Amateur runners are always looking for novel ways to improve performance, whether it’s by increasing speed or building stamina. We all love a convenient hack.
One unconventional approach that has gained popularity in recent years is the use of caffeinated chewing gum, also known as “running gum“. This is a market made famous by brands like RUN GUM and Chew Pod.
Can chewing gum help you run faster and longer?
Some runners claim that chewing gum with caffeine can boost energy levels, improve concentration, and ultimately help us to perform better on race day. But is there any truth to these claims, or is it just another fitness fad?
More importantly… is it even safe to use running gum?
- Is It Safe to Run While Chewing Gum?
- 9 Advantages of Running With Chewing Gum
- 6 Disadvantages of Running While Chewing Gum
- What is “Running Gum”?
- Does Running Gum Improve Performance?
- The Benefits of Running Gum
Is It Safe to Run While Chewing Gum?
Despite the apparent safety of jogging while chewing gum, there are certain potential risks to be aware of.
The likelihood of choking on the gum while jogging is among the biggest dangers, especially if engaging in a vigorous session. Choking on gum can be potentially life-threatening, but there are ways to prevent it. One of the biggest is only to chew the gum when you’re jogging, then hold off while sprinting your interval. When you gasp for air during strenuous efforts, the risk of inhaling the gum is very high.
If you accidentally inhale the gum while running, it’s important to stop immediately and dislodge it by coughing or — in a desperate scenario — getting a friend to perform the Heimlich maneuver.
The obvious implication is that if you are running alone on the trails, that’s probably not going to be an option.
Given the inherent risks, why would anybody choose to run with chewing gum?
9 Advantages of Running With Chewing Gum
Scientifically speaking, no evidence has been found that chewing regular gum will improve your performance as a runner or athlete. But many runners have developed the habit of chewing gum when out on runs because of several other benefits.
Here are the main reasons runners chew gum:
1. Stop Your Mouth Getting Dry
Chewing gum causes saliva production from the glands to increase. This significantly aids in removing oral cavity dryness and other dry mouth-related issues.
2. Keep Your Mind Occupied
Let’s call a cat a cat – longer, slower runs can get really boring, especially when you’re running alone. Sometimes it can feel like time has stopped altogether. Chewing gum helps to occupy your mind so you don’t focus on the running or time.
See our tips: how to avoid boredom while running.
3. Boosts Alertness and Concentration
Chewing gum has been linked to improved mental abilities. It’s thought this is due to a 25% to 40% increase in the amount of blood flowing to your brain. A 2013 study found that chewing helps you focus on your running (and other tasks) by affecting the cognitive regions of your brain.
Jaw movements stimulate the nerves associated with arousal by increasing blood flow during chewing, keeping you more alert. Mint-flavored gum is thought to be the best for this purpose.
4. Improves Your Blood Flow
A study of 46 participants found that chewing gum when walking significantly increased their average heart rates. Although the study did not specify the cause of the increased heart rate, scientists believed it could be due to the heart and movement rhythm being synchronized.
Increased heart rate during cardiovascular-strengthening activities such as running is beneficial because it allows faster, more efficient blood flow to your muscles. Your muscles then take in the oxygen and nutrients needed from the blood, allowing them to work stronger, longer, and more efficiently.
Keep in mind, the increase is likely to be minimal compared to the effect of a slight increase in running speed.
5. Reduces Stress
This was confirmed by a study which found chewing gum helped reduce cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) release in many subjects and had a favorable effect on the participants’ moods. As a result, if you are stressed or nervous before a race, chewing gum can help you relax.
6. Reduces Symptoms of Acid Reflux
If you are a runner who suffers from acid reflux, you can reduce the amount of acid in your esophagus by chewing gum. How does this work? Chewing gum boosts saliva production, allowing you to reduce the amount of acidity in the mouth quickly.
Chewing sugar-free gum 30 minutes after a meal has been demonstrated in studies to prevent acidic postprandial esophageal reflux.
Yet, not everyone is on the same page about this.
Some people believe chewing spearmint or peppermint gum is a bad idea because they raise acid levels and worsen the symptoms of acid reflux.
You’ll have to try it out and see if it works for you.
7. Possible Breathing Benefits
By chewing minty gum, you can clear your nasal passages, and you’ll be able to breathe more easily, improving running performance. At the very least, it’ll be easier to breathe while running.
8. Helps Maintain Rhythm
The rhythm you get from chewing gum may improve your performance by adding a repetitive rhythm to your stride. Match every third or fourth stride to a chew. But ensure you get into a steady rhythm that doesn’t make you chew like a manic zombie!
9. Possibly Improves Running Performance
A recent study found that experienced runners that chewed caffeine gum while running enhanced their performance by a whopping 18%, meaning they went longer distances but got tired less.
The improvement, however, is mostly due to the caffeine, a natural stimulant which is already proven to increase athletic performance.
Caffeine is commonly utilized by endurance athletes and can be consumed via chewing gum. Unfortunately, chewing gum when jogging will not boost performance if it contains no caffeine.
If you’re looking for a caffeine boost that will prevent your mouth from drying and fights acid reflux, this may be the solution for you.
Run Gum was founded by professional runner and a 2x Olympian, Nick Symmonds and his coach, Sam Lapray, during their pursuit of championships on the track.
