Summary: Not performing on the field? Having difficulty gearing up the intensity of your workouts? You may want to rethink your pre-workout routine, as research suggests that aromatic and internal use of Peppermint essential oil may be exactly what you need to take your performance to the next level.
Have you ever wondered why it is often recommended that you put a few drops of Peppermint essential oil in your palms, cup them, and directly inhale before physical activity? In a landmark study evaluating the influence of odors on athletic performance, researchers investigated the influence of different odors on perceived performance workload and mood.
The researchers had 40 participants complete a treadmill test and a Task Load Index Test (a subjective measurement of mental and physical workload) while breathing through a nasal cannula (a device used to deliver supplemental oxygen). During baseline testing, the participants completed the tests with un-odored, low-flow oxygen presented through the nasal cannula. Then in isolated tests separated by 48 hours, the researchers intermittently introduced Peppermint oil, Jasmine oil, and dimethyl sulfide (a compound with a powerful sulfur odor). Analysis of the final data revealed that introduction of the Peppermint essential oil resulted in participants experiencing significantly reduced perceived physical workload, temporal workload, levels of exertion, and greater self-evaluated performance. In the tests with Jasmine essential oil, results were on par with the baseline control tests, while the introduction of the dimethyl sulfide resulted in significantly increased perceived workload and levels of exertion.
In short, participants reported that their workouts were less difficult (at the same objective levels of intensity) and that they were performing better when Peppermint oil was introduced. The researchers suggested that the variances in perceived workload and levels of exertion may be due to the effects of odors on the nervous system—that the odor of Peppermint may have a positive influence on awareness and one’s attention to the environment and task at hand.
In another study, researchers recruited 12 participants to participate in an experiment investigating the influence of ingested Peppermint oil on exercise performance. One day prior to the beginning of the trial period, baseline evaluations of vital signs and various pulmonary function tests (including forced vital capacity, peak expiratory flow rate, and peak inspiratory flow) were taken. Participants then underwent a Bruce protocol treadmill test, wherein their metrics of exercise performance were measured as they ran to complete exhaustion while the speed and incline of the treadmill progressively increased.
The participants were then asked to consume one 500 mL bottle of mineral water mixed with .05 mL of Peppermint essential oil for the following ten days, to refrain from any high intensity exercise, and to maintain their regular diet. A second Bruce protocol treadmill test was conducted following the 10-day supplementation period. After a one-day rest period, vital signs and pulmonary function tests were repeated. The results were far more extreme than the researchers had hypothesized, with participants experiencing an increase in distance and time to exhaustion on the second treadmill test. Participants also exhibited statistically significant improvements in peak inspiratory flow (the maximum amount of air inhaled in one breath) and post-test heart rate. Although several factors were considered, based upon previous research, it is believed these effects may be due to a combination of Peppermint’s ability to stimulate the central nervous system and reduce tension of the smooth muscles of the arteries.
While further research needs to be conducted to unravel the mechanisms of action, there is evidence that the aroma of Peppermint oil has the potential to decrease perceived exertion in high intensity activities and that oral supplementation may positively influence several markers of performance. Deep Blue® Soothing Blend isn’t the only essential oil that merits designated space in your gym bag; to promote optimal performance, try diffusing Peppermint in your home gym or adding a drop to a glass of water before the big game.