Wednesday, September 5, 2012

22g Baking Soda 60min Before a Old-School 4 x 12RM Leg Workout Allow for a 22 Rep Volume Increase on Hypertrophy Oriented Squat + Leg Press + Leg Extension Quads Routine

Image 1: Squats, 8 x 12, Leg Press 6 x 12, Leg Ext. 6 x 12; that's the Quads routine Serge Nubret trained twice a week in conjunction with chest – it stands out of question that this is the kind of workout that benefits most from an acid buffer like NaHCO(3)!
As a diligent student of the SuppVersity you are no stranger to the ergogenic value of sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO(3) or baking soda, and though I still believe that I have to do a lot of persuading in terms of its stand-alone benefits (click here to read more), many of you will at least have been impressed by its ability to boost the uptake and subsequent performance benefits from creatine supplements (cf. "Supercharging Creatine With Baking Soda"). And while I am not sure if the soon-to-be-published study by Carr et al. will be last straw that's finally going to break your back... ah, I mean your resistance, or I should say, unwillingness to accept that something as cheap and simple as baking soda could outperform 90% of the overpriced supplemental non-starters on the market and will not make you draw water or increase your blood pressure, although it has the bad word "sodium" in its name, I cannot tell, what I can tell you though, is that Benjamin M. Carr and his colleagues from the School of Human Performance and Recreation at the  University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg are spot on, when they say (or write) that their "findings demonstrate ergogenic efficacy for NaHCO(3) during [hypertrophy-type resistance training]" (Kerr. 2012).

The benefits of baking soda start at high intensity aerobic exercise, and end right where your willpower ends ;-)

That baking soda can be an effective ergogenic aid, especially when it comes to high volume workouts has actually long been established. Still many, if not most of the trials involved sprinters or cyclists performing HIIT-esque protocols on the track or cycle ergometer (e.g. 11.5% increase in sprint performance in Price. 2003), whereas researchers such as Portington et al. or Webster et al. totally missed the boat or, I should say, what it means to train, when they had their study participants perform laughable 5 sets of leg presses and measured nothing but a (yet significant) difference in blood pH in response to pre-supplementation (105 min before the test) with sodium bicarbonate (Webster, 1993; Portington. 1998).
Figure 1: Overview of the experimental protocol that was used in the study (based on Carr. 2012)
With four sets of three exercises at the 12RM (not yet Serge Nubret style, I know; see image 1 ;-) and the king of all leg exercises, the squat being one of them, as well as resistance trained study participants who were actually able to lift a weight that would be taxing enough to see a difference, the study design of the Carr study (see figure 1) is yet more of what I would expect to yield results with real world significance for trainees who are not at the gym to chat and show off their latest gymwear, but to train... and as the data in figure 2 goes to show, the results were what these very trainees are looking for:
Figure 2: Lactate, pH, ratio of hydrogen carbonate ions to NaHCO(3) and base excess in blood after, as well as number of total reps performed during the leg workout (data adapted from Carr. 2012)
I freely admit, an overall plus of ~22reps, in other words 1.83 reps per set does not sound like much, but if you think about how long you would have to train to achieve this improvement and/or compare it to the median effect size of weeks of beta alanine supplementation, of which you can hardly say that it was one of the aforementioned supplemental non-starters, and still offers a performance increment of only 2.87% (Hobson. 2012), the 22 +/- 13 reps or 4% increase in total volume the participants in the Carr study achieved within about 2min (by drinking their 22-32g of baking soda) are more than just a bit of alright.

"But isn't the increase in lactate a bad thing?"

