Pink drinks produce a ‘feel good’ effect, help athletes run faster and further

LONDON — It’s common to see the winning coach of a sports team get showered in energy drinks after the game. For athletes looking for that winning edge, a new study finds — whatever your drink of choice is — make sure to pick the pink flavor. Researchers in London reveal that consuming pink drinks appears to help people run faster and further.

In fact, pink drinks boost performance by more than four percent, according to a team from the University of Westminster. The coloring also increases the “feel good” effect, making exercise seem easier.

“The findings from our study combine the art of gastronomy with performance nutrition, as adding a pink colorant to an artificially sweetened solution not only enhanced the perception of sweetness, but also enhanced feelings of pleasure, self-selected running speed and distance covered during a run,” says corresponding author Dr. Sanjoy Deb in a university release.

Deb adds the phenomenon could lead to the creation of more effective sports drinks. The Westminster study is the first to assess the psychological impact of drink color.

Study authors asked participants to run on a treadmill for 30 minutes at a self-selected speed; ensuring their rate of exertion remained consistent. They rinsed their mouths throughout with a pink or clear artificially-sweetened drink low in calories. Researchers note both drinks were exactly the same and only differed in appearance, with food dye added to change the color.

What’s so special about the color pink?

The team chose pink because of its connection with sweetness, increasing expectations of sugar and carbohydrate intake in the runners. Previous studies have discovered rinsing the mouth with carbohydrates improves performance by reducing the perceived intensity of exercise.

The pink drinks that had no carbohydrate stimulus still elicited similar benefits. Researchers say a potential “placebo effect” is the likely cause of this. Volunteers ran an average of nearly 700 feet further while consuming pink beverages. Their average speed also increased by 4.4 percent. Feelings of pleasure improved too, meaning the participants found running more enjoyable.

“The influence of color on athletic performance has received interest previously, from its effect on a sportsperson’s kit to its impact on testosterone and muscular power. Similarly, the role of color in gastronomy has received widespread interest, with research published on how visual cues or color can affect subsequent flavor perception when eating and drinking,” adds Dr. Deb, from Westminster’s Center for Nutraceuticals.

Deb notes scientists will need to do more research to find out if the placebo effect triggers reward areas of the brain. This has been commonly reported when rinsing the mouth with carbohydrate-rich drinks.

The winning shade

This isn’t the first time a color in the “red family” has been connected to sports. Previous research finds athletes who wear red are more likely to win because they “dress to kill.”

They tend to have higher levels of testosterone, making them more dominant and aggressive. Athletes also view opponents who are wearing red as tougher competition. Perhaps this explains legendary golfer Tiger Woods’ history of success while wearing red on the final day of tournaments.

The findings appear in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

SWNS writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.

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