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  • Author: Kirsty A. Fairbairn x
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Sonya L. Cameron, Rebecca T. McLay-Cooke, Rachel C. Brown, Andrew R. Gray and Kirsty A. Fairbairn


This study investigated the effect of ingesting 0.3 g/kg body weight (BW) of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) on physiological responses, gastrointestinal (GI) tolerability, and sprint performance in elite rugby union players.


Twenty-five male rugby players, age 21.6 (2.6) yr, participated in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial. Sixty-five minutes after consuming 0.3 g/kg BW of either NaHCO3 or placebo, participants completed a 25-min warm-up followed by 9 min of high-intensity rugby-specific training followed by a rugby-specific repeated-sprint test (RSRST). Whole-blood samples were collected to determine lactate and bicarbonate concentrations and pH at baseline, after supplement ingestion, and immediately after the RSRST. Acute GI discomfort was assessed by questionnaire throughout the trials, and chronic GI discomfort was assessed during the 24 hr postingestion.


After supplement ingestion and immediately after the RSRST, blood HCO3 concentration and pH were higher for the NaHCO3 condition than for the placebo condition (p < .001). After the RSRST, blood lactate concentrations were significantly higher for the NaHCO3 than for the placebo condition (p < .001). There was no difference in performance on the RSRST between the 2 conditions. The incidence of belching, stomachache, diarrhea, stomach bloating, and nausea was higher after ingestion of NaHCO3 than with placebo (all p < .050). The severity of stomach cramps, belching, stomachache, bowel urgency, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach bloating, and flatulence was rated worse after ingestion of NaHCO3 than with placebo (p < .050).


NaHCO3 supplementation increased blood HCO3 concentration and attenuated the decline in blood pH compared with placebo during high-intensity exercise in well-trained rugby players but did not significantly improve exercise performance. The higher incidence and greater severity of GI symptoms after ingestion of NaHCO3 may negatively affect physical performance, and the authors strongly recommend testing this supplement during training before use in competitive situations.

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Kirsty A. Fairbairn, Ingrid J.M. Ceelen, C. Murray Skeaff, Claire M. Cameron and Tracy L. Perry

Vitamin D insufficiency is common in athletes and may lower physical performance. Many cross-sectional studies associate vitamin D status with physical performance in athletes; however, there have been few prospective randomized controlled trials with adequate statistical power to test this relationship, and none in the southern hemisphere. Thus, a prospective double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled intervention trial was conducted involving 57 professional rugby union players in New Zealand. Participants were randomized to receive 50,000 IU of cholecalciferol (equivalent to 3,570 IU/day) or placebo once every two weeks over 11–12 weeks. Serum 25(OH)D concentrations and physical performance were measured at baseline, weeks 5–6, and weeks 11–12. Mean (SD) serum 25(OH)D concentrations for all participants at baseline was 94 (18) nmol/L, with all players above 50 nmol/L. Vitamin D supplementation significantly increased serum 25(OH)D concentrations compared to placebo, with a 32 nmol/L difference between groups at 11–12 weeks (95% CI, 26–38; p < 0.001). Performance in five of the six tests at study completion, including the primary outcome variable of 30-m sprint time, did not differ between the vitamin D supplemented and placebo groups (p > 0.05). Performance on the weighted reverse-grip chin up was significantly higher in players receiving vitamin D compared with placebo, by 5.5 kg (95% CI, 2.0–8.9; p = 0.002). Despite significantly improving vitamin D status in these professional rugby union players, vitamin D supplementation had little impact on physical performance outcomes. Thus, it is unlikely that vitamin D supplementation is an ergogenic aid in this group of athletes.