Saturday, June 13, 2015

Bicarbonate Strikes Again! Instant 14% HIIT Performance Increase with 0.4g/kg Body Weight in 25 Gelatin Capsules

If you are doing any sport that requires high intensity sprints, bicarbonate supplementation can help you beat your competition on the track, field or wherever.
Ok, I know I may sound like a broken record, but in view of the fact that the supplement industry is only promoting expensive bogus, I won't stop promoting sodium bicarbonate, which is neither expensive nor bogus, as another recently published study just confirmed.

In the corresponding experiment, thirteen men aged 23 ± 1 year (height: 180 ± 2 cm, weight: 78 ± 3 kg; VO2max: 61.3 ± 3.3 mlO2 · kg−1 · min−1; means ± SEM) performed the Yo-Yo intermittent recovery level 2 test (Yo-Yo IR2) on two separate occasions in randomized order with (SBC) and without (CON) prior intake of sodium bicarbonate (0.4 g · kg−1 body weight).
You can learn more about bicarbonate and pH-buffers at the SuppVersity

The Hazards of Acidosis

Build Bigger Legs W/ Bicarbonate

HIIT it Hard W/ NaCHO3

Creatine + BA = Perfect Match

Bicarb Buffers Creatine

Beta Alanine Fails to HIIT Back
Before we will be discussing the results, I would like to briefly explain what the YoYo Test (Level 2, which is aimed at  well trained and elite athletes) actually looks like... so here's what you'd do as a trainer / athlete:
"Use cones to mark out three lines as per the diagram above; 20 meters and 2.5 (endurance test) or 5 meters (recovery test) apart. The subject starts on or behind the middle line, and begins running 20 m when instructed by the cd. This subject turns and returns to the starting point when signaled by the recorded beep. There is a active recovery period (5 and 10 seconds respectively for the endurance and recovery versions of the test) interjected between every 20 meter (out and back) shuttle, during which the subject must walk or jog around the other cone and return to the starting point. A warning is given when the subject does not complete a successful out and back shuttle in the allocated time, the subject is removed the next time they do not complete a successful shuttle (see video example)" (
As previously hinted at, there are two levels for each of the recovery and endurance intermittent tests: Level 1 designed for lesser trained individuals and level 2 aimed at well trained and elite athletes and starting at a faster speed. Both test variations have increasing speeds throughout the test.
8 weeks on beta alanine increase the maximal distance covered in the YoYo2-test (Saunders. 2012).
You may be intrigued to hear that it may make sense to combine baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and beta alanine. With the former being an acute performance booster that acts as an extracellular pH buffer, the latter has to be take for at least 4-6 weeks to increase the levels of carnosine in  the muscle and act as an intracellular buffer that will also increase the YoYo-performance significantly (Saunders. 2012). "But didn't one study show that beta alanine blunts the benefits of baking soda?" Yes, this study did, but I would like to see another better-powered study confirm the results, before I fully subscribe to "BA + BS don't mix."
Now that you've got an idea of what the highly trained young men who were competing in intense sports (middle-distance running, team sports and triathlon) and trained 5–7 times per week for at least 4 years when they were recruited for the study, had to do, you may be able to really appreciate the performance boost they got from nothing, but a single administration of 0.4g/kg body weight sodium bicarbonate (~31g | use the same protocol as in the study at hand, i.e. take it in ~25 gelatin capsules, with one fifth taken at 90, 80, 70, 60 and 50 min prior to exercise, or avoid the high dosage altogether by serial loading).
Figure 1: Blood pH (left) and YoYo IR2 performance (distance covered) in the control (= no supplement) and sodium bicarbonate group (Krustrup. 2015).
If you take a closer look at the individual performance benefits from the pH increase in Figure 1 (right) it is obvious that not all subjects benefited to the same extent. While one subject covered almost twice the distance when they used bicarbonate before the workout, the distance one of the subjects covered was even non-significantly reduced. Whether that's a result of gastrointestinal distress is not mentioned in the study (maybe because there was no distress with the previously described graded ingestion of sodium bicarbonate capsules).
Bicarbonate For Strength: 25g of Baking Soda Up Your Squat (+27%) & Bench (+6%) Within 60 Min | more
Bottom line: Overall, the study at hand does not really provide novel information. It confirmed the findings from previous studies: After consuming 0.4g/kg sodium bicarbonate the subjects' high-intensity intermittent exercise performance increased - the only difference: This time, the bicarbonate was consumed in form of 5x5 capsules.

The performance increase, as well as the increase in lactate levels and the reduced perceived exertion values were, just as it was the case in previous studies, mediated by a profound increase in blood pH (elevated blood alkalosis) and the concentration of bicarbonate.

Side effects, such as changes in blood glucose levels, or plasma potassium (Ka+) or sodium (Na+) levels were - again - not observed and the cardiovascular loading during high-intensity intermittent exercise was unaffected by sodium bicarbonate intake, too | Comment on Facebook!
  • Krustrup et al. "Sodium bicarbonate intake improves high-intensity intermittent exercise
  • performance in trained young men." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition Sample 12 (2015):25.
  • Saunders, Bryan, et al. "beta-alanine supplementation improves YoYo intermittent recovery test performance." J Int Soc Sports Nutr 9.1 (2012): 39.