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Friday, January 19, 2007

Recipe for producing a champion performance: Just add Baking Soda

Baking Soda May Help Exercisers
Sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda, is used as a medication to neutralize
stomach acid in ulcer patients and as a home remedy for stomach distress. Now researchers in Greece have shown that it may neutralize the acid in muscles during intense exercise and helps athletes to exercise longer (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, October 2006).
If you run or cycle as hard as you can, you start to breathe hard, and suddenly your leg muscles start to burn because your muscles have become acidic. Its the burning in your muscles that forces you to slow down. Muscles get the energy to move your body from the food that you eat.
Carbohydrates are broken down step by step in a chain of reactions to release energy for your muscles. Each step requires oxygen. If you have enough oxygen, the carbohydrates are eventually broken down to carbon dioxide and water that you can blow off from your lungs. However, if you cant get all the oxygen that you need, the series of reactions stops and lactic acid accumulates in your muscles and spills over into your bloodstream. The acidity in muscles caused by the accumulation of lactic acid is what makes your muscles burn.
When acid is exposed to an alkaline or base, it combines with it to neutralize the acid and form water. What would happen when an athlete takes the base, sodium bicarbonate, before he competes? He would be able to exercise longer if the bicarbonate got into the muscle and neutralized the burning caused by the acid. The authors of this study showed that higher doses of sodium bicarbonate were more effective in preventing burning.
This exercise aid is still experimental, so we will have to wait for further research to see if it really works.
Source: Dr. Gabe Mirkin's Fitness and Health e-Zine January 21, 2007
Gary Moller comments:
This is not new. Athletes have been playing around with baking soda since 1980 and probably much earlier. Experienced athletes gave it the short shove very quickly because its benefits are minimal for the properly prepared athlete and the stomach upsets from the bicarbonate neutralised any theoretical benefit. Quite simply; when you are competing at extreme intensity, like running 1500m track the last thing you want to be taking is anything that upsets the stomach and intestines. Researchers are hoping this old trick will gain some new legs. No doubt it will eventually end up as an expensive wonder additive in sports drinks.

As far as recipes go for producing champions there are no short cuts short of doing a Landis or a Schwartzeneggar. Even if baking soda works one must question its use just as one should question the use of large doses of caffeine. With regards to the burning feeling in the muscles that Dr Mirkin describes the solution is as follows:
  • Eight to ten years of endurance training including a weekly 2hr + run or 3hr + cycle on nothing but water. This trains the ability to use fat and encourages prolific capiliarisation of the muscle.
  • Ensuring an alkaline wholefoods diet that is high in antioxidants, the B vitamins and minerals including magnesium and calcium. There is a good case for supplemetning with these to boost natural intake.
  • Periodically developing one's anerobic capacity to its maximum prior to seasonal peaks in competition.

Fifty years ago, athletics coach Arthur Lydiard, got the recipe right. The performances of his athletes would still be competitive today, if one were to factor in improvements in track and shoe technologies and the widespread use of rabbits nowadays. Oh, yes - and rampant cheating (you could include the rabbits here)! With a few minor modern adjustments and the application of modern nutritional stategies and the old recipe is as robust as ever.


Wayne said...

if you take the bicarb, make sure its taken withing sprinting distance of a public convenience, you will be needing it !

Dave said...

Hi Gary,

Just saw the Baking Soda article on your website.

In the mid 1980's I had to do a presentation to the Army Medical Corps as part of an officer/senior NCO thing. I chose to do it on ergogenic aids. (I was a Warrent Officer in the RNZAMC at the time) I remember back then finding info on baking soda which was known then as a lactic acid buffer so its really nothing new. Sodium citrate was also cited and
apparently they maintain a higher ph level during exercise. This may give an advantage in anaerobic performance.

A team in the 2000m rowing (I forget which country) are reputed to have claimed an advantage from using it in competition.

Another study claimed an elite 800 meter runner was 3 seconds faster after sodium bicarbonate ingestion. (Come on! 3 seconds!!! How do they quantify

But there are disadvantages, many people will experience cramping and diarrhea about an hour after ingestion.



Gary Moller said...

Yes, this is not new. There has been a spate of articles recently giving one the impression that this is new.
It is wrong to imply this is new especially when the writers are sports scientists and researchers.