Skip to content

How sodium bicarbonate can boost your athletic performance

Wie Natrium Bicarbonat Deine sportliche Leistungsfähigkeit steigern kann

Sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, is a widely used household product. It has many uses, ranging from baking and cleaning to personal hygiene. However, sodium bicarbonate may also have some interesting health benefits. Many athletes use it to improve their athletic performance during training and competition.

This detailed guide will tell you everything you need to know about the effects of sodium bicarbonate on your athletic performance.

What is sodium bicarbonate?

Sodium bicarbonate has the chemical formula NaHCO3. It is a mild alkaline salt consisting of sodium and bicarbonate ions.

Sodium bicarbonate is also known as baking soda and is the main ingredient in baking powder alongside starch. It occurs naturally in nature in mineral springs. However, it is best known as a white powder or compressed tablets, which you can find in most supermarkets and drugstores.

How does sodium bicarbonate work?

To understand how sodium bicarbonate works, it's helpful to first understand the concept of pH.

How pH affects exercise performance

In the field of chemistry, the pH scale is used to evaluate how alkaline (basic) or acidic a solution is. A pH value of 7.0 is considered neutral. Anything below 7.0 is acidic and anything above 7.0 is alkaline.

The pH value in the human body is close to the neutral value of 7.0. It normally remains at around 7.4 in the blood and 7.0 in the muscle cells.

The human body functions best when the acid-base ratio remains close to this range, which is also the reason why the body has different mechanisms to maintain these levels.

However, certain diseases or external factors can disrupt this balance. One of these factors is high-intensity exercise, also known as anaerobic exercise (1).

During anaerobic exercise, your body's oxygen demand exceeds the amount of oxygen available. As a result, your muscles can no longer rely solely on oxygen for energy production. Instead, the body must switch to a different pathway - the anaerobic pathway of energy supply.

Generating sufficient amounts of energy through this pathway produces lactic acid aka lactate. Too much lactic acid lowers the pH value in the cells below the optimal value of 7.0 (1).

This disturbed balance disrupts energy production and can also impair the contractility of muscle cells. Both of these effects lead to fatigue and can reduce exercise performance (2, 3).

How sodium bicarbonate helps to maintain the pH value in the optimal range

Sodium bicarbonate has a pH value of 8.4 and can therefore slightly increase the pH value in your blood. A higher blood pH allows lactic acid to pass from the muscle cells into the bloodstream. This allows the muscles to continue to contract and produce energy (1, 4).

Scientists believe this is the primary way sodium bicarbonate can help you train harder and longer (1, 2, 5).

Conclusion: Sodium bicarbonate removes lactic acid from cells, helping to restore optimal pH levels. This can reduce fatigue and increase performance.

How does sodium bicarbonate affect athletic performance?

Scientists have been studying how sodium bicarbonate can affect athletic performance for more than 8 decades. Not all studies show the same effects, but the majority of these studies conclude that sodium bicarbonate is beneficial (5).

Sodium bicarbonate is particularly effective during high-intensity exercise lasting between 1 and 7 minutes and involving large muscle groups (2, 6, 7).

The greatest improvements in performance appear to occur towards the end of a training session. For example, a recent study observed a 1.5 second improvement in time during the last 1000 meters of a 2000 meter rowing race (8).

Similar results have been observed in sports such as cycling, sprinting, swimming and team sports (6, 9, 10).

However, the benefits of sodium bicarbonate may vary from person to person. They may also depend on the type of activity, gender, personal tolerance and training level (2, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12).

Few studies have investigated how sodium bicarbonate affects performance in endurance sports and not all of these studies have observed benefits (13, 14, 15). Further research on this topic is needed before specific recommendations can be made.

Conclusion: Sodium bicarbonate may help to improve performance towards the end of high-intensity exercise. However, further research is needed.

How does sodium bicarbonate affect interval training?

Interval training is a form of exercise in which you alternate between high-intensity and low-intensity phases during a training session.

Some examples include forms of running, cycling, rowing, swimming, Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit.

Scientific studies have looked at this type of training and found that sodium bicarbonate helped prevent a decline in performance (2, 16, 17).

Sodium bicarbonate generally leads to improvements in the range of 1.7 to 8% in these types of exercise (18, 19, 20).

Interval training is common in many sports and studies have found that sodium bicarbonate supplementation can also provide benefits in sports such as judo, swimming, boxing and tennis (21, 22, 23, 24).

In addition, sodium bicarbonate's ability to help you get through the final stages of your training session can also help improve your training results.

For example, participants in a study who used sodium bicarbonate during an eight-week interval training program were able to cycle 133% longer at the end of the study (25).