"Lactate...?" I knew this would be your next question. I mean it is already hard enough to believe that anything that has the word "sodium" (by the way you Americans are the only ones who don't get that this ought to be "natrium" and not "sodium" ;-) in its name is not per se bad for you, and now the guys in the baking soda group had higher lactate levels!
Image 2: "Cholesterol is the devil and sodium is his little brother!" Everyone who still believes everything the medical orthodoxy says, please raise your hands!
A note on the dangers of "salt": Firstly, baking soda is "only" ~28% sodium, which means that for every 4 grams you ingest you get roughly 1 g of sodium. Secondly, it is arguable how much of the sodium is effectively taken up and will be floating around in your blood. As T. Lakhanisky points out in his dossier for the Belgian government: "The uptake of sodium, via exposure to sodium carbonate, is much less than the uptake of sodium via food. Therefore, sodium carbonate is not expected to be systemically available in the body." (Lakhanisky. 2002) And thirdly, there is more and more evidence that suggests that the chloride rather than the sodium content of common table salt (NaCl = Natrium + Chloride) is the root cause of "sodium induced hypertension" in "sodium sensitive" individuals / animal models. Only recently, a study by Schmidlin et al. showed that chloride loading induced hypertension in the stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rat despite profound sodium depletion (Schmidlin. 2010). So, if you asked me, rather than pointing at salt as the #2 on the list of greatest evils (obviously cholesterol is still #1, here) the medical orthodoxy would be better advised to address the imbalances between sodium and potassium (click here to learn more about the ratios), which are so characteristic of the western diet, instead of painting yet another black and white picture where sodium is the bad guy and potassium the dangerous mineral that cannot be sold OTC in dosages >80mg.... but hey, this would be the topic for a whole new blogpost and as gross as it may sound, the chance that you get diarrhea from the baking soda is probably 1000x higher than the remote possibility of increases in blood pressure. A 1990 study by Luft et al. even found that the blood pressure of 10 mildly hypertensive and normal subjects decreased by 5mmHg after 7 days in the course of which they drank 3 liters of sodium bicarbonate containing water per day (Luft. 1990)
Now, you would have reason to be concerned if we were talking about lactic acid, which is basically lactate + a proton (you can also say, lactate is the negative ion of lactate acid if you want to). Contrary to the latter, which increases during exercise when the acid buffer of your musculature is exhausted, lactate is however not just benign, but actually beneficial.

"So lactate is a bonus... really?"

Figure 3: Mean plasma lactate, GH, and prolactin responses to intravenous infusion of 250ml 1M sodium lactate in 7 untrained healthy volunteer; note: the respective increase in GH is more pronounced with natural = exercise induced increases in lactate.
While it's still debated whether lactate is only a beneficial co-factor in the mitochondrial energy chain, as Van Hall proposes in his Y2K review of the research (Van Hall. 2000) or rather a mitochondrial energy substrate in its own right that cannot be used only in the mitochondria of your skeletal and heart muscle but also in your brain, as Pellerin et al. suggest (Pellerin. 2007), it is indisputable that the decreased formation of lactic acid, due to the perseverance of an overall higher alkalinity in the presence of a 4% higher workout volume is a beneficial things. Not the least, by virtue of the its ability to trigger the release of growth hormone (cf. figure 3; Luger. 1992), which could - in conjunction with the increased workout capacity and the supposedly faster post-workout recovery give trainees on a hypertrophy-oriented volume training regimen an edge over the salt-o-phobic competition.

In view of the fact that Carr et al. arrive at the exact same conclusion, before they state that the "ergogenic efficacy" of sodium bicarbonate during "hypertrophy-type resistance exercise" would "warrant further investigation into chronic training applications" (Carr. 2012), we can expect to see a future trial investigating exactly that: How much more will you gain if you repeat this practice for 6-8 weeks? ... I guess, I don't have to tell you that the SuppVersity is going to be the place, where you are going to read about the results of that study, first!

  • Carr BM, Webster MJ, Boyd JC, Hudson GM, Scheett TP. Sodium bicarbonate supplementation improves hypertrophy-type resistance exercise performance. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012 Sep 4.
  • Lakhanisky T. Sodium Bicarbonate. OECD SIDS. UNEP Publications. 2002.
  • Luger A, Watschinger B, Deuster P, Svoboda T, Clodi M, Chrousos GP. Plasma growth hormone and prolactin responses to graded levels of acute exercise and to a lactate infusion. Neuroendocrinology. 1992 Jul;56(1):112-7.
  • Luft FC, Zemel MB, Sowers JA, Fineberg NS, Weinberger MH. Sodium bicarbonate and sodium chloride: effects on blood pressure and electrolyte homeostasis in normal and hypertensive man. J Hypertens. 1990 Jul;8(7):663-70.
  • Pellerin, L., Bouzier- Sore, A.-K., Aubert, A., Serres, S., Merle, M., Costalat, R. & Magistretti, P. 2007. Activity-dependent regulation of energy metabolism by astrocytes: an update. Glia 55, 1251–1262. 
  • Price M, Moss P, Rance S. Effects of sodium bicarbonate ingestion on prolonged intermittent exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003 Aug;35(8):1303-8. 
  • Portington KJ, Pascoe DD, Webster MJ, Anderson LH, Rutland RR, Gladden LB. Effect of induced alkalosis on exhaustive leg press performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1998 Apr;30(4):523-8.
  • Schmidlin O, Tanaka M, Sebastian A, Morris RC Jr. Selective chloride loading is pressor in the stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rat despite hydrochlorothiazide-induced natriuresis. J Hypertens. 2010 Jan;28(1):87-94.
  • Van Hall G. Lactate as a fuel for mitochondrial respiration. Acta Physiol Scand. 2000 Apr;168(4):643-56.


