Sometimes, it can be a real challenge to keep up with the latest and greatest supplement innovations.
Not to mention that it can get really expensive. However, for the most part, the essentials remain the same year after year.
Creatine, protein, multivitamins. Most others are simply developments on the classics, that may or may not deliver any additional value.
But what if we go back in time a bit...before supplements were a big thing. Think over 200 years ago, a time when a little thing known as sodium bicarbonate was discovered.
Chances are, you haven't used it for much aside from a little cleaning or the occasional food. But what if we told you that it is arguably the OG performance enhancer?
In this blog, we discuss how you can utilize good old sodium bicarbonate as an exercise performance aid.
First Things First: What is Sodium Bicarbonate?
Sodium bicarbonate, better known as baking soda, is a white, powdery substance that has been around for centuries. It is mostly tasteless with a slightly salty flavor.
It's most commonly used in baking as a leavening agent, but it also has a variety of other uses including cleaning and even medical purposes.
Chemically, baking soda is classified as an alkaline compound that contains sodium and bicarbonate ions. These ions work to neutralize acids, making baking soda a great choice for settling an upset stomach.
How Does Baking Soda Work?
As we previously mentioned, one of the primary ways sodium bicarbonate works is via its alkaline nature. When we supplement with baking soda, it helps to increase our blood levels of bicarbonate.
In doing so, it acts as a buffer against the acidic build-up of lactic acid, allowing us to exercise for longer periods of time before feeling fatigued.
Greens and many fruits are actually base-forming when ingested and can help to maintain the acid-base balance in the body.
We recommend a high-quality superfood powder like Field Of Greens to even out the odds.
pH And Exercise Performance
pH is a measure of how acidic or basic a substance is. The lower the pH, the more acidic it is, and vice versa for bases.
Our blood has a very narrow pH range that must be maintained in order for our bodies to function properly.
This range is between 7.35 and 7.45. Anything outside of this range can lead to serious health complications.
Lactic acid is an important player when it comes to exercise performance. It is produced as a by-product of energy production and accumulates in our muscles during exercise.
As lactic acid builds up, it causes fatigue and muscle pain, which can lead to a decrease in performance. Eventually, it renders muscles unable to contract, and as a result, muscle failure is said to have ensued.
By delaying the onset of muscle fatigue, sodium bicarbonate allows us to exercise for longer periods of time before reaching muscle failure.
The Body's Response To Acidity?
Under normal circumstances, our bodies are able to maintain a relatively stable pH level. This is made possible by our intrinsic buffering systems.
Buffers are substances that help to resist changes in pH. They do this by either absorbing excess acids or releasing bases.
The most common buffer in our body is bicarbonate. Bicarbonate is produced by the kidney and acts to buffer acids in the blood.
When we supplement with sodium bicarbonate, it helps to increase our blood levels of bicarbonate. In doing so, it acts as a buffer against the acidic build-up of lactic acid, which can rapidly accumulate during exercise.
How Does Sodium Bicarbonate Help Maintain pH?
Our blood is constantly trying to maintain a pH balance. This is known as homeostasis.
There are a variety of mechanisms in place that work to ensure our blood pH stays within the proper range.
One way our body does this is by eliminating acidic compounds, such as lactic acid, through our breath and urine.
However, during exercise, the production of lactic acid exceeds our body's ability to eliminate it. This is where sodium bicarbonate comes in.
Sodium bicarbonate helps to maintain blood pH by acting as a buffer against the acidic build-up of lactic acid, thus, maintaining pH homeostasis.
Interval Training and Baking Soda
Baking soda can effectively benefit interval training sessions.
Interval training is a type of exercise that alternates between periods of high-intensity effort and lower-intensity active rest.
This type of training has been shown to be an effective way to improve both aerobic and anaerobic fitness.
One study showed that when cyclists supplemented with sodium bicarbonate, they were able to ride at a higher intensity during interval training sessions.
This is again, likely due to the fact that sodium bicarbonate helps to buffer the acidic build-up of lactic acid, thus delaying the onset of muscle fatigue.
Sodium Bicarbonate And Muscle Strength
Sodium bicarbonate has also been shown to improve muscle strength.
The use of the powder prior to your workout not only enhances maximal muscle output but also aids in the recovery process following your workout.
supplemented with sodium bicarbonate, is able to increase bench press one-rep max by 5%.
Indeed, baking soda may not directly increase muscle size, but it can help you to achieve better quality reps by increasing your strength and power output via more efficient waste buildup management.
When you think of sodium bicarbonate, you might not immediately think of fatigue. However, the two are actually closely related.
So how do sodium bicarbonate and ATP relate to each other? As we mentioned before, sodium bicarbonate helps to buffer lactic acid.
