It is thusly no wonder that (at least to my knowledge) KreAlkalyn, where NACO3 is the working ingredient of the highly advertised buffering system, is the only product using sodium bicarbonate, or soda ash, as it is also called, as one of its main constituents (more on this topic in the SuppVersity Creatine Special). In medical settings NACO3 was and, in parts, still is still the "drug" of choice to combat acute acidosis. It is thus no wonder that Daniel J. Peart and his colleagues from the University of Hull in the United Kingdom, as well as the Bond University in Queensland, Australia are not the first scientists who speculated that athletes, especially those competing in (primarily) anaerobic sports, could benefit from the alkalizing effects of their grandmothers' secret weapon in the war against fungi and bacteria on her kitchen furnishings (Peart. 2011).
In their study, Peart et al. had a group of seven recreationally active men (age 22.3 ± 2.9 years,
A note on the dangers of "salt": Firstly, baking soda is "only" ~28% sodium, which means that for every 4 grams you ingest you get roughly 1 g of sodium. Secondly, it is arguable how much of the sodium is effectively taken up and will be floating around in your blood. As T. Lakhanisky points out in his dossier for the Belgian government: "The uptake of sodium, via exposure to sodium carbonate, is much less than the uptake of sodium via food. Therefore, sodium carbonate is not expected to be systemically available in the body." (Lakhanisky. 2002) And thirdly, there is more and more evidence that suggests that the chloride rather than the sodium content of common table salt (NaCl = NatriumChloride) is the root cause of "sodium induced hypertension" in "sodium sensitive" individuals / animal models. Only recently, a study by Schmidlin et al. showed that chloride loading induced hypertension in the stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rat despite profound sodium depletion (Schmidlin. 2010). So, if you asked me, rather than pointing at salt as the #2 on the list of greatest evils (obviously cholesterol is still #1, here) the medical orthodoxy would be better advised to address the imbalances between sodium and potassium, which are so characteristic of the western diet, instead of painting yet another black and white picture where sodium is the bad guy and potassium the dangerous mineral that cannot be sold OTC in dosages >80mg.... but hey, this would be the topic for a whole new blogpost and as gross as it may sound, the chance that you get diarrhea from the baking soda is probably 1000x higher than the remote possibility of increases in blood pressure. A 1990 study by Luft et al. even found that the blood pressure of 10 mildly hypertensive and normal subjects decreased by 5mmHg after 7 days in the course of which they drank 3 liters of sodium bicarbonate containing water per day (Luft. 1990)
|Image 2: "Cholesterol is the devil and sodium is his little brother!" Everyone who still believes everything the medical orthodoxy says, please raise your hands!|
height 181.6 ± 4.5 cm, body mass 78.1 ± 8.1 kg, and physical activity 4.2 ± 0.6 h/week) "with no history of supplementing their diet with ergogenic agents" perform a 4-min bout of all-out exercise on an air-brake cycle ergometer on three different occasions (spaced exactly 1 week apart). While the first was an acclimatization session the second and third bout were performed after the ingestion of either 0.3g/kg sodium bicarbonate (trial 2) or plain table salt (trial 3) in "low-energy flavored water" 90 minutes prior to exercise.
|Figure 1: Blood ph levels after ingestion of placebo or 0.3g/kg sodium bicarbonate (data adapted from Peart. 2011)|
Baking soda: A non-ergogenic ergogenic?
The latter observation, i.e. no or statistically non-significant increases in acute exercise performance upon sodium bicarbonate ingestion, stands in line with ~75% of the previous findings, a recent meta-analysis by Carr et al. summarizes as follows:
The remaining 38 studies and 137 estimates for sodium bicarbonate produced a possibly moderate performance enhancement of 1.7% (90% CL ± 2.0%) with a typical dose of 3.5 mmoL/kg/BM (∼0.3 g/kg/BM) in a single 1-minute sprint, following blinded consumption by male athletes. In the 16 studies and 45 estimates for sodium citrate, a typical dose of 1.5 mmoL/kg/BM (∼0.5 g/kg/BM) had an unclear effect on performance of 0.0% (±1.3%), [...] Study and subject characteristics had the following modifying small effects on the enhancement of performance with sodium bicarbonate: an increase of 0.5% (±0.6%) with a 1 mmoL/kg/BM increase in dose; an increase of 0.6% (±0.4%) with five extra sprint bouts; a reduction of 0.6% (±0.9%) for each 10-fold increase in test duration (e.g. 1-10 minutes); reductions of 1.1% (±1.1%) with nonathletes and 0.7% (±1.4%) with females. Unexplained variation in effects between research settings was typically ±1.2%.Despite these rather mediocre immediate effects of bicarbonate pre-loading, the main finding of the study at hand hints at hitherto overlooked long(er)-term immune benefits the consumption of sodium bicarbonate might have.
|Figure 2: HSP-72 expression in mono- and lymphocytes in response to anaerobic exercise after ingestion of placebo or 0.3g/kg sodium bicarbonate (data adapted from Peart. 2011)|
|Figure 3: Oxidative stress due to anaerobic exercise as measured by TBAR expression after ingestion of placebo or 0.3g/kg sodium bicarbonate (data adapted from Peart. 2011)|
We may yet assume that, just as it is the case with antioxidants, the dosage will have to be matched to the individual workload to see optimal results. With people exercising just enough to see any adaptations seeing no and people who do crossfit 2x a day seeing the most beneficial results from (partially) blocking the exercise induced oxidative stress.