Kevin said...

Hi Prof Dr, Andro

How should the dosing be taken? Is it best to split up the 22g into smaller portions or to take it all at once pre-workout? Do you recommend saving some to take with a peri-workout shake? Also, is it a good idea to take the 0.3/kg dosing along with creatine pre-workout?

Thanks and keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

Possible GI disturbances? I remember a couple years ago I took a large dosage of baking soda for its performance benefits and had a case of the runs.

Gabriel Sanchez said...

Great post. I always love to read the latest NaHCO(3) research, and know this is just the place to find it!

Unknown said...

Hello Dr. Andro

Thanks again for these good articles! I found this study in pubmed from 1993 though:

Effect of sodium bicarbonate ingestion on exhaustive resistance exercise performance.

Six weight trained males were studied prior to, during, and in recovery from exhaustive resistance exercise, 105 min after ingesting 300 of either a placebo or NaHCO3. The exercise test consisted of four sets of 12 repetitions with a fifth set to volitional fatigue on a Universal leg press machine at a resistance equaling approximately 70% of the subjects 1-repetition maximum.

Repetitions performed in the final exercise set were not significantly different between groups (NaHCO3: 19.6 +/- 1.6, placebo: 18.2 +/- 1.1 repetitions).

Kevin Holleran said...


Thank you for all your amazing articles. I used to use a regiment of Beta-Alanine, AAKG, & Creatine as my pre-workout, sometimes mixed from individual supplements, sometime in the form of N.O.Xplode.

After reading many of your articles, it was illustrated that AAKG has no real value in increasing NO production. So basically, it seems that my supplement regiment should be something like: creatine, baking soda, beta-alanine, & BCAA's pre-workout. Typically, post workout I hit a Progenex protein shake, & sweet potatoes. I am follow a pretty strict primal diet & do Crossfit & heavy lifting.

How much and how should I schedule the supplements above? Do those go together well?

Thank you very much for your time & your blog.


Daron said...

Hopefully this helps and hopefully I do not get intestinal discomfort.

Primalkid said...


Pre-workout I would recommend 1-3g Tyrosine, 2g Glutamine, 5-10g BCAAs, and 5g creatine. The baking soda is optional and will only benefit you if you do high volume training. If you are also trying to cut, you could add in Yohimbine HCL (.2mg/kg bodyweight), and 200mg caffeine (more or less depending on tolerance).

Post-workout you want some fast and slow digesting proteins (.3-.5g/kg lean body mass), as well as some fast and slow carbs (.5-1.5g/kg lean body mass depending on amount of volume performed during workout). I recommend either milk protein isolate, or a 50/50 mix of whey isolate and casein. As for carbs, sweet potatoes are great, but i personally prefer bananas since they have the ideal 2:1 glucose:fructose ratio (they are also delicious ;-)

Take the pre-workout about 30 minutes beforehand, and the post-workout within an hour. Hope this helps.

Prof. Dr. Andro said...

the maximal alkalizing effect SHOULD be achieve when you ingest those all at onece; if your stomach does not tolerate that (=diarrhea) you can start you at 90min, 60min, 30min... on the other hand, there are also studies showing benefits from a "chronic" supplementation regimen. I am still waiting for a well-conducted study that would probe not so much the immediate perfomance effects, but rather the metabolic effects of taking 20g in say serving over the day and thus staying more alkaline, but unfortunately I cannot pay for it ;-)

Prof. Dr. Andro said...

as mentioned before. Some people are unfortunately very susceptible. For me it did go away with ramping up, though.... try starting with a teaspoon and work your way up, if you want to try it

Prof. Dr. Andro said...

let's hope it does not take too long for the next study; also, as mentioned above, I wold love to see a study on the metabolic effects instead of the performance effects.

Prof. Dr. Andro said...

I did mention those study explicitly - the workload is too low to see an effect.

Daron said...

Prof. Dr. Andro said...

Primalkid's recommendations are good - aside from the yohimbine, where the science on fat loss benefits are nonexistent (I discard the one existent study on soccer players because it is not methodologically flawed, but simply lacks all information / control of the methods) - the rest is guesswork based on molecular mechanisms that have been misleading us time and again and my personal experience says that if anything it leads to bloating (water retention) and thus makes you looked f*** up.

if you want an NO boost you could try citrulline that can actually make it to your muscle and wont get stuck in the cells of the gut, but even here it is not exactly like you would miss the substrate for the pump... esp. if you are going low carb you just won't produce so much nitric oxide as one of the patways that increases skeletal muscle NO production is insulin (>

Ah, I also usually don't recommend tyrosine, not because it cannot work, but because it does not work in 80% of the people I know who have tried it.

