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Topical Sodium Bicarbonate: No Improvement in Blood Buffering Capacity or Exercise Performance

Alannah K.A. McKay, Peter Peeling, Martyn J. Binnie, Paul S.R. Goods, Marc Sim, Rebecca Cross, and Jason Siegler

The ingestion of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO 3 ) is well accepted as an efficacious ergogenic aid to improve short-duration, high-intensity exercise performance. 1 The exogenous intake of NaHCO 3 acts as an extracellular buffer, raising blood pH and bicarbonate (HCO 3 − ) concentrations and

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Effects of Lactate Consumption on Blood Bicarbonate Levels and Performance During High-Intensity Exercise

David M. Morris, Rebecca S. Shafer, Kimberly R. Fairbrother, and Mark W. Woodall

The authors sought to determine the effects of oral lactate consumption on blood bicarbonate (HCO3−) levels, pH levels, and performance during high-intensity exercise on a cycle ergometer. Subjects (N = 11) were trained male and female cyclists. Time to exhaustion (TTE) and total work were measured during high-intensity exercise bouts 80 min after the consumption of 120 mg/kg body mass of lactate (L), an equal volume of placebo (PL), or no treatment (NT). Blood HCO3− increased significantly after ingestion of lactate (p < .05) but was not affected in PL or NT (p > .05). No changes in pH were observed as a result of treatment. TTE and total work during the performance test increased significantly by 17% in L compared with PL and NT (p = .02). No significant differences in TTE and total work were seen between the PL and NT protocols (p = .85). The authors conclude that consuming 120 mg/kg body mass of lactate increases HCO3− levels and increases exercise performance during high-intensity cycling ergometry to exhaustion.

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Sodium Bicarbonate Ingestion Does Not Attenuate the VO2 Slow Component during Constant-Load Exercise

Kristen L. Heck, Jeffrey A. Potteiger, Karen L. Nau, and Jan M. Schroeder

We examined the effects of sodium bicarbonate ingestion on the VO2 slow component during constant-load exercise. Twelve physically active males performed two 30-min cycling trials at an intensity above the lactate threshold. Subjects ingested either sodium bicarbonate (BIC) or placebo (PLC) in a randomized. counterbalanced order. Arterialized capillary blood samples were analyzed for pH, bicarbonate concentration ([HCO3 ), and lactate concentration ([La]). Expired gas samples were analyzed for oxygen consumption (VO2). The VO2 slow component was defined as the change in VO2 from Minutes 3 and 4 to Minutes 28 and 29. Values for pH and [HCO3 ] were significantly higher for BIC compared to PLC. There was no significant difference in [La] between conditions. For both conditions there was a significant time effect for VO2 during exercise: however, no significant difference was observed between BIC and PLC. While extracellular acid-base measures were altered during the BIC trial, sodium bicarbonate ingestion did not attenuate the VO2 slow component during constant-load exercise.

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Dose-Response of Sodium Bicarbonate Ingestion Highlights Individuality in Time Course of Blood Analyte Responses

Rebecca Louise Jones, Trent Stellingwerff, Guilherme Giannini Artioli, Bryan Saunders, Simon Cooper, and Craig Sale

To defend against hydrogen cation accumulation and muscle fatigue during exercise, sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) ingestion is commonplace. The individualized dose-response relationship between NaHCO3 ingestion and blood biochemistry is unclear. The present study investigated the bicarbonate, pH, base excess and sodium responses to NaHCO3 ingestion. Sixteen healthy males (23 ± 2 years; 78.6 ± 15.1 kg) attended three randomized order-balanced, nonblinded sessions, ingesting a single dose of either 0.1, 0.2 or 0.3 g·kg-1BM of NaHCO3 (Intralabs, UK). Fingertip capillary blood was obtained at baseline and every 10 min for 1 hr, then every 15 min for a further 2 hr. There was a significant main effect of both time and condition for all assessed blood analytes (p ≤ .001). Blood analyte responses were significantly lower following 0.1 g·kg-1BM compared with 0.2 g·kg-1BM; bicarbonate concentrations and base excess were highest following ingestion of 0.3 g·kg-1BM (p ≤ .01). Bicarbonate concentrations and pH significantly increased from baseline following all doses; the higher the dose the greater the increase. Large interindividual variability was shown in the magnitude of the increase in bicarbonate concentrations following each dose (+2.0–5; +5.1–8.1; and +6.0–12.3 mmol·L-1 for 0.1, 0.2 and 0.3 g·kg-1BM) and in the range of time to peak concentrations (30–150; 40–165; and 75–180 min for 0.1, 0.2 and 0.3 g·kg-1BM). The variability in bicarbonate responses was not affected by normalization to body mass. These results challenge current practices relating to NaHCO3 supplementation and clearly show the need for athletes to individualize their ingestion protocol and trial varying dosages before competition.

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Active and Passive Recovery and Acid-Base Kinetics Following Multiple Bouts of Intense Exercise to Exhaustion

J.C. Siegler, J. Bell-Wilson, C. Mermier, E. Faria, and R.A. Robergs

The purpose of this study was to profile the effect of active versus passive recovery on acid-base kinetics during multiple bouts of intense exercise. Ten males completed two exercise trials. The trials consisted of three exercise bouts to exhaustion with either a 12 min active (20% workload max) or passive recovery between bouts. Blood pH was lower in the passive (p) recovery compared to active (a) throughout the second and third recovery periods [second recovery: 7.18 ± 0.08 to 7.24 ± 0.09 (p), 7.23 ± 0.07 to 7.32 ± 0.07 (a), P < 0.05; third recovery: 7.17 ± 0.08 to 7.22 ± 0.09 (p), 7.23 ± 0.08 to 7.32 ± 0.08 (a), P < 0.05]. Exercise performance times did not differ between recovery conditions (P = 0.28). No difference was found between conditions for recovery kinetics (slope and half-time to recovery). Subsequent performance during multiple bouts of intense exercise to exhaustion may not be influenced by blood acidosis or mode of recovery.

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Oral Bovine Colostrum Supplementation Enhances Buffer Capacity but Not Rowing Performance in Elite Female Rowers

Grant David Brinkworth, Jonathan David Buckley, Pitre Collier Bourdon, Jason Paul Gulbin, and Adrian Zachei David

A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled design was used in which 13 elite female rowers, all of whom had competed at World Championships, were supplemented with 60 g · day−1 of either bovine colostrum (BC; n = 6) or concentrated whey protein powder (WP; n = 7) during 9 weeks of pre-competition training. All subjects undertook the study as a group and completed the same training program. Prior to, and after 9 weeks of supplementation and training, subjects completed an incremental rowing test (ROW1) on a rowing ergometer consisting of 3 3 4-min submaximal workloads and a 4-min maximal effort (4max), each separated by a 1-min recovery period. The rowing test was repeated after a 15-min period of passive recovery (ROW2). The 4max for ROW1 provided a measure of performance, and the difference between the 4max efforts of ROW1 and ROW2 provided an index of recovery. Blood lactate concentrations and pH measured prior to exercise and at the end of each workload were used to estimate blood buffer capacity (b). Food intake was recorded daily for dietary analysis. There were no differences in macronutrient intakes (p > .56) or training volumes (p > .99) between BC and WP during the study period. Rowing performance (distance rowed and work done) during 4max of ROW2 was less than ROW1 at baseline (p < .05) but not different between groups (p > .05). Performance increased in both rows by Week 9 (p < .001), with no difference between groups (p > .75). However, the increase was greatest in ROW2 (p < .05), such that by Week 9 there was no longer a difference in performance between the two rows in either group (p > .05). b was not different between groups for ROW1 at baseline (BC 38.3 ± 5.0, WP 38.2 ± 7.2 slykes; p > .05) but was higher in BC by Week 9 (BC 40.8 ± 5.9, WP 33.4 ± 5.3 slykes; p < .05). b for ROW2 followed the same pattern of change as for ROW1. We conclude that supplementation with BC improves b, but not performance, in elite female rowers. It was not possible to determine whether b had any effect on recovery.

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Mortal Engines. The Science of Performance and the Dehumanization of Sport

Monika Zechetmayr

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Time Course of Blood Bicarbonate and pH Three Hours After Sodium Bicarbonate Ingestion

Michael J. Price and Malkit Singh

This study examined the increase in blood pH and bicarbonate concentration after ingestion of a standard sodium bicarbonate solution. Peak blood pH and bicarbonate concentration occurred between 60 and 90 minutes. Values decreased over the remainder of the ingestion period although still elevated above preingestion levels.

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The Effects of Chronic Sodium Bicarbonate Ingestion and Interval Training in Highly Trained Rowers

Matthew W. Driller, John R. Gregory, Andrew D. Williams, and James W. Fell

Recent research has reported performance improvements after chronic NaHCO3 ingestion in conjunction with high-intensity interval training (HIT) in moderately trained athletes. The purpose of the current study was to determine the effects of altering plasma H+ concentration during HIT through NaHCO3 ingestion over 4 wk (2 HIT sessions/wk) in 12 Australian representative rowers (M ± SD; age 22 ± 3 yr, mass 76.4 ± 4.2 kg, VO2peak 65.50 ± 2.74 ml · kg−1 · min−1). Baseline testing included a 2,000-m time trial and an incremental exercise test. After baseline testing, rowers were allocated to either a chronic NaHCO3 (ALK) or placebo (PLA) group. Starting 90 min before each HIT session, subjects ingested a 0.3-g/kg body mass dose of NaHCO3 or a placebo substance. Fingertip blood samples were taken throughout the study to analyze bicarbonate and pH levels. The ALK group did not produce any additional improvements in 2,000-m rowing performance time compared with PLA (p > .05). Magnitude-based inferential analysis indicated an unclear or trivial effect on 2,000-m power, 2,000-m time, peak power output, and power at 4 mmol/L lactate threshold in the ALK group compared with the PLA group. Although there was no difference between groups, during the study there was a significant mean (± SD) 2,000-m power improvement in both the ALK and PLA groups of 17.8 ± 14.5 and 15.2 ± 18.3 W, respectively. In conclusion, despite overall improvements in rowing performance after 4 wk of HIT, the addition of chronic NaHCO3 supplementation during the training period did not significantly enhance performance further.

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Effect of Sodium Bicarbonate on [HCO3−], pH, and Gastrointestinal Symptoms

Amelia J. Carr, Gary J. Slater, Christopher J. Gore, Brian Dawson, and Louise M. Burke


Sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) is often ingested at a dose of 0.3 g/kg body mass (BM), but ingestion protocols are inconsistent in terms of using solution or capsules, ingestion period, combining NaHCO3 with sodium citrate (Na3C6H5O7), and coingested food and fluid.


To quantify the effect of ingesting 0.3 g/kg NaHCO3 on blood pH, [HCO3−], and gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms over the subsequent 3 hr using a range of ingestion protocols and, thus, to determine an optimal protocol.


In a crossover design, 13 physically active subjects undertook 8 NaHCO3 experimental ingestion protocols and 1 placebo protocol. Capillary blood was taken every 30 min and analyzed for pH and [HCO3−]. GI symptoms were quantified every 30 min via questionnaire. Statistics used were pairwise comparisons between protocols; differences were interpreted in relation to smallest worthwhile changes for each variable. A likelihood of >75% was a substantial change.


[HCO3−] and pH were substantially greater than in placebo for all other ingestion protocols at almost all time points. When NaHCO3 was coingested with food, the greatest [HCO3−] (30.9 mmol/kg) and pH (7.49) and lowest incidence of GI symptoms were observed. The greatest incidence of GI side effects was observed 90 min after ingestion of 0.3 g/kg NaHCO3 solution.


The changes in pH and [HCO3−] for the 8 NaHCO3-ingestion protocols were similar, so an optimal protocol cannot be recommended. However, the results suggest that NaHCO3 coingested with a high-carbohydrate meal should be taken 120–150 min before exercise to induce substantial blood alkalosis and reduce GI symptoms.