are simply not giving your best.
InfoChewing gum while running actually reduces your performance, as it distracts you from training and makes you less effective. For that reason, do not chew gum if you wish to improve your results and progress in running.
4. It causes dehydration
Many runners chew gum while running in order to prevent dry mouth. This is because chewing gum stimulates the glands to produce more saliva, as they register that you are eating something. If you produce more saliva, you lose more energy and water, which can lead to dehydration during more intense workouts.
Therefore, if you chew gum while running, be sure to drink a lot of fluids so that you do not dehydrate your body.
5. It may cause digestive problems and bloating
Many long-distance runners have digestive problems. Although the exact reason is not known, experts think that the reason for this is the movement of organs and reduced blood flow in the intestines.
Chewing gum does not help either. It is proven that chewing large amounts of sugar-free gum can cause digestive problems.
A common problem with chewing gum is bloating. By chewing gum, you swallow a lot more air than normal, which can result in stomach problems and cramps.
6. It increases the risk of tongue bites
Everyone bites their tongue from time to time while eating or speaking. You are even more likely to bite your tongue by chewing gum while running. That is a very painful experience that would surely distract most of you from training.