One of the amazing things about the world is how seemingly disparate things are connected in profound ways. One of these connections is between sodium bicarbonate (household baking soda) and intense physical exertion.
I use Sodium Bicarbonate for my heartburn when it comes up (less common these days thanks to eating less carbs), but I never would have guessed that it functioned as an ergogenic aid.
But. these studies indicate that it does:
- Saunders, Bryan, Craig Sale, Roger C. Harris, and Caroline Sunderland. 2014. “Effect of Sodium Bicarbonate and Beta-Alanine on Repeated Sprints During Intermittent Exercise Performed in Hypoxia.” International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism 24 (2): 196–205.
This study notes that Beta-Alanine and Sodium Bicarbonate combined or separate seem to have no effect on performance, but did have an effect on blood pH. The authors also admitted that other studies found results which indicated a positive effect on performance under different circumstances.
- Mueller, Sandro Manuel, Saskia Maria Gehrig, Sebastian Frese, Carsten Alexander Wagner, Urs Boutellier, and Marco Toigo. 2013. “Multiday Acute Sodium Bicarbonate Intake Improves Endurance Capacity and Reduces Acidosis in Men.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 10 (1): 1–9.
This study indicated that several days of acute doses of sodium bicarbonate prior to competition increased endurance performance and reduced acidosis.
- McNaughton, Lars R., Jason Siegler, and Adrian Midgley. 2008. “Ergogenic Effects of Sodium Bicarbonate.” Current Sports Medicine Reports (American College of Sports Medicine) 7 (4): 230–36.
This meta-analysis shows sodium bicarbonate supplementation to be generally effective for increased athletic performance. It does note that roughly 10% of people tend to have intestinal distress due to its ingestion though. The analysis showed 10 studies which noted a positive effect due to sodium bicarbonate supplementation, 2 which showed decreased performance (both involving swimming), and 5 which indicated no effect.
I found several more studies indicating that the effect is positive and a few more that noted little to no effect or determined that individual differences may dictate response to the chemical. I don’t really have a desire to improve my exercise performance utilizing baking soda, but it may prove useful for athletes and casual people who train for pleasure or their well-being.
I’m not a doctor though so this blog can’t diagnose or treat diseases. Also, do note that you can overdose on the stuff. If you wish to see a more comprehensive review of the subject that does not require access to ebsco or a university library, Chris Beardsley reviews the literature here.