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How Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda) Can Improve Your Athletic Performance


Maybe you keep an orange box of baking soda in the back of the fridge or it’s sitting on the shelf waiting to be used in your next cookie recipe. From keeping your cookies fluffy and delicious, to helping your fridge say it’s fresh, baking soda can be used in a multitude of capacities. Believe it or not, that same orange box can improve your athletic performance. Studies show that sodium bicarbonate supplementation can effectively cancel the effects of lactic acid production, also known as “the burn,” increase exercise volume, and increase training performance and ergogenic results.

What is sodium bicarbonate

Baking soda is the common name for sodium bicarbonate. Sodium bicarbonate comes from deposits of trona, a naturally occurring mineral found in ancient salt lake basins. Trona is processed into soda ash (sodium carbonate), which is then used as baking soda.

How does baking soda work

When used in baking, baking soda acts as a chemical leavener, creating carbon dioxide in reaction to an acid (such as vinegar), creating bubbles that help baked goods rise to perfection, moist, and fluffy.

When used as a dietary supplement, sodium bicarbonate provides more bicarbonate to the diet, which can increase serum levels, which are normally produced by the kidneys, and counteract the effects of acidosis, also known as “burning.” By reducing exercise-induced lactic acid, you’ll be able to push yourself past the point of exhaustion, delaying muscle fatigue, and thus improving athletic performance.

Benefits of sodium bicarbonate on athletic performance

The effects of sodium bicarbonate on exercise performance have been researched since the 1930s [R]. The first study was conducted at Harvard University, with one participant, using 10 grams of sodium bicarbonate in a treadmill test. The authors concluded that performance was improved by establishing a pre-exercise alkalosis state. Numerous studies have since investigated the effects of sodium bicarbonate and exercise, with the most relevant and recognized research being generated in Journal of Applied Physiology in 1977.

5 participants performed 40 minutes of submaximal cycling until 95% of maximum power output was exhausted in three separate tests, after taking calcium carbonate (placebo condition), ammonium chloride (acidosis condition), or sodium bicarbonate (alkalosis condition).

On average, participants cycled for 438 ± 120 seconds after ingesting sodium bicarbonate, which was significantly longer than in acidosis (160 ± 22 seconds) and control (270 ± 13 seconds). [R].

Stamina

With the intensity of your exercise increasing and your glycolysis system working at full speed, your body can’t keep up with the amount of pyruvate being produced. When this happens, your energy systems switch, from aerobic (with oxygen) to anaerobic (without oxygen). The pyruvate is then converted to lactate, or lactic acid, because your body can’t supply oxygen and move it fast enough into your bloodstream. As a result, you experience a loss of strength, muscle fatigue and “burn”. This happens about 10-90 seconds in high intensity work. Pressing the Air Assault for max calories or the high-intensity calorie row on the Concept-2 can quickly kick you in and out when you reach your anaerobic threshold.

But what if you could somehow prevent the buildup of lactic acid and hydrogen ions to prolong and increase your ability to exercise. You can, you simply need something alkaline (something with a pH greater than 7).

Kre-Alkalyn (alkaline) is a great example of this. Soda ash or sodium bicarbonate is added to the micronized creatine to equalize the pH, so it becomes more stable in stomach acid, which improves absorption. Additionally, it helps improve endurance and exercise capacity by significantly and effectively buffering lactic acid buildup, as well as turning on the generation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), producing more energy, speed, and rapid energy output.

Studies have investigated the effects of sodium bicarbonate on several training protocols, including swimming, rowing, running and cycling,

In a meta-analysis reviewed and conducted by Journal of the American Dietetic AssociationThe effect of sodium bicarbonate on Wingate test performance was evaluated. The Wingate Anaerobic Test was developed in the 1970s to measure anaerobic power and capacity.

The review found that a significant effect of sodium bicarbonate on average strength was found in studies that used shorter rest periods between tests. [R]. Thus, exercises using multiple 30-second maximum efforts benefit greatly from the use of sodium bicarbonate as a supplement. This can be largely attributed to the methods of exercise, such as CrossFit, high-intensity functional training, and endurance training.

In general, sodium bicarbonate supplementation can enhance performance in high-intensity single and multi-bout workouts that last between 30 seconds and 12 minutes. [R].

force capacity

More muscular endurance is directly related to muscular strength. A significant amount of evidence has shown that muscular endurance is increased with sodium bicarbonate supplementation. Muscular endurance is generally evaluated as the maximum number of complete repetitions of a movement with a given load or the maximum duration sustained for isometric force production. [R].

High-volume training protocols, using multiple sets performed to muscle failure with sodium bicarbonate, saw the biggest effects. More repetitions, more sets, and higher volume, you will inevitably produce more muscle mass and strength [R].

Sodium bicarbonate doses

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, research has concluded this

For single-dose supplementation protocols, 0.2 g/kg of sodium bicarbonate appears to be the minimum dose required to experience improvements in exercise performance. The optimal sodium bicarbonate dose for ergogenic effects appears to be 0.3 g/kg. Higher doses (eg, 0.4 or 0.5 g/kg) may not be required in single-dose supplementation protocols, as they provide no additional benefits (compared to 0.3 g/kg) and are associated with a higher incidence and severity of adverse side-effects.

Sodium bicarbonate in performance: a takeaway

The science is clear, that baking soda can produce and induce greater changes in muscular endurance by effectively alleviating lactic acid and increasing time to exhaustion. The ergogenic effects of sodium bicarbonate are created mostly for high-intensity exercise tasks that last between 30 seconds and 12 minutes. Pay attention to both CrossFit, adding Kre-Alkalyn, or sodium bicarbonate to your pre-workout mix can greatly benefit your performance.


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