6 Disadvantages of Running While Chewing Gum
There are reasons why you don’t see many runners chewing caffeinated gum at a typical event. And that’s because the act comes with some rather considerable downsides:
1. Risk of Choking
Reason number one.
This is especially a concern when performing high-intensity training, such as interval runs or a tempo session, because chewing gum hinders you being able to breathe through your mouth without inhaling the gum.
Running at a high effort requires more oxygen for your muscles to work, and you’ll need to breathe through your mouth, so more air enters your lungs, allowing more oxygen to reach your muscles.
You are more likely to inhale or swallow your gum if you breathe through your mouth, increasing the choking risk.
2. Prevents You From Mouth Breathing
Tying into the previous point, jogging at a higher intensity increases your muscles’ requirement for oxygen, causing you to breathe through your mouth.
Breathing through your mouth provides more oxygen to the muscles but also increases your risk of choking. This is incredibly limiting to your efficiency and safety.
As a result, it’s critical to limit chewing gum to low-intensity running.
3. Negatively Affects Concentration Levels
Many runners will say that if you chew gum during your runs, you aren’t giving your best because you’re distracted, focusing on not choking rather than proper running form and pace.
However, some disagree. Everyone is different and chewing gum during runs may bring out the best in you.
4. Cause Dehydration
As stated before, chewing gum stimulates your glands to produce saliva. When you produce more saliva, you may forget to drink water as you run, leading to dehydration.
Be sure to drink lots of fluids at set intervals to prevent dehydration and muscle cramps.
5. May Cause Digestive Issues and Bloating
Many long-distance runners suffer from stomach issues. Although the exact cause is unknown, scientists believe it’s due to organ movement and decreased blood flow to the intestines.
Chewing gum is ineffective for this issue. Chewing sugar-free gum regularly during a run has actually been shown to induce stomach issues.
Bloating is another common side effect of chewing gum. It causes you to swallow more air than usual, which might cause stomach issues, bloating, and cramps.
6. Increases Risk of Biting Your Tongue
The chances of you biting your tongue while running and chewing gum are high.
If you’ve bitten your tongue before, you’ll know it’s painful enough to distract you, which is the last thing you want when running.
What is “Running Gum”?
Running gum is a chewing gum designed to improve athletic performance.
Like energy gels, pre-workout beverages, BCAAs, and creatine, running gum is classified as an ergogenic aid or sports supplement since it contains chemicals proven to improve exercise performance.
Although running gum can be chewed anytime, it’s best utilized before and during exercises.
So, what is in running gum?
Most running gums are conventional chewing gum with added caffeine, taurine, and B vitamins.
One serving (two pieces) of running gum contains (on average):
- 50 mg of caffeine
- 20 mg of taurine
- 2.2mg (110% DV) pyridoxine hydrochloride
- 3mcg (125% DV) vitamin B12 (as cyanocobalamin)
Does Running Gum Improve Performance?
Caffeinated chewing gum is an excellent ergogenic aid, particularly for endurance performance, according to the International Association of Sports Nutrition’s Position Statement on Caffeine and Exercise Performance.
Because of its quick delivery technique, it has been found to improve cycling performance when consumed shortly before exercise.
Gum for runners provides the same benefits as other types of gum, as well as additional benefits due to the performance-enhancing components in these running gum products.
Companies like Run Gum and ChewPod have been quick to enter this growing market.
Chewing Gum with Caffeine
The caffeine concentration of running gum is often comparable to a cup of coffee or an energy drink. Most running gum contains 100 mg of caffeine per serving, the average cup of coffee contains 95 mg, and most energy drinks contain between 80 and 120 mg.
Caffeine is a stimulant and can boost alertness and energy levels. Caffeine may also improve your endurance or shorten your time to exhaustion during strenuous exercise.
One study discovered that consuming 2.5 mg of caffeine per kg of body weight enhanced the duration until exhaustion during high-intensity exercise (11.2 minutes with caffeine versus 7.9 minutes without).
Caffeinated running gum or sports gum is an excellent caffeine administration mechanism during exercise, providing better performance benefits than tablets, capsules, or gels.
Caffeinated chewing gum alleviates tiredness following repeated high-intensity cycling cycles in one study. The placebo, non-caffeinated gum caused a 5.8% decrease in performance at the end of the session, while the caffeinated sports gum caused a 0.4% decrease.
Chewing Gum with Taurine
Taurine is an amino acid that has been found to improve exercise performance by increasing fat oxidation, increasing VO2 max and time to exhaustion, increasing power and tolerance to high-intensity exercise, and decreasing lactate generation and cellular damage.
B vitamins, particularly B12 and B6, are essential for energy production, metabolism, neuron function, and hemoglobin formation.
The Benefits of Running Gum
Running gum constituents can boost running performance by increasing attention, energy, fat oxidation, time to exhaustion, and cellular metabolism during exercise.
Some runners believe chewing gum is more convenient for getting caffeine than energy drinks or gels.
Running gum does not swirl around in your stomach, making it an ideal choice for runners with sensitive stomachs. It also gives a specific caffeine amount, allowing you to be more precise with your dosing and race-day diet strategy.
Chewing gum has several benefits for runners. However, it’s important to distinguish between regular chewing gum and running gum.
Regular chewing gum doesn’t contain the ingredients found in running gum designed to enhance athletic performance.