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Sodium Bicarbonate Supplementation Enhances Buffering Capacity And Exercise Performance

Fatigue during high-intensity exercise such as sprinting and weight lifting is linked to acid build up in the muscles and blood. This is the so-called burning sensation you feel at the end of a hard bout of exercise. The body has defense mechanisms that work to buffer the acid build up but eventually they become overwhelmed, followed by fatigue. Therefore, anything that can enhance buffering of acid has the potential to augment high intensity performance. One of the most obvious methods is to supplement with sodium bicarbonate, because this is the main buffer in the circulation. The optimal dose is unclear, but a recent study provides insights into how much to take to enhance buffering capacity and performance. Healthy men performed a high intensity bout of cycling. Before the test, they consumed for 5 days either a placebo, low dose sodium bicarbonate (0.3 g/kg daily), or high dose sodium bicarbonate (0.5 g/kg). The low and high dose amounts were equal to about 23 and 38 g/day, respectively. The exercise-induced reduction in pH was attenuated in the sodium bicarbonate groups indicating both doses were equally effective at buffering the acid build up. However, only the high dose was effective at increasing performance by 13% compared to a 9% increase with the low dose. These results confirm other studies showing the acid buffer capacity of sodium bicarbonate, and show a slightly higher dose (0.5 g/kg body weight) may offer better performance benefits.

Douroudos II, Fatouros IG, Gourgoulis V, Jamurtas AZ, Tsitsios T, Hatzinikolaou A, Margonis K, Mavromatidis K, Taxildaris K. Dose-related effects of prolonged NaHCO3 ingestion during high-intensity exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Oct;38(10):1746-53.