Sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, is a common household product with a wide variety of uses, from personal hygiene to cleaning and cooking. What a lot of people don’t know is that sodium bicarbonate also offers attractive benefits for health.
Research shows that sodium bicarbonate boosts performance during intense exercise for both gym-goers and athletes.
4 Potential Benefits of Sodium Bicarbonate
- Kills Bacteria
- Increases Strength
- Improves Coordination
- Improves Athletic Performance
Sodium Bicarbonate and Athletic Performance
Scientists have conducted numerous studies examining the effect of baking soda on exercise performance. While not every study has produced the same results, most research agrees that sodium bicarbonate has a positive effect on performance and coordination.
Baking soda can be useful for high-intensity exercise that lasts from 1-7 minutes and incorporates large muscle groups. Interestingly, the majority of benefits derived from baking soda occur towards the end of a workout.
One study by Nottingham Trent University examined the effect of sodium bicarbonate on rowing performance. The researchers found that rowers who took sodium bicarbonate improved their performance by 1.5 seconds in the last half of a 2,000 meter race.
These results are similar to findings in other sports such as swimming, sprinting, and cycling, where sodium bicarbonate was found to improve athletic performance.
However, the benefits vary from individual to individual and are influenced by factors such as training experience, personal tolerance, gender, and type of activity.
A few other studies have also taken a close look at the impact sodium bicarbonate has on endurance exercise, and not all of these studies show positive results.
Sodium Bicarbonate for Strength and Coordination
Research shows that sodium bicarbonate may help increase overall strength and coordination. One study by Coventry University examined experienced weightlifters who took sodium bicarbonate an hour before working out.
The study found that weightlifters who took sodium bicarbonate were able to complete more squats per set compared to weightlifters who didn’t take sodium bicarbonate.
These results suggest that sodium bicarbonate may enhance performance. And, curiously, it’s been discovered that sodium bicarbonate may also provide benefits for the coordination of muscles.
A study focused on tennis players examined the impact of sodium bicarbonate on tennis performance. The researchers discovered that tennis players who took sodium bicarbonate were able to hit tennis balls more accurately.
Taking this research a step further, researchers at the University of Hull found that boxers who supplemented with sodium bicarbonate improved their punching accuracy over four high-intensity boxing bouts.
These results suggest that sodium bicarbonate might improve the brain/muscle connection. However, more research is needed to understand what causes sodium bicarbonate to improve coordination.
Safety and Side Effects
When taken in small doses, sodium bicarbonate is safe. However, a large dose of sodium bicarbonate may increase the pH of your blood, leading to muscle spasms and dangerous, irregular heartbeats.
On top of this, sodium bicarbonate produces gas when it mixes with the acid in your stomach. Stomach bloating can often lead to side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, bloating, and abdominal pain.
A large amount of sodium makes the body retain more water. And while hydration is essential for people who exercise, water retention can affect people who participate in weight-category competitions.
It’s not a good idea to take sodium bicarbonate if you have a history of electrolyte disturbances, blood pressure problems, or kidney issues. As long as you take sodium bicarbonate in small doses, you shouldn’t have to worry about these side effects.
Sodium bicarbonate is available in the form of tablets, capsules, or plain baking soda. Most research recommends 90–135 mg of sodium bicarbonate per pound of bodyweight (or 200–300 mg per kilogram of bodyweight).
Sodium bicarbonate should be taken anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half before exercise. For some people, taking baking soda before exercise can lead to stomach discomfort.
If you believe this may apply to you or you want to be cautious, it’s best to start with a smaller dose of 45–68 mg per pound of bodyweight (or 100–150 mg per kilogram of bodyweight).
One study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that taking 90–135 mg of sodium bicarbonate three hours before exercise was just as effective but led to less stomach discomfort.
It’s also possible to reduce negative side effects by taking sodium bicarbonate with food or water. You may split your supplement dose into three or four smaller doses, and take these doses throughout the day to enhance your tolerance, as the effects of sodium bicarbonate last just 24 hours.
Effectiveness of Sodium Bicarbonate
Studies show that sodium bicarbonate has a positive impact on sports performance, although you should be careful to stay within recommended doses.
It’s also worth noting that beta-alanine offers the same benefits as sodium bicarbonate, but taking both of these supplements together doesn’t increase their effectiveness.
Compared to sodium bicarbonate, beta-alanine is safer with fewer side effects. For this reason, sodium bicarbonate is labeled effective but “not necessary.”