And looking back at your original stack, I would always prefer taurine over beta alanine - you can cycle the latter by the way, like taking 4 weeks off; it takes some time for the carnosine levels to go back to normal

Prof. Dr. Andro said...

I really don't like those tablespoon measures, I mean most people don't have one of those standardized measuring spoons and if you dont you never know how heaped those have to be... I usually buy "Kaiser Natron" (obviously not available in the US), which comes in 50g sachets. Regardless of what size you have, if its relatively small you can simply try how much 22g is (in my case 1/2 a sachet)

Kevin Holleran said...

So a good formula might be, an hour before training:

? of Taurine
5g Creatine
? of Baking Soda
5g of BCAA's
2g of Glutamine

I usually train on an empty stomach, either at the end of a fast from the previous night (lunch right after), or 4 hours after lunch and prior to dinner. Would this have any affect?

Thanks again, I love reading your articles, even though much of the science sails over my head.


Primalkid said...

Look up the intermittent thoughts on intermittent fasting series that Adel did a while back. It covers IF and breaking the fast and the roles of AMPK, mTOR, etc. And yes your formula looks fine to me. I personally only take the BCAAs which take me into a semifasted state since they are insulin stimulating. However the following exercise session is a natural AMPK stimulus so it doesn't matter.

Kevin Holleran said...

Thanks. If I take this concoction on a fasted/empty stomach, should I skip the baking soda due to the pH being low or will I still have a benefit?

Sorry to be asking so many questions, thanks for answering.

Primalkid said...

Ideally you want to be slightly alkaline (which is why you should always eat your veggies ;-) but I am unsure wrt baking soda. Hopefully Adel will chime in, but my guess is that if you want to take baking soda then go for it. Just see how you feel and go from there. If you start throwing up everywhere or have a bad stomach ache, then maybe not the best plan.

HutchMan said...

Prof. Dr. Andro...

So for a 88kg body weight what would you recommend pre workout stack (including baking soda) first thing in the morn fasted 5X5 protocol trainee.

Primalkid said...


I would say 5-10g BCAA is the only requirement because training in a purely fasted state is not beneficial.

Read the thread above between Kevin, Adel, and I. That should give you some ideas.

Prof. Dr. Andro said...

the fasting is all he more reason to take the baking Soda, at least in theory it is... the Taurine up there has still a ? - if you want to take that I suggest ~3g as for the baking soda, start with 1-2 teaspoons if that doesn't bother you go ahead and increase the dose

Prof. Dr. Andro said...

In view of the debate I am having with Kamil, here >

you may consider using an EAA product instead, although I am not sure about how much of a thread the BCAA depletes neurotransmitter issue really is for someone who is not already whacked up (my best bet is VERY LOW).

A good stack to start out with is

200mg of caffeine
5-10g of BCAAs (optionally 5g before 10g intra, if your workouts are long)
2.5g- of creatine monohydrate (+2.5g after the workout)

if you like you can add
3g of taurine
1.5g of beta alanine

when you got energy issue (which should not happen, if your adrenals are working properly), add

coconut oil, or even
some carbs (you are breaking the fast after the workout anyway)

and to be honest, even training in a truly fasted state is not so much of a problem if you are not one of those who will pass out due to low blood glucose

jkeiffer said...

Any reason 3gms Creatine and 1 teaspoon Baking Soda with water in the morning wouldn't be a good idea?

Prof. Dr. Andro said...

no, I don't see one...

Anonymous said...

Why not use potassium bicarbonate?

Prof. Dr. Andro said...

if you want to risk fainting, try it... you could combine them at a 3/1 ratio, maybe but potassium is not exactly what you need in your blood stream, when you work out, as it will leech from the cells during the workout anyway

Rachid said...

From my understanding and from what i've read elsewhere, the goal of baking soda supplementation is to alcalinize. And if I am correct, potassium bicarbonate will do the job as well and may help to have a better sodium/potassium balance?
I am taking approx. 10g with water during workout (I've progressively increased up to this dose) and I feel good while lifting.
Do you think I should switch to baking soda??
Btw, your site and articles are awesome!

Rachid said...

And one more thing:
The benefit of baking soda is coming from its alcalizing properties or I am wrong?

Bomb Jack said...

I follow Rachid about the question: