By Kate Holt (International athlete)

Buying recovery shakes, powders, gels and drinks can be expensive, but not all supplements have to be. If you are looking for a cheap way to improve your running performance, then taking a few minutes to read this article is certainly within your interest.

What are the benefits of baking soda?

I’m sure you have all stumbled across Baking Soda and can think of plenty of uses for it in and around the home.  You may have used it to relieve heartburn or as a substitute for your usual mouthwash. You may have even used it as a deodorant.  Besides baking, sodium carbonate is a versatile powder that serves as a multifunctional gem, but I guarantee that very few of you have considered using it as a supplement or drink to boost your running performance?

What is Baking Soda? 

We have all experienced that feeling where your legs and body are being swallowed up by lactic acid, and you feel like you are treading water. You’re swimming your way down the home stretch praying that you make it to the finish line. Well, baking soda may help to buffer these acids produced during exercise. Baking soda is often referred to as sodium bicarbonate, an alkaline substance that reacts with acids to neutralise them. So, when you have run hard, your muscles fill up with acid, and it is this that slows you down. Baking soda buffers this, allowing you to run harder, and for longer.

Who should use it? 

While research of using baking soda to improve performance over more extended events (10k or marathon) shows no performance benefits directly, bicarbonate loading may benefit sustained exercise that falls below anaerobic threshold where a sprint towards the end may be required [1]. Much of the evidence, however, shows that baking soda is beneficial for hard events that last between 1 and 7 minutes [2]. Studies have demonstrated that baking soda is particularly beneficial during high-intensity training and sprinting amongst trained males [3] and is useful for delaying fatigue [4]. So, if you are a sprinter or middle-distance runner like myself, or someone who is looking to improve their kick over the final stretch, baking soda could help you to achieve this.

How much to take and when? 

Studies typically suggest that athletes are recommended a dosage of 0.3 grams/ 300mg per body weight 1 – 2 hours before exercise [2]. Others suggest between 2 – 2.30 mins before [5]. While others recommend athletes to split dosages into 5 parts, consumed 3 hours before in 30-minute slots, with the last dose consumed in the final hour before exercise. The variations in recommendations are mainly as a result of recent research conducted by Jones et al. [6]. Findings from this study suggest that the time it takes for bicarbonate to peak in the blood varies from 75 minutes to 180 minutes amongst athletes. So, it may be worth experimenting to see what dosages work for you Scientists also advise that baking powder is to be consumed with plenty of water to reduce its side effects. The most practical way to drink baking soda is to simply add baking powder to water and sip steadily for about 20 mins a few hours before you run.     Please check out https://www.drugs.com/sfx/sodium-bicarbonate-side-effects.html for possible side effects.

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References

  1. Burke, L. M., & Pyne, D. B. (2007). Bicarbonate loading to enhance training and competitive performance. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2(1), 93-97  https://sci-hub.tw/10.1123/ijspp.2.1.93.
  2. Burke, L. M. (2013). Practical considerations for bicarbonate loading and sports performance. In Nutritional Coaching Strategy to Modulate Training Efficiency (Vol. 75, pp. 15-26). Karger Publishers.  https://sci-hub.tw/10.1159/000345814.
  3. Krustrup, P., Ermidis, G., & Mohr, M. (2015). Sodium bicarbonate intake improves high-intensity intermittent exercise performance in trained young men. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 25.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4475610/.
  4. Peart, D. J., Siegler, J. C., & Vince, R. V. (2012). Practical recommendations for coaches and athletes: a meta-analysis of sodium bicarbonate use for athletic performance. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(7), 1975-1983.  https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2012/07000/Practical_Recommendations_for_Coaches_and.32.aspx.
  5. Carr, A. J., Slater, G. J., Gore, C. J., Dawson, B., & Burke, L. M. (2011). Effect of sodium bicarbonate on [HCO3?], pH, and gastrointestinal symptoms. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 21(3), 189-194.  https://journals.humankinetics.com/doi/abs/10.1123/ijsnem.21.3.189.
  6. Jones, R. L., Stellingwerff, T., Artioli, G. G., Saunders, B., Cooper, S., & Sale, C. (2016). Dose-response of sodium bicarbonate ingestion highlights individuality in time course of blood analyte responses. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 26(5), 445-453.  https://journals.humankinetics.com/doi/abs/10.1123/ijsnem.2015-0286.

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