If you have ever been in the gym performing weight resistance training and you attempted to push yourself to get that last set out and you begin to feel a tolerable but painful sensation in your muscles, this is what is known as “the burn”. Many bodybuilders look forward to creating this feeling. It lets them know that they have pushed their muscles just about to the point of failure at that particular moment. It is also what is known as a lactic acid buildup or burning, it causes the muscles to have an aching sensation due to the buildup of lactic acid. The human body's ability to deal with this build up is the key to being able to maximise sports performance during competition or training sessions. This balance between the muscles trying to continue to exercise and the buildup of lactic acid within them can be referred to as maintaining a positive acid balance.
When vigorous exercise is performed the body builds up a concentration of excess positive charges or protons. This build up of protons disrupts cells that produce energy within your muscles. Being able to deal with in this build up of protons can be important to having longer lasting workouts and performing continuously at a higher level before becoming fatigued. Researchers do not know exactly how these protons affect your fatigue factor, however they are sure that the buildup of lactic acid prevents energy production and muscle performance.
The use of bicarbonate supplementation is not new. It has been known as the ergogenic aid for more than 30 years, but has not been used quite frequently because of the side effects that it causes. Researchers are now taking a new look at it and are suggesting that it is possible to use this as a supplementation without having the negative side effects. Sodium bicarbonate helps to lower lactic acid levels following long durations of cycling or high-intensity sprints that lasts for one to seven minutes. However its effect is very minimal compared to the body's natural buffering capacity for lactic acid buildup when used for short intensity exercises that last less than thirty seconds or for endurance events that last for twenty minutes or more. Studies show that using doses of 300 mg/kg body weight can have an ergogenic effect on the body while doses less than 200 mg/kg body weight have no effect.
A study at Iowa State University showed that sprinters who took two tablespoons of baking soda prior to their event demonstrated increased performance. The downside is that many of them had upset stomachs and diarrhea as a result of taking this supplement, and it was only beneficial when used in sporting events that had shorter durations. Another test at the same university showed cyclists benefited in average power output during repeated ten second sprints while using bicarbonate soda.
Gastrointestinal sickness and nausea are the main drawbacks to using his supplementation product. This occurs because of a chemical reactions that happen within the stomach as it attempts to deal with the extra bicarbonate. Sodium bicarbonate is very alkaline and it causes an imbalance in the stomach of carbon dioxide levels, which is the reason that many feel sick. One way athletes have found to overcome these negative side effects is by using what is called a stacking cycle. When using a stacking cycle you can space out the amount of bicarbonate that you can take over longer period time while taking smaller doses, which will potentially increase your performance and help you to avoid the side effects that come with large doses.
It is recommended that if you're going to experiment with a stacking cycle of bicarbonate you should ingest no more than .3g/kg of body weight, which has been determined to be a safe amount. Another method of ingesting bicarbonate that can help to avoid sickness is to be sure that you have eaten a decent meal at least 2 to 3 hours prior to taking the bicarbonate. If you take bicarbonate on an empty stomach this combination will most definitely leave you feeling sick. There have even been athletes who have tried loading up on bicarbonate a day prior to sporting events, much like an endurance athlete would load up on carbohydrates. The intent here is to have a higher blood buffering capacity before beginning your event.
Researchers have also found a relationship between bicarbonate and interval training. When you ingest bicarbonate you increase the number of mitochondria within your cells. Mitochondria are the little energy powerhouses within our cells and the more mitochondria we have in our cells the greater our ability to prolong high rates of exercise for longer durations as well as improving peak power output. So bicarbonate has been found to also be useful for not only improving high-intensity performance but also for giving you an aerobic edge. Bicarbonate has also been found to help to reduce the amount of recovery time needed between high-intensity training periods. The additional sodium bicarbonate in the body minimises the initial drop of pH in the body and has an overall effect of speeding up recovery time between training intervals. The final possibility of using sodium bicarbonate is to combinine it with other supplements. Researchers have reported that some athletes have reported increased performance and recovery when they combined sodium bicarbonate along with creatine supplementation.
If you are considering using bicarbonate or experimenting with it as a way to increase your performance, you should remember that you should weigh yourself and your total gram intake of bicarbonate should not be more than .3g per kilogram of body weight. Remember also that you should eat a decent meal two to three hours before taking this supplementation to reduce the nausea and bloated feeling it creates. Finally, using the staggering/stacking method is the best way to help reduce the side effects and also help you to focus on your training and/or competition.