Lactic acid is produced when we exercise and can lead to fatigue by depleting our glycogen stores. By buffering lactic acid, sodium bicarbonate can help to delay the onset of fatigue so that we can exercise for longer periods of time.
In addition, ATP is needed for our cells to function properly. When we exercise, our cells need more ATP in order to keep up with the demand. And how do Our bodies produce ATP? By breaking down glucose.
Glucose is stored in our muscles as glycogen. When glycogen is depleted, fatigue sets in. However, by taking sodium bicarbonate before exercising, we can help to delay the depletion of glycogen and postpone the onset of fatigue.
Lowers Degree of Perceived Exertion
One of the most common questions athletes have is how to best reduce perceived exertion during competition. As anyone who has ever run a race can attest to, the body quickly tires as lactic acid builds up and causes muscle pain. This intensifies the feeling of fatigue and makes it difficult to push through to the end. Baking soda may be a simple and effective solution for reducing perceived exertion and delaying fatigue in athletes.
Enhances Effects of Beta-Alanine
Beta-alanine is another extremely popular supplement that is often used by athletes. Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that has been shown to improve exercise performance.
The effects of beta-alanine are most likely due to its ability to increase carnosine levels in muscles. Carnosine is a molecule that helps to buffer lactic acid and can thus delay the onset of muscle fatigue.
Baking soda has also been shown to increase carnosine levels. When taken together, beta-alanine and baking soda may have a synergistic effect and improve exercise performance to a greater extent than either supplement alone.
It's worth giving them a try in conjunction, especially if you're already using beta-alanine, as the cost of baking soda is extremely cheap.
Potentiates Action Of Creatine
Is it a mere coincidence that baking soda works so well to make great supplements even better? We think not.
We already touched on its ability to buffer fatigue; under the duress of exercise, the benefit is far more pronounced.
Creatine is one of the most popular and well-studied supplements in history. It has been shown to be effective for increasing strength, power, and muscle mass.
Baking soda has also been shown to increase creatine uptake by cells. This means that more creatine is available for your muscles to use, which can lead to greater gains in strength and power.
Imagine being able to surpass your stalling points, or getting more reps done than you were ever able to accomplish. The possibilities are exciting.
A patented form of creatine even already exists that is combined with baking soda, although you can achieve similar (if not superior) results by increasing the amount of baking soda added, and at a fraction of the price, it would cost.
Want to really add jet fuel to the mix? Try Foundation, our combination of creatine with Peak ATP.
Safety and Side Effects
Overall, baking soda is very safe for consumption, especially at lower doses of 5g daily.
At higher doses, the possibility of adverse effects goes up. For instance, the risk of diarrhea is increased proportionally to the ingested dose.
In addition, there's the more serious issue of sodium content. While he spoke at length about sodium's merits and its necessity, if you are already diagnosed or borderline hypertensive, then baking soda would not be a good choice for you.
Other minor considerations include tooth sensitivity from the abrasive nature of the particles, but this is only likely to be an issue if you swish it around in your mouth too much.
Is Sodium Bicarbonate Considered a Performance Enhancing Drug?
While not technically classified as such, in theory, it is exactly that. One of the simplest, completely legal ways to improve your athletic performance is to supplement with sodium bicarbonate.
What Sports Can Sodium Bicarbonate Benefit?
The benefits of sodium bicarbonate supplementation are most pronounced in sports that last longer than about 60 seconds, especially if they are of a lower to mid-intensity. This includes running, cycling, swimming, and rowing.
But as we've mentioned, it can also work well for shorter duration activity as well by virtue of its fatigue buffering properties.
How Much Sodium Bicarbonate Should I Take Daily?
The amount of baking soda you should take depends on your goals.
If you are trying to improve exercise performance, the general recommendation is to take 0.3 grams per kilogram of body weight. This would be equivalent to about 20-25 grams for a 150-pound person.
Yes, we know that sounds like a massive amount, and it is. That's why you will find general recommendations starting at 5g daily and only increasing once you have assessed tolerance.
What Forms of Sodium Bicarbonate Are Available?
Baking soda is available in many different forms, including capsules, tablets, powder, and liquid.
However, the most popular form of baking soda is powder. It is cheap, easily available, and can be added to any beverage. From an economical standpoint, it's best to just use the powder.
Can Baking Soda Benefit Endurance Athletes?
Baking soda is a very effective and well-studied ergogenic aid that can improve the performance of runners, cyclists, obstacle course race (OCR) athletes, and other endurance athletes.
Athletes have long used baking soda to improve their performance, even though the practice has been all but forgotten today.
Given that you do not possess a contraindication to sodium bicarbonate's use, there is no reason not to at least try it out and see if it works for you.
The worst that could happen is that you get a little bit of an upset stomach, or maybe some diarrhea. But the potential benefits are well worth the risk in our opinion.