The Effects of Sodium Bicarbonate Supplementation on Exercise Performance

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a common household product, but what some don't know is that it's found in various different dietary supplements - including 373 Lab's Pre-Workout! It may seem like a strange ingredient to include in a workout supplement, but there's a good reason why we, and other companies, include it!

Sodium bicarbonate, aside from being beneficial for cooking and cleaning, also has the surprising benefit of improving endurance performance! This may come as a huge surprise, but there are various studies on the positive effects of sodium bicarbonate supplementation on athletic performance. And we're going to give you all the details so you can see for yourself why we've included this unusual ingredient in our energy and performance-boosting pre-workout!

How does sodium bicarbonate work?

Sodium bicarbonate has the chemical formula NaHCO3... but what is that? Well, it's an alkaline salt made up of sodium and bicarbonate ions and made into the odorless white powder that most people know it for. 

Sodium bicarbonate gets its benefits from being an alkaline – it's responsible for helping neutralize the build-up of acid. However, bicarbonate is not only found in baking soda, it's found throughout our bodies too! The stomach is the biggest producer of bicarbonate, after eating the influx of stomach acid results in bicarbonate being released into the bloodstream. In fact, this is what makes us feel sleepy after a meal and what saves you from intense heartburn and indigestion! But sodium bicarbonate supplements work differently... To understand how sodium bicarbonate gets its performance-boosting benefits we have to break down the concept of pH first...

Sodium bicarbonate and how it affects the body's pH levels

For those who don't know, or fell asleep during chemistry, pH is a scale that is used to grade how acidic, or alkaline, a solution is. A neutral pH is considered to be 7.0, and anything lower is acidic while anything above that is alkaline. Our body's pH naturally remains in the neutral range, its when it functions at its best. However, outside forces can disrupt the balance, one of them being high-intensity exercise (anaerobic).

During high-intensity endurance exercise, like HIIT, your body exceeds the available supply of oxygen. Since your muscles can't rely on oxygen to produce energy, they switch to creating it through anaerobic pathways. However, this pathway produces lactic acid. Too much acid build up decreases the cells pH below the neutral level and towards acid territory. 

How does this effect your high-intensity training?

It can lead to fatigue and a reduction of exercise performance because the imbalance pH levels limits energy production and can also cause the muscles ability to contract.

How does sodium bicarbonate help improve exercise performance?

Sodium bicarbonate ingestion before your workout can help boost your pH levels so that they're neutral so that when your body taps into the anaerobic pathway there isn't a dip in your body's pH levels. It has an alkaline pH of 8.4 so taking a supplement with it can raise your blood pH slightly. This is what helps clear the acid from your muscle cells and bring your body's pH levels back to neutral.

But, what do the studies say?

Sodium bicarbonate can help balance your body's pH, but let's dig a little deeper into what the research says about it's effects on endurance training (sports training, interval training) and on strength training.

Effects on endurance exercise

Endurance exercise like rowing, swimming, running, and interval training all tap into the anaerobic pathways for energy. According to a few studies, supplementing with sodium bicarbonate is found to be helpful for high-intensity exercise that lasts between 1-7 minutes and involves large muscle groups, like sprinting![1] It's also been shown to help improve performance towards the ends of the workout, one study in particular observed a 1.5 second improvement in performance in a 2,000 meter rowing event.[2]

The results are similar for studies done on the effects of sodium ingestion during interval training. One particularly study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology measured how ingesting baking soda before a high-intensity workout altered the acidity in the muscle tissue during the workout. It was a smaller study that involved 16 healthy and active women split into two groups. One group was given sodium bicarbonate, pure baking soda, at a 0.2 gram dose per kilogram of body weight before high-intensity interval training (HIIT). While the other was given a similar dose, except it was a placebo. Research indicated that taking the suggested dose of sodium bicarbonate can help reduce lactic acid build up that occurs doing interval training and boost short-term endurance performance.[3]

There are many more studies that show how beneficial a small dose of sodium bicarbonate is for various types of endurance exercise, including sports like tennis, boxing, CrossFit, cycling, and so much more. As you can see, in terms of short-term endurance training, sodium bicarbonate supplementation can be very beneficial for athletic performance.

Effects on strength training for muscle growth and strength

Aside from helping boost your endurance training performance, sodium bicarbonate can help your strength and muscle-building goals! A few studies have shown that sodium bicarbonate ingestion an hour before a workout improves muscle coordination and performance which leads to better results. One particular study found that weightlifters that took sodium bicarbonate an hour before strength training were able to increase there reps, superficially 6 more, on the first three sets of their squats![4] And if you know anything about weightlifting, increasing reps is a great way to practice progressive overload for better progress.

When it comes to muscle coordination, one particular study looked at tennis player's swing accuracy. This study found that sodium bicarbonate ingestion an hour before playing tennis helped maintain the players swing accuracy.[5] Another similar study found similar results for a boxer's punch accuracy!

However, to be clear, there are a few studies that have the opposite results, meaning they found no additional performance improvements with sodium bicarbonate ingestion. Overall, the studies are positive, but remember that everyone's body is different. One person may find a supplement with sodium bicarbonate to be beneficial, while someone else may not particularly feel that benefit. It all comes down to what type of supplement you're taking and how much you're taking.

How much sodium bicarbonate should you take to boost performance?

To make sure sodium bicarbonate gives you the exercise performance boosting benefits you want, keep your dosage between 90-135 mg per pound of bodyweight. This can be taken exactly before a workout, or spread evenly throughout the day. Some may find it better to spread their intake evenly because one possible side effect of sodium bicarbonate ingestion are unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms, like nausea, cramps, or diarrhea. However, these side effects only occur if you exceed the recommended dosage intake.

In summary, sodium bicarbonate has been proven to be a safe way to improve training performance, especially in high-intensity training. However, it's not for everyone! But there's no harm in giving it a try, and seeing if you actually benefit from it or not. Now if you do want plan on giving it a shot, remember to stay within the recommended dosage!

Lastly, how do you take sodium bicarbonate?

Taking a pure dose of baking soda might not be your go-to way to get the benefits you want. Fortunately, there are sodium bicarbonate supplements that come in a tablet or pill form. However, you may find it in your favorite workout supplements like creatine monohydrate and pre-workout!

If you'd rather have an all-in-one pre-workout supplement that has ingredients in effective doses then you'll love our Pre-Workout! One scoop of 373 Lab Pre-Workout Supplement provides 150 grams of natural caffeine, along with effective doses of Citrulline Malate, Beta-Alanine, Arginine, Tyrosine, and Theanine. Plus, it's free of unnecessary additives like artificial dyes and sweeteners. To give you a clean boost in energy levels, better focus, and better exercise performance!

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The Effects of Sodium Bicarbonate Supplementation on Exercise Performance