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

You probably keep an orange box of baking soda in the back of the fridge or 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 fresh, baking soda can be applied in multitude of capacities. Believe it or not, that same orange box, can also improve your athletic performance. Studies show that sodium bicarbonate supplementation can effectively negate the effects of lactic acid production, aka “the burn”, increasing workout volume, maximizing training performance and ergogenic outcomes.

What Is Sodium Bicarbonate 

Baking soda is a common name for sodium bicarbonate. Sodium bicarbonate comes from trona deposits, which is 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 Baking Soda Works 

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

When used as a supplement sodium bicarbonate provides more dietary bicarbonate, which can increase serum levels, normally produced by the kidneys, and negate the effects of acidosis, aka “the burn”. By buffering exercise induced lactic acid, you’ll be able to push yourself past the point of exhaustion, delay muscle fatigue, and subsequently improve athletic performance.

Sodium bicarbonate directly effects your body's pH levels. 

In chemistry, pH is a scale used to grade how acidic or alkaline (basic) a solution is.

A pH of 7.0 is considered neutral (pure water has a pH of 7.0). Anything lower than 7.0 is acidic, and anything above 7.0 is alkaline. Kre-Alkalyn for example sits between 7 and 14, making it more alkaline. 

Dependent upon your body part, the pH is different. However during anerobic (without oxygen) execise, as you body outpaces the availability of oxygen supply, and produces ATP. A major byproduct of the anaerobic energy system, is hydrogen. 

Increased hydrogen will decrease the pH of your muscles, creating an acidic environment. This leads to the unwanted “burning” sensation we’ve all felt during a WOD, loaded barbells to failure, and anaerobic exercises such as sprints and cycling. Sodium bicarbonate has a pH of 8.4 and can buffer hydrogen during anaerobic exercise.

Benefits of Sodium Bicarbonate On Athletic Performance

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

5 participants undertook 40 min of submaximal cycling until exhaustion at 95% of their maximum power output on three separate tests, following the ingestion of 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 the acidosis (160 ± 22 s) and control (270 ± 13 s) conditions [R].

Endurance Capacity 

As exercise intensity increases and your glycolytic system is working at full speed, your body cannot keep up with the amount of pyruvate being produced. When this happens, your energy systems shift, from aerobic (with oxygen) to anerobic (without oxygen). Pyruvate is then converted to lactate or lactic acid since your body cannot supply and shuttle oxygen fast enough to your bloodstream. As a result, you experience a loss of power, muscle fatigue, and “the burn”. This happens about 10-90 seconds into high-intensity work. Cranking on the Air Assault for max calories or a high-intensity calorie row on the Concept-2 can flush you out and tap you out quickly when you reach your anaerobic threshold.

But what if you could somehow buffer lactic acid and hydrogen ions buildup to prolong and maximize your exercise capacity. 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 micronized creatine, to neutralize the pH, therefore, it becomes more stable in stomach acid, improving absorption. Additionally, it helps improve endurance and exercise capacity by significantly and effectively buffering lactic acid buildup, in addition to powering adenosine trisphosphate (ATP) generation, producing more power, speed, and quick form energy output. 

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

In a meta-analysis reviewed and conducted by the Journal of the American Nutrition Association, the effects of sodium bicarbonate on Wingate test performance was evaluated. The Wingate Anerobic test was developed in the 1970s to measure anaerobic power and capacity.

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

Overall, supplementation with sodium bicarbonate can enhance performance in high-intensity single- and multiple-bout exercises that last between about 30 seconds and 12 minutes [R].

Strength Capacity

More muscular endurance is directly correlated to more muscular strength. A considerable amount of evidence has shown that muscular endurance is increased with sodium bicarbonate supplementation. Muscular endurance is commonly assessed as the maximum number of completed repetitions of a movement with a given load or as the maximum duration of maintaining isometric force production [R].

High volume training protocols, using multiple sets performed to muscular failure using sodium bicarbonate have seen the greatest effects. More reps, more sets, and higher volume, will inevitably produce greater muscle mass and strength [R].

Sodium Bicarbonate Dosing

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, research concludes that 

for single-dose supplementation protocols, 0.2 g/kg of sodium bicarbonate seems to be the minimum dose required to experience improvements in exercise performance. The optimal dose of sodium bicarbonate dose for ergogenic effects seems to be 0.3 g/kg. Higher doses (e.g., 0.4 or 0.5 g/kg) may not be required in single-dose supplementation protocols, because they do not provide additional benefits (compared with 0.3 g/kg) and are associated with a higher incidence and severity of adverse side-effects.

Sodium Bicarbonate On Performance: Takeaway 

The science is evident, that baking soda can produce and elicit vreater changes in muscular endurance by effectively buffering lactic acid and increasing time to exhaustion. The ergogenic effects of sodium bicarbonate are mostly established for exercise tasks of high-intensity that last between 30 s and 12 min. Attention to all you who CrossFit, adding Kre-Alkalyn, or sodium bicarbonate to your pre-workout mix, can greatly benefit your performance.

 


 Want To Boost Your Endurance Capacity And Strength With Sodium Bicarbonate?

Swolverine's Kre-Alkalyn® is a patented pH and buffered form of creatine phosphate. With the addition of creatine phosphate (PCr) into the muscle cells, the body increases its immediate energy supply, by facilitating the production of ATP which increases power output and strength. High-intensity training programs require the body to go under strenuous aerobic and anaerobic conditions. By supplementing the body with creatine, you will induce a greater improvement in exercise endurance and athletic performance, resulting in improved times, more peak power, and stronger lifts.*
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