One of the urban legends about legal methods of increasing a personal test score or an important race is to take bicarbonate of soda before a 2k erg test.
Here’s a useful article that sets out how to calculate how much bicarb to take (body weight), and what the effects were on a test group of athletes.
The theory of baking soda
During intense exercise a significant proportion of the energy required for muscle contraction comes from anaerobic respiration. This is when you produce energy whilst having a limited oxygen supply. This has the negative effect of increasing cellular and blood acidity. High acidity limits the ability of your muscles to contract, meaning you slow down. Bicarbonate is an alkaline, meaning it will neutralise an acid. This is also referred to as a buffer (because it ‘buffers’ the effects of an acid). Bicarbonate is the body’s primary extra cellular (outside of cells) buffer. As such, ingesting bicarbonate before intensive exercise should increase the body’s buffering capacity (how much acid your body can buffer). So we may hypothesise that by consuming bicarbonate of soda before exercise, we can delay the point of slowing down (because our body will buffer the acidity for longer).
The side effects
Most athletes experience some bad side effects – principally runny tummy and cramps as a result. THis is well-known and puts many people off using bicarb.
I thought it interesting that the study scientists dissolved the bicarb in water. I’ve always heard that athletes swallow the powder insider gelatine caplets (as pharmaceutical medicines use). The large amount of water may make you feel bloated and I’m not sure an hour beforehand is enough time for the body to process the liquid into urine.
Although they say the scores were ‘better’ but not statistically significant. Well, in my book, any improvement in a maximal output test score is a good thing – as an athlete I wouldn’t worry about the significance of the statistics – I only want to be able to submit a better score.
What do you think? Anyone tried this?