Watch any bodybuilding documentary and you will find big-name bodybuilders chewing gum during their workouts. This has led to a number of people wondering if there is actually a point to it. Is chewing gum good for bodybuilding? In this article, I will attempt to find the answer.
Chewing gum offers no real benefit to bodybuilding. It is almost certainly chewed out of habit, or due to some sort of placebo effect. If anything, chewing gum while lifting could be seen as unnecessarily dangerous, due to the risk of choking.
I will be the first to admit, that an article on the benefits of chewing gum as a bodybuilder is a pretty weird article to write. But it is a question that appears again and again on bodybuilding forums, and never seems to get a satisfactory answer. So I thought I would weigh in with my own thoughts on this (incredibly niche) subject.
There are several reasons why bodybuilders chew gum (according to Bodybuilding forums). To increase focus during lifting, to regulate breathing, to prevent a dry mouth during cardio, and to prevent hunger during cuts. Of those four reasons, only the last one makes much sense to me.
There is some evidence that chewing gum can actually help with focus, but the studies state that chewing gum can help with visual memory tasks. This would be useful while studying for an exam but isn’t really going to help you squat more in the gym.
Chewing gum can help you stay focused for longer on tasks that require continuous monitoring. Previous research has shown that chewing gum can improve concentration in visual memory tasks. This study focused on the potential benefits of chewing gum during an audio memory task.
Could chewing gum help to regulate your breathing? Unsurprisingly, scientists say otherwise. In fact, chewing food appears to disrupt your breathing. Which is fairly obvious if you think about it. I’ll bring this up quite a lot, but chewing something while exercising at a high intensity is clearly a choking risk.
Chewing food while breathing through the mouth interferes with and decreases the respiratory cycle and promotes unusual respiratory movement of the thoracic wall, which is directed by the activity of accessory muscles of respiration.
I’ll be honest, when I read that some bodybuilders chewed gum to prevent dry mouth during a workout I was immediately suspicious. Surely it would dehydrate you? Turns out that I was wrong, apparently chewing gum can actually help relieve you of thirst. Though maybe grab a bottle of water instead?
The use of chewing gum increases salivary flow, triggers oral lubrication, which acts against dehydration of the oral mucosa and can therefore effectively relieve thirst and its discomforts
As suspected, chewing gum can help to regulate appetite, leading to a reduction in snacking. It could well be useful for bodybuilders on a cut, particularly during very-low-calorie days where hunger could really sabotage results.
Overall, chewing gum for at least 45 min significantly suppressed rated hunger, appetite and cravings for snacks and promoted fullness.
Some bodybuilders chew gum while they work out, it’s pretty obvious when you watch YouTube videos of them training. Arnie is definitely seen to be chewing gum during his workouts. Whether a large number chew gum while outside the gym is impossible to ascertain.
The most likely reason for this is simply because they enjoy chewing gum, not because bodybuilders know something we don’t. As established in the previous section, chewing gum doesn’t really have any benefits, unless you are dieting. I doubt bodybuilders are that fussed about focus, breathing, or hydration.
Maybe I’m overly focused on the dangers of choking, but it just seems crazy to me. Then again, I once almost choked on a boiled sweet as a child and that memory clearly stuck. Lying on a bench with a very heavy weight above your torso and an easily swallowed piece of gum floating around your mouth just seems ridiculous.
There aren’t really any benefits specific to lifting. Sure, chewing gum may lubricate your mouth, but so would a bottle of water. That being said, the risk of choking to death on a piece of gum is fairly low, so if you can handle the risk then there doesn’t seem to be any downside to chewing gum.
This question is asked a LOT online, there are hundreds of articles claiming that chewing gum can help improve your jawline. As a good jawline is important for bodybuilding, then perhaps this is why bodybuilders do it?
Except how can it? Your jaw is made up of your mandible. This is a bone. You could chew for 500 years and your mandible isn’t going to grow. Sure, chewing can strengthen the muscles of the jaw, but they aren’t going to grow in size and transform your jaw.
If chewing helped with jawlines, then surely obese people would have incredible jaws? A good jawline is equal parts genetics and low body fat. Chewing gum isn’t going to make much difference. Do you know what bodybuilders do take for a good jawline? Human Growth Hormone! But I don’t recommend that.
There are two benefits to chewing gum during a diet. Firstly, as we established above, chewing gum can help to regulate your appetite, and prevent you from snacking between meals. A pack of low-sugar chewing gum is a great choice if you are feeling bored and/or hungry.
The second benefit is that chewing gum before and after a meal may actually lead to a 3-5% increase in calories burned! This isn’t massive, but over the days and weeks, this could really add up. A 2015 study found that people who chewed gum before and after breakfast burned more calories than those who did not.
These data suggest that gum chewing potentially could influence short-term energy balance in this population
If you are planning on lowering your calorie intake, perhaps during a cut cycle, then chewing some sugar-free gum could be beneficial. But the difference is likely to be very small. Also, for the love of God, dispose of your chewing gum properly! I’m sick and tired of stepping on it.
If you like gum then there are a few small benefits to chewing it while dieting. If you don’t like gum then you really don’t need to bother. There are other ways to prevent snacking (drink more water) and burn calories (move more). Whatever you do, don’t chew your gum during a bench press. Getting Heimliched while holding a barbell is something that we all want to avoid. If you liked this article, then why not check out my article on whether bodybuilding should be classified as a sport or not?
Matt Smith is the owner of Beer N Biceps. He has a degree in Sports Science, 10 years of experience working in the fitness industry, and has written for hundreds of fitness websites. He is a lover of good quality beer and believes that drinking in moderation can form part of a healthy lifestyle.