Supplements ~ Sodium Bicarbonate
Bicarbonate of Soda, or plain old Baking Soda, to our mums, is
potentially one of the best value for money ergogenic aids on the
market. It's cheap, it's plentiful, it's legal and it works.
Read on to see if it's for you.
is is it?
Sodium Bicarbonate is basically an alkalising agent that
reduces, or buffers to use the correct term, the acidity of your blood.
If you've been following my previous factsheets, especially the ones on
Lactic Acid, you'll know why
this is important.
does it do?
During intense exercise, at or above your lactic threshold, a
process called metabolic acidosis occurs. You know this is
happening when your legs start to hurt and you feel the dreaded burn.
Physiologically speaking, your blood ph begins to drop and you begin to
suffer from reduced performance and increased fatigue. Neither of
which on their own is good; when they happen at the same time it's bad,
Sodium Bicarbonate is good
deposits itself in the blood to alkalise
facilitates lactate dissipation
▼ increases glycotic energy
▼ delays decreased muscle
▼ can increase overall plasma
▼ increases blood
concentrations of bicarbonate
How does it
When exercising intensively we
use the anaerobic glycotic energy system and the lactic system.
Check out the Anaerobic Capacity
factsheet for a detailed description.
For each lactate molecule
produced a hydrogen ion is created.
It's the presence of the
hydrogen ion that makes the muscles acidic, which slows down enzyme
activity, which prevents glucose breakdown, which stops energy being
produced, which slows you down, which (as if you didn't know) isn't good.
When you sprint for the line and die
20 yards before it, that's when what I've just described has happened.
As an aside, acidic muscles
increase irritation of the nerve endings which is why we feel pain and
burn. This is where the magic of Sodium Bicarbonate comes in.
So, to recap, glycolysis
generates hydrogen ions and pyruvic acid in the working muscles.
This makes the muscular cells acidic, which interferes with their power
The good old mitochondria we took all
winter to carefully nurture and build up are now being used to sweep up
acid from the muscles and take it to in to the blood stream. Not
their primary purpose; which means they can't be used to make us go
Again, without getting too
technical; Sodium Bicarbonate can't penetrate the muscle
itself, it has to wait for the acid to come to where it's stalking; in the
When the "acid carrying
mitochondria" enter the blood stream from the muscle, the acid is
"introduced" to the Sodium Bicarbonate and the alkalising properties neutralise the
acid and allow the "clean" mitochondria to be freed up and dive back in to the
muscles to get another payload of acid. Thereby speeding up the
process of lactic flushing.
That's why it's so important
to develop your mitochondria during your winter base mileage because that's when you develop the
capabilities to help you go super fast in the summer.
No slow riding early on, no fast riding when you need it most.
How can it
As we've seen, intense,
short-burst, energy production increases the acidity inside the muscle
cells and very soon after, does the same to the blood. If we could
speedily process acidity regulation within the muscle cells and delay fatigue
we could exercise intensely for longer.
the acid produced within the muscle cells to be processed when it enters
the bloodstream, thus more quickly reducing the level of acidity within the muscle cells
The normal pH of the muscle
cell is 7.1. If, due to intense exercise, metabolic acidosis takes
place, the build up of acidity continues and pH is reduced to around
It's around this point that muscle contraction is impaired
and the low pH stimulates the free nerve endings in the muscle resulting
in the perception of burning pain! This point is referred to as
the lactic threshold, anaerobic
threshold or the onset of blood lactate accumulation. If
you've done one of our wVO2max
tests you'll know exactly what I mean and how it feels.
supplementation can help keep blood pH low, thereby allowing the
mitochondria to drag more hydrogen ions, more quickly from the muscle
allowing more intervals or longer duration to the onset of fatigue.
All in all a good thing.
What is the
The minimum dosage that's found
to be effective is 0.3 gms per kilogramme of bodyweight. More isn't
necessarily better, as the risk of gastric distress increases
significantly as dosage heads towards 0.5g per kilogramme.
As each individuals reaction
to supplementation is different for a given dosage, it's best to start
at the lower end of the dosage scale. One way to ease dosage
ingestion is to mix the powder into a pint of water and sip it over
thirty minutes to an hour before intense exercise.
Bicarbonate takes around sixty to ninety minutes to kick in. So
obviously you need to take it in adequate time to coincide with your
expected high intensity muscle contractions. Experiment with lead
times and dosages to make sure you get it right. What works for
your mate won't necessarily work for you.
should I be aware of?
To put it politely, gastric
distress, nausea and or bloating. Other ways to describe it are;
the trotts, delhi belly, the runs and various others I'm sure are
springing to mind.
Whatever it is, it isn't always nice and anyway
you should always test out any supplementation in recovery weeks.
Although I've never suffered any of these myself and haven't heard of
anyone who has, you don't want to be the first. The risk is always
there, so go gently and work up to the stated dose.
Never, ever, ever try a new
supplement or ergogenic aid on the morning of a key race. Ever.
I've seen it done more times than you would imagine, normally with a
new, previously untried energy drink. It's never good and it
normally means there's one less person to beat!
Stick to the dosage
recommended and build up to it over two or three test sessions at
differing intensities. What works on the way home from work might
not necessarily work when screaming in a ten mile time-trial!
This article is neither an endorsement or a condemnation of the subject
of this article or any other supplement use. It is here to allow
the reader to draw their own informed conclusion.
Do your research and
if any doubt consult a physician before undertaking any supplement
regimen. Never take more than the stated dose and never mix any
drug or supplement with alcohol. Always check that you are not
contravening any sporting code, ethics or permitted levels for your
sport before undertaking any supplementation.
Where can I get some?
Checkers, Stampers or Spar ~ take your pick.
Don't be duped by "pure" stuff from body building suppliers! It
should be about 75 pence.