Give Your Muscles a Boost, And Help Them Beat “The Burn”:
Sodium Bicarbonate Loading
Improvements in performance during endurance events focus on carbohydrate and oxygen supply to the muscle. In short-term (anaerobic) all-out performances however, our concern changes to buffering Hydrogen ions (H+) produced by the muscles, in order to improve performance.
Why does this happen? If you partake in high intensity all-out sports or you are doing repeated sprint sessions as part of your training, you should be familiar with that “burning” sensation in the muscles during training. Commonly called “lactic acid burn”, this is a major contributor to fatigue in all out sprint performance and repeated sprint training. The cells in the muscles have a limit to how much lactate they can buffer (remove). A major contributing factor to this ability is the pH (acidity) of the blood at the onset of high intensity exercise. During sprint training, muscle glycolysis generates a large amount of lactate and H+; this lowers the muscle pH from about 7.1 (resting) to less than 6.7 (more acidic). This type of training is mainly anaerobic in nature, and this tends to produce high amounts of Hydrogen ions in the muscle. These ions interfere with the contraction of muscle fibres by inhibiting Calcium binding to troponin as well as the capacity to generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the muscles major energy supplier.
How much should be used? Oral intake of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), called “bicarbonate loading”, typically involves a dose of 300 mg per kg of body mass (with 1 litre of H2O), split into 5 equal parts over a 1-2 hour period, and taken 1-2 hours prior to the session. The chronic bicarbonate loading protocol typically involves five days of 500 mg per kg of body mass, split into four doses (500mg divided by 4) over each day.
How does it work? It is believed that this elevation in bicarbonate levels in the blood will increase alkalinity at the beginning of exercise, and neutralize excess acid. In other words, the ingestion of bicarbonate allows the muscle to handle higher levels of lactate by increasing the transport of H+ from the muscle fibre to the blood. This H+ ion is then transported to the lungs where it is exhaled as CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) and H2O (water vapour). This is one of the reasons why our respiration rate increases with exercise, in order to get rid of the extra H+ ions.
Increasing these amounts will not improve performance. Side effects may include diarrhoea and gastrointestinal distress, both of which will affect performance (and may be a little embarrassing), so it is therefore important to remember everyone will react differently and that this should never be taken for the first time before any major competition. This should help you beat the burn and improve your performance during sprint events and during repeated bouts of high intensity exercise with short recovery periods (events between 1-10 minutes).
By: Jonathan Hall