Are you looking for a new way to improve your sports performance?

The secret may be right under your nose.

Of all your senses, only the sense of smell works directly with the brain. When you perceive a smell it is because the molecules of that smell activate specific receptors in the nasal epithelium and then in the olfactory bulb. These receptors send nerve impulses directly to the limbic center of the brain through a neurochemical code. The limbic system is where emotional responses are concentrated. Recent research indicates that humans can recognize and remember around 10,000 different odors.

Information from all of your other senses, such as sight, hearing, or touch, is transferred through a series of neural connections and processing filters that interpret the signals. This interpretation is shaped by all sorts of environmental and experiential influences, causing a delay between stimulus and response.

With our sense of smell, the brain makes an immediate, unfiltered determination of “good smell” or “bad smell”; then works to interpret and add meaning to the smells that were experienced.

Numerous studies, conducted around the world, indicate that odors have an impressive and measurable effect on behavior and mood in humans. Research has validated that certain odors stimulate EEG patterns while others decrease the frequency of alpha brain waves and induce a state of relaxation and even sleep. Several other studies have shown that certain odors increase pain tolerance, improve athletic performance, and improve alertness.

It’s no surprise that nearly a billion dollars a year is spent on all manner of scented products designed to elevate mood, reduce anxiety, energize the mind, and enhance romance.

Perfumed breath and athletic performance

It’s probably safe to say that most people prefer the smell of fresh pine to the smell of burning rubber. That said, you’ll probably be in a better mood exposed to pine than rubber. One step beyond being in a good mood is performing at a higher level. Recent research has provided evidence that smelling certain odors before or during your workout can also improve your athletic performance.

In a preliminary study of 24 male and female cyclists between the ages of 19 and 47, researchers found that participants who smelled a specially formulated fragrance experienced increased leg endurance and speed, as well as a reduced level of perceived pain, than during exposure to a recognizable food odor or a pleasant neutral odor.

All test subjects were in good health and had normal olfactory ability, as measured by a preliminary medical evaluation. Each subject completed a battery of pre- and post-trial cognitive, physical, and psychological assessments that included; measurements of speed, endurance, and pain tolerance; evaluations of training frequency, personal goals, satisfaction with life, etc.; and assessment of body image, feelings of self-esteem, confidence, etc.

Subjects participated in a rigorous 1-hour simulated run on stationary bikes, followed by a two-day rest period. During all phases of the blind test, each participant was given a specially designed finger ring that had been infused with one of the particular scents. Subjects were instructed to inhale the scent before the excursion and at any time they wanted during the tests. All subjects repeated the physical exercises under each odor condition over a period of eight days.

Results of the investigation

The findings showed that the special formulation affected the participant’s performance more when there was a physical or mental goal to aim for. Higher cadence, longer duration of a seated sustained sprint, and longer duration of a standing climb all showed a measurable improvement.

Perceived power output was reported to be higher, as was a feeling of increased endurance. A modest increase in pain tolerance was also observed due to lactic acid buildup.

Women reported feeling more positive about their body image and having a greater willingness to exert maximum effort, even under the surveillance of the test environment.

The study found that athletes were more willing to accept instructions to push their physical limits under the special scent condition. And both male and female participants reported feeling more satisfied with the results of the special scent training and generally happy afterwards.

These findings suggest that the special aroma creates a physiological effect that stimulates the nervous and circulatory systems; a chemical effect that triggers the release of dopamine, endorphins, and other neurotransmitters; and a psychological effect that causes behavioral changes in mood, motivation, desire, attention, satisfaction, etc.

The researchers, working on behalf of (a supplement company), are keeping the formulas for the special scent secret, but noted that the main goal of the study, to identify a viable inhalable ergogenic, had been met, and that further studies are needed to refine the delivery mechanism.

Study findings

Based on other survey studies, inhalation of the proprietary scents was shown to produce physiological and psychological changes in participants. Measurable improvements in athletes’ performance, motivation, breathability, energy, speed, alertness, reaction time, confidence, and strength were validated.

Runners in the 2006 Las Vegas Marathon reported increased speed and endurance. Cyclists in a clinical study experienced increased leg speed and reduced pain. Skiers and snowboarders at Brian Head Ski Resort in Utah reported improved breathing. Riders in the 2006 Triple By-Pass single-day cycling event in Colorado reported feeling more motivated and willing to push their physical limits. Inhalation of the aromas before or during athletic competitions improves an athlete’s mood and motivation and subsequent performance. The findings indicate a beneficial outcome from inhaling the scent and that the supplement could serve as an important addition to an athlete’s normal training regiment. The use of scents could also help an athlete maintain a positive frame of mind during physical therapy.

the nose has it

For decades, cyclists in Europe have used various inhalants as energy aids, though they complain about the constant mess they create when applied. The bottom line seems to be that inhaling a particular fragrance makes a measurable difference in athletic performance.

Interesting research has also been carried out on the use of other proprietary fragrances. One that works as a relaxant to induce sleep, one that helps reduce food cravings, and one that stimulates romantic feelings.

Before long, we can all be taking what’s good for us, right in the nose.

By admin

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