|In 1990 Luft et al. were able to show that, unlike regular salt, of sodium bicarbonate does not trigger an increase in blood pressure - the exact opposite is the case, even if you don't sweat like an athlete.|
Well, guess what: I have been asking myself a similar question when I reviewed the most recent tables of contents of pertinent journals - there was no bicarbonate study to be seen... until, a few days ago, at least.
The study I am referring to was conducted at the School of Sport Sciences of the Surabaya State University in Indonesia (Hartono 2017) and it is particularly interesting because it did not just test the efficacy of sodium bicarbonate in a practically relevant context, i.e. the effect of supplementation on time to exhaustion during an anaerobic running test in trained individuals (University badminton players and thus athletes competing in a highly anaerobic sport), but also compared the its efficacy to that of sodium citrate, an almost forgotten pH buffer that has long been thought to be the one of the go-to supplement for athletes.
|Figure 1: Afraid of too much sodium? For hard working athletes, a deliberate reduction in their salt intake may do more harm than good. For certain athletes, scientists even recommend to deliberately increase their consumption (learn more).|
- 300 mg/kg sodium bicarbonate in 500 ml water, or
- 300 mg/kg sodium citrate in 500 ml water
|Figure 2: Time to exhaustion (in min) during anaerobic phase of a treadmill running test with placebo (water only), water + 0.3g/kg sodium bicarbonate or water + 0.3g/kg sodium bicarbonate (Hartono 2017).|
Figure 2 does yet also tell you that similar, albeit significantly less pronounced effects (the difference of bicarbonate vs. citrate has a p-value of only 0.020 and thus a ~2% chance of being only coincidental) can also be achieved by sodium citrate, which is said to be less diarrhea-prone than its bicarbonate brother. I have to warn you, though: My personal experience with the effects of sodium citrate on the digestive tract say the opposite and the results from (mostly older trials) with sodium citrate yielded even more ambiguous results than those with bicarbonate.
- Luft, Friedrich C., et al. "Sodium bicarbonate and sodium chloride: effects on blood pressure and electrolyte homeostasis in normal and hypertensive man." Journal of hypertension 8.7 (1990): 663-670.
- Hartono, Soetanto. "The Effects of Sodium Bicarbonate and Sodium Citrate on Blood pH, HCO3-, Lactate Metabolism and Time to Exhaustion." Index coverage: 13.