The popular household product sodium bicarbonate, also called baking soda, is widely used by many athletes and gym-goers during intense training to improve performance. When exercising at high intensity, sodium bicarbonate is used as an ergogenic aid.

This study investigated the effects of NaHCO3 supplementation or baking soda on external and internal load parameters during isokinetic exercise.

For more than 80 years, scientists have studied the effects of sodium bicarbonate on exercise performance. 

Adding sodium bicarbonate to your diet may help you perform better in speed, power, work capacity, and time to failure. In particular, sodium bicarbonate appears to increase muscular endurance.

Effect of Baking Soda on Sport Performance

The results of one study indicate that supplements with baking soda significantly improve muscular endurance and performance.

Furthermore, it appears to have many benefits near the end of an endurance workout, which may help a person with the final “push” of the activity. It is especially beneficial with single and repeated high-intensity exercise lasting from one to seven minutes. 

For example, one study observed a 1.5-second performance improvement in the last 1,000 meters of a 2,000-meter (1.24-mile) rowing event. Since many races are won by seconds, this could be a significant difference.

In anaerobic exercise, baking soda may buffer excess hydrogen due to its alkaline pH of 8.4. Interestingly, your kidneys produce bicarbonate to keep your body at a stable pH level. 

A hydrogen ion can be accepted by it, which lowers its acidic nature by increasing its pH. It’s one of your body’s primary buffering substrates.

To return to a less acidic state, bicarbonate and other buffering agents pull the hydrogen out of the working muscles and into the bloodstream during exercise. Theoretically, sodium bicarbonate supplementation may help in this process, enabling it to remain active for extended periods.

On two occasions, ten subjects were tested. After ingesting 0.3 grams of NaHCO3 or a placebo, the subjects performed maximum voluntary isometric contractions before and after a dynamic protocol involving ten series of 10 knee extensor movements at 120° per second at a 60-second interval between actions.

There is mixed evidence concerning the effectiveness of sodium bicarbonate on muscular strength. For example, in one study, experienced weightlifters who took sodium bicarbonate 60 minutes before a workout performed six more squats in their first three sets. But, there were no differences in bench press repetitions.

However, a recent meta-analysis found no significant improvement in muscle strength – defined as how much weight an individual can lift or how much force they can produce – after baking soda supplementation.

What Did The Study Reveal?

The following outcomes were examined: peak torque (isokinetic dynamometry), blood lactate and creatine concentration (CK), effort perceptions (OMNI scale), pain (visual analog scale), and recovery (scale ranging from 6 to 20).

During the session, experts evaluated perceived effort, pain, and recovery at different times, and an internal load of the session was considered 30 min post-effort. Researchers also assessed muscle damage before and 24 hours post-exercise.

Supplementation did not affect performance even though there were significant reductions in peak torque in both isometric and isokinetic strength (p > 0.05).

After the exercise protocol, blood CK concentrations increased (p = 0.005), but there were no differences between conditions. Therefore, NaHCO3 did not affect performance or exercise parameters.

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