Sodium Bicarb
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Sodium Bicarb

Mar 06 2024

Sodium Bicarb

Athletes will do anything to get an edge. You may have heard of creatine and beta alanine, and believe it or not, that stuff you put in the fridge to absorb smells – baking soda – is also a performance supplement! It’s also used in science fairs to make volcanos explode…

 

Sodium bicarbonate as it is known in science-talk, improves athletic performance particularly in high-intensity activities lasting 1-10 minutes. 

How it works

Sodium bicarbonate works as a buffering agent in the body. Remember that “buffering” in science means neutralizing acids. Muscles happen to fill up with acids during sprinting activities. You have probably felt this. 

 

Baking Soda buffers the acid, and this can delay the onset of fatigue, which can then allow athletes to sustain higher levels of effort for longer durations. The research says it works best in activities lasting between 1 and 7 minutes, such as sprinting, swimming, fighting, or rowing. It may also benefit activities lasting longer, such as cycling or running, especially when they involve repeated bursts of high-intensity effort, or “intervals” as we sometimes call that.

 

 

Dosage, Timing, and Practical Considerations

 

The research recommends athletes consume 0.2 to 0.3 grams per kilogram of body weight, (I am about 85 Kg so I would take a heaping tablespoon. It is taken 60 to 90 minutes before exercise. 

 

Here comes the tricky part. 

 

As they say in medicine…. individual responses can vary, and some athletes may experience gastrointestinal discomfort or side effects. To minimize potential GI disturbances, take sodium bicarbonate with a small, high carb meal. You have to be fairly sophisticated with the timing. You want it to absorb into your body exactly when you are going to be going hard. 

 

Speaking plainly, ingesting baking soda can make you shit your pants. 

 

Side Effects

 

The buffering effect of sodium bicarbonate can neutralize stomach acid, potentially leading to bloating and gas. Other potential side effects include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Always test out new supplements during practice or training, not competition. I learned this lesson the hard way in a rugby game taking two “red rockets” that were popular at the time. My heart rate did not drop during rest periods and it ended it up being a net negative on my performance. I did play well that day despite that. 

 

Although baking soda is the most common form of sodium bicarbonate, it’s not the most palatable. Many athletes opt for a tablet or capsule form of sodium bicarbonate instead.

 

Safety Considerations

 

While sodium bicarbonate supplementation can enhance performance, it’s not suitable for everyone. Individuals with hypertension, kidney issues, or other medical conditions should consult with a healthcare professional before using it. Additionally, prolonged use or excessive doses can lead to electrolyte imbalances or other health concerns.

 

As with any supplement, it’s essential to approach sodium bicarbonate use with caution and consider individual needs and tolerances. Consulting with a sports nutritionist or healthcare professional can help determine if sodium bicarbonate supplementation is appropriate and how to use it effectively and safely.

 

In other words, you would benefit from a few sessions with our Sport RD Tracy On, who can provide you with a complete Sport-Nutrition overhaul, including a full supplement protocol, customized hydration, and day-to-day eating like an athlete. Go ahead and book an assessment with her!

 

Written by: Kyle Byron, BSc Human Nutrition
Article Researched: Tracy On, RD

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Kyle

Kb Nutritionist and fun guy

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