Conclusion: Sodium bicarbonate may likely improve the body's ability to perform well during interval training, which could improve performance in many sports.

The effects of sodium bicarbonate on muscle strength and coordination

Sodium bicarbonate could also help to increase strength.

In one study, experienced weightlifters who took sodium bicarbonate 60 minutes before a training session were able to perform 6 more repetitions of squats during their first three sets (26). This suggests that sodium bicarbonate may enhance exercise performance in strength sports, which appears to be particularly the case at the beginning of the training session.

In addition to this, sodium bicarbonate may also improve muscle coordination.

One study found that sodium bicarbonate helped tennis players maintain the accuracy of their strokes. Another study found benefits in the accuracy of punches in boxers (23, 27).

These results suggest that sodium bicarbonate may have effects on the brain. However, further studies are needed to find out exactly how this might work.

Conclusion: Sodium bicarbonate could increase muscle strength and improve muscle coordination. It could also increase the number of repetitions you can perform.

Other health benefits of sodium bicarbonate

Sodium bicarbonate may have numerous other health benefits, which include the following:

  • Reducing heartburn: Sodium bicarbonate is a common ingredient in acid binders, which are often used to reduce heartburn and treat stomach ulcers (28).
  • Supporting dental health: Toothpaste containing sodium bicarbonate appears to remove plaque more effectively than toothpaste without this ingredient (29).
  • Improving response to cancer treatment: Sodium bicarbonate may help improve response to chemotherapy. However, there are no human studies on this topic to date (30, 31).
  • Delaying the progression of kidney disease: Treatment with sodium bicarbonate could help slow disease progression in people with kidney disease (32).
  • Relief from insect bites: Applying a paste of baking soda and water to insect bites can reduce itching. However, no scientific studies have been conducted on this topic.

Supplementation and dosage instructions

Sodium bicarbonate is available in the form of powder, capsules or tablets. The expected benefits are the same regardless of the form chosen.

Most studies agree that a dosage of 200 to 300 mg per kilogram of body weight can provide benefits and should be taken approximately 60 to 90 minutes before exercise (5).

However, taking sodium bicarbonate so close to training can cause stomach problems in some people. If this is the case for you, then it may be helpful to start with a lower dosage in the range of 100 to 150 mg per kilogram of body weight. It may also help to take the dose earlier than 90 minutes before training.

For example, one study showed that taking 200 to 300 mg of sodium bicarbonate 180 minutes before exercise was just as effective, but reduced stomach problems (33).

Another alternative could be to divide the total dose into 2 single doses 180 and 90 minutes before training. Taking it with plenty of water or with a meal can also reduce potential side effects (11).

Last but not least, dividing the total dose into 3 to 4 doses spread over the day could also improve tolerability. However, you should bear in mind that the effects last for a maximum of 24 hours after the last dose (34, 35).

Conclusion: Doses of 200 to 300 mg sodium bicarbonate should be used 90 to 180 minutes before training or in 3 to 4 single doses spread throughout the day.

Safety and side effects of sodium bicarbonate

Sodium bicarbonate is considered safe and harmless when taken in the doses recommended above.

However, higher doses can seriously increase the pH value of the blood. This is dangerous and can disrupt the heart rhythm as well as cause muscle cramps (36, 37).

In addition, gas is produced when sodium bicarbonate mixes with stomach acid. This can lead to stomach pain, bloating, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting (1, 38).

Not everyone will experience these side effects. The severity of symptoms can vary based on the amount consumed and individual sensitivity (39, 40).

Consuming sodium bicarbonate can also increase your sodium blood levels, which can raise blood pressure in some people.

In addition to this, higher amounts of sodium can lead to water retention. Although increased hydration can be beneficial for those exercising in high heat, it can be problematic for those competing in a certain weight class (5).

Last but not least, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid large amounts of sodium bicarbonate. People who suffer from heart or kidney disease or have a history of electrolyte imbalances such as aldosteronism or Addison's disease should also avoid sodium bicarbonate.

Conclusion: Sodium bicarbonate is generally considered safe and harmless when taken in reasonable amounts. However, it can cause unwanted side effects and is not recommended for everyone.


Taking sodium bicarbonate is a safe and reliable way to increase athletic performance, especially for high-intensity activities and interval training.

Sodium bicarbonate can increase strength and help with the coordination of exhausted muscles. However, this supplement does not work for everyone. The only way to find out if it works for you is to try it.




Previous article Tips of the week Tips: How should you cheat?
Next article Tip of the week Tip: Eat enough cholesterol