Menthol is a natural compound within the mentha (also known as mint) plant that stimulates the cold receptor in human cells called TRPM8, making us feel a cooling sensation when applied to the skin or inhaled. This change in perception was shown decades ago to cause a sensation of improved airflow in the nose without actual changes to the type of air entering the nasal cavity.

Since this discovery, numerous studies have explored how menthol can affect athletic performance, as improved breathing is key to better results in the gym and on the road. Most recently, a review in the June 2017 issue of Sports Medicine found that menthol can have endurance exercise performance benefits, and may be beneficial for increasing joint range of motion.

“Menthol is effective when applied during endurance exercise in the heat as it feels like it cools you down,” says Chris Stevens, Ph.D. and lecturer, Sport and Exercise Science, Southern Cross University. “However, the menthol needs to be in contact with thermoreceptors in the mouth, so a pill would probably not work.”

Read on to find out nine facts about how menthol can improve your sports performance.

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