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Study under review: Dose-Response of Sodium Bicarbonate Ingestion Highlights Individuality in Time Course of Blood Analyte Responses
Sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO₃)—otherwise known as baking soda—is a common ergogenic supplement used by athletes and individuals participating in vigorous exercise to delay the onset of muscular fatigue and maintain performance. During bouts of high-intensity exercise, metabolic byproducts, including hydrogen and lactate, are formed in muscle tissue. While most of these molecules are buffered, a small amount remains in the cell, creating an acidic environment. This is believed to be one of the primary mechanisms responsible for the development of muscular fatigue.
As depicted in Figure 1, taking bicarbonate before a bout of exercise has been shown to effectively flush metabolic byproducts out of the muscle tissue by increasing extracellular acid-buffering capacity, ultimately delaying the onset of muscular fatigue. Several dosing strategies have been studied and implemented among athletes, but 0.3 grams per kilogram of bodyweight is the most common dose to reap the benefits, when ingested 60-90 minutes prior to exercise.
These doses typically increase blood bicarbonate levels by about 20-25% or about 5-6 mmol/L from baseline. Time to peak blood concentrations vary depending on what the individual has eaten, rate of gastric emptying, and other factors. This dosing strategy has been shown to adequately enhance buffering capacity, which in turn can help you train harder as a result of the delayed onset of metabolic acidosis—the “burn”—which characterizes certain forms of intense exercise. Dosages of 0.5 grams per kilogram of body mass have been shown to be slightly more effective than the 0.2-0.3 grams per kilogram range, but intake at this level also tends to induce gastrointestinal discomfort, including stomach bloating, nausea, and diarrhea.
Sodium bicarbonate can be taken all at once, or spread out into separate doses throughout the day, and taken with meals. Dosing strategies are well-documented, but individual variability and the dose-response relationship between bicarbonate and individualized biochemistry hasn’t been addressed in the literature. The purpose of the present study is to investigate bicarbonate, pH, and sodium responses to three different doses of NaHCO₃ in order to determine the time course of changes and the inter-individual variability in responses.
Sodium bicarbonate has been shown to increase the acid-buffering capacity of muscle tissue, delaying the muscle “burn” felt during intense exercise. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the individual variability in biochemical responses to three different doses of bicarbonate, as well as their impact on pH, base and sodium.
Other Articles in Issue #19 (May 2016)
Training hot for performance gains
Athletes know all too well that sudden exposure to heat or altitude can severely impact performance, so acclimation is a good idea. And it turns out that exposure to one of these stressors may actually help the other one.
The art & science of evidence-based practice and elite performance By Craig Pickering
As one of the rare athletes to participate in both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, Craig has a unique perspective on the intersection of optimal performance and evidence-based practice.
Relaxing arteries with magnesium
To stave off cardiovascular disease, we want our arteries to be more pliable than stiff. This trial tested six months of magnesium supplementation for the purpose of reducing arterial stiffness.
A compound from beer may help fat loss
Bitter, hop-derived compounds found in beer may actually reduce body fat levels. Previously only shown in mice, this study tested the theory in humans
Sugar is the ultimate antioxidant and insulin will make you younger: Appreciating a few poorly recognized but critical contributions of carbohydrate
By Chris Masterjohn, PhD: Sugar is widely demonized in the media and medical establishment. Professor Masterjohn provides an eye-opening and detailed view on some potential protective roles of glucose.
Milk gone bad: A1 beta-casein and GI distress
Casein isn’t just the slowly digesting protein that helps prevent muscle breakdown. This study looked at possible negative effects of the most common type of casein in milk
Arsenic in rice: big trouble for little infants?
Depending on where it’s grown, rice can have rather high levels of arsenic. Especially brown rice. This may be important for developing infants
How much protein does grandpa really need?
One of the many downsides to aging is altered protein mechanics. Based on the theory that protein requirements for seniors may be pegged too low, this study quantified protein needs in older males.
Is resistance exercise the next frontier for nitrates?
Nitrate use for athletics has exploded in the past few years, but research typically focuses on aerobic activities like longer-distance cycling or swimming. Could nitrates also show benefit for weightlifting?