Is Chewing Gum While Working Out A Good Idea? (Explained)


One of the reasons why I chew gum while working out is to reduce my thirst and keep my mouth moist (especially when I don’t have my water bottle). However, gum chewing has more benefits than that.

Today I will explain what chewing gum does to your body, is it good to chew gum when working out, and if so, what are the pros and cons.

As a whole, it is good to chew gum while working out because it helps to increase alertness and cognitive performance, depending on the ingredients. At the same time, chewing gum does not affect the pH of gastric juice, however, it slightly increases the gastric fluid volume, which means it can stimulate gastric emptying. 

Here is the best part. Studies have shown that chewing gums during working out can increase testosterone levels (more on that later).

Chewing Gum While Working Out

A question came in on my email yesterday asking “Can I chew gum while working out?”. This is a great question and I actually thought about the answer for a long time (before I spend hours scrolling through scientific journals and publications).

Firstly, chewing gum while working out has been a controversial topic. People say that it is a safety hazard (mainly because you can choke while breathing hard during high-intensity workouts).

I agree.

However, please remember that there have been several studies done specifically on the effects of chewing gum while working out, running, walking, and lifting weights. Some of these gums are sugar-free, and some contain caffeine or other stimulants.

Chewing sugar-free gum comes with many oral health benefits like a higher flow rate that promotes more rapid oral clearance of sugars, as well as plaque and extrinsic stain reduction. It is also been reported that chewing gum improves memory, reduces nausea, or even increases alertness.

However, did you know that chewing gum while working out can make your training more effective?

Can You Workout While Chewing Gum?

In general, you can workout while chewing gum because mastication helps to stimulate sympathetic nervous activity, increases respiratory rate, and elevates energy expenditure. It also helps to increase concentration, improve performance, and enhance attention.

Here’s the proof.

A study conducted by Dr. Yuka Hamada and his colleagues from the Waseda University in Japan documented the effects of chewing gum on metabolic rate and calorie burn while walking. A total of 46 people was randomly divided into two groups:

  • Group A (Chewing gum while working out)
  • Group B (Workout without chewing gum

The study was looking at how chewing gum affects heart rate, walking distance (including the number of steps), walking speed, and calories burned, compared to controls. All people walked at a natural pace for 15 minutes.

See the results in the table below.

Chewing gum while working outWorking out without chewing gum
Walking distance1,421 meters1,409 meters
Steps127 per minute125 per minute
Heart rate114111
Calories burned64.263.8
Chewing gum while working out research

As you can see, the results have shown that chewing gum not only helps to increase the number of steps but also increases the heart rate and increases energy expenditure (Hamada et al. 2018).

Of course, looking at these numbers, you may think that the difference is trivial. For example, walking 125 vs 127 steps per minute seems like nothing. However, please keep in mind that the study was done only for 15 minutes.

Let’s take it into the perspective of 52 weeks.

In the table below, you can find the prediction of the same results, but from the standpoint of 60 minutes of walking (not 15 minutes), with the frequency of 6 days per week (including one day off) for 52 weeks (12 months in total).

Chewing gum while working outWorking out without chewing gum
Walking distance1,773,408 meters1,758,432 meters
Total steps2,377,440 steps2,340,000 steps
Calories burned80,12179,622
Chewing gum while working out for 12 months

As you can see, chewing gum while working out may seem not effective from the perspective of one single workout. However, if you look at the timeframe of 12 months, it leads to 37,440 more steps, compared to not chewing.

Does chewing gum while working out burn more calories? On average, chewing gum while working out leads to higher energy expenditure and can burn 10 kcal/hour more, compared to exercise alone. Plus, mastication has been reported to elevate heart rate by 11 beats/minute, depending on gum structure and chewing duration.

Learn more: Click here to learn more about “chewing gum and calories“.

What Happens If You Chew Gum While Working Out?

As a whole, if you chew gum and work out at the same time, the body increases cardiac sympathetic activity and vagus nerve activity, which leads to a higher heart rate and improved systemic circulation.

Let me explain.

What is the sympathetic nervous activity? Overall, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is your fight or flight response. It helps to prepare the body for physical activity by elevating your respiratory rate and pumping blood into the heart, lungs, and muscles.

Here are a few reasons why elevated sympathetic activity before and during exercise is important:

  • It increases cardiac activity
  • It increases renal activity
  • It increases heart rate
  • It increases stroke volume
  • It increases cardiac output

All these processes help to facilitate the redistribution of blood flow to the active muscles, as well as increase metabolic demands for the muscles (which is exactly what you need before and during a workout).

What you don’t need is the opposite effect (parasympathetic activity) where the heart rate drops and blood is pumped away from the muscles into the gut.

This means that a combination of exercise and chewing gum is an effective way not only to burn more calories during the workout but also as a way to prep before the workout.

Does Chewing Gum While Working Out Help?

As a whole, chewing gum while working out helps because increases metabolic rate and reduces respiratory exchange ratio, which is an indicator of which fuel, carbs, or fats, are being used to supply the body with energy.

Let me explain.

The respiratory exchange ratio is the relationship between how much the body produces carbon dioxide vs how much oxygen it takes.

  • A higher respiratory exchange ratio (around 1.0 or more) indicates that mainly carbohydrates are being used as the energy source.
  • A lower respiratory exchange ratio (around 0.7) indicates that mainly lipids are being oxidized for energy.

For example, the body of physically active people can uptake more oxygen, therefore, oxidize more fatty acids for the fuel. On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle increases the respiratory exchange ratio, which contributes to decreased fat oxidation (Rimbert et al. 2004).

Now watch this.

Dr. Daniel L. Kresge and his colleagues from the University of Rhode Island documented the effect of chewing gum while working out on 30 adults. All people chewed sugar-free gum for 60 minutes on day one and did not chew gum on a second day.

The results have shown that “gum chewing while working out increased respiratory exchange ratio and energy expenditure in both male and female individuals” (Kresge, 2015).

Should I chew gum while working out? As a whole, you should chew gum while working out because gum chewing potentially can influence short-term energy balance, increase oxidative enzyme activity, and increase oxygen uptake. Plus, chewing gum is also associated with improved satiation and satiety.

Does Chewing Gum Affect Muscle Growth?

Have you ever wondered why bodybuilders chew gum?

Studies have shown that chewing gum has a positive effect on salivary testosterone and estradiol in men and women, which can affect muscle growth and strength. However, chewing gum while working out has also been shown to reduce immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels.

A study from the University of Michigan has compared the effects of different brands of chewing gum on salivary testosterone and estrogen level (van Anders, 2010).

Here are the details.

Type of chewing gumTestosterone beforeTestosterone after
No Gum117.76 pg/mL110.29 pg/mL
Orbit Spearmint91.73 pg/mL107.27 pg/mL
Extra Spearmint85.77 pg/mL115.41 pg/mL
Dentyne Spearmint96.32 pg/mL113.85 pg/mL
Orbit Peppermint61.85 pg/mL105.67 pg/mL
Extra Peppermint81.40 pg/mL129.90 pg/mL
Dentyne Peppermint90.31 pg/mL106.32 pg/mL
Chewing gum while working out increases testosterone levels in men

As you can see, chewing gum while working out not only improves the heart rate but also significantly increases acute salivary testosterone levels.

(hmm, maybe that’s why Arnold chewed gum while working out).

Plus, the results have shown that Extra Peppermint and Extra Spearmint brands were the most effective. The least effective was Orbit Spearmint and (obviously) no gum at all.

Here you can see the table results for women.

Type of chewing gumTestosterone beforeTestosterone after
No Gum20.51 pg/mL19.51 pg/mL
Orbit Spearmint14.42 pg/mL29.29 pg/mL
Extra Spearmint16.79 pg/mL41.78 pg/mL
Dentyne Spearmint17.78 pg/mL29.61 pg/mL
Orbit Peppermint32.90 pg/mL25.97 pg/mL
Extra Peppermint26.04 pg/mL27.05 pg/mL
Dentyne Peppermint19.13 pg/mL34.12 pg/mL
Chewing gum while working out increases testosterone levels in women

Does chewing gum affect strength? As a whole, there is no evidence that chewing gum while working out has a direct impact on muscular strength or power. However, caffeinated chewing gums have been shown to provide ergogenic benefits for aerobic endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and anaerobic power.

In other words, it’s not the chewing gum that helps with performance, but the caffeine. Caffeine has consistently been shown to improve exercise performance when consumed in doses of 3-6 mg/kg body mass (Guest et al. 2021).

Eating Chewing Gum While Working Out

As you can see, there is nothing wrong with chewing gum while working out. Plus, eating caffeinated chewing gum while lifting weights can reduce exercise-induced muscle pain.

A study published by Dr. Masataka Umeda from Texas Tech University tested if caffeinated chewing gum reduces muscle pain during exercise in individuals with fibromyalgia. Here are the details.

  • Twenty-three patients consumed chewing gum that contains 100 mg of caffeine.
  • The workout included an isometric handgrip at 25% of maximal strength.
  • The exercise duration was 3 minutes.

The results (measured with muscle pain rating) have shown that chewing gum with caffeine during a workout helps to reduce exercise-induced muscle pain (Umeda et al. 2016).

Conclusion

As you can see, you can chew gum and work out at the same time. Of course, chewing food while training hard is not recommended because it stimulates digestion and parasympathetic activity.

However, chewing gum has not only has shown to kick start sympathetic response, but also leads to elevated heart rate and energy expenditure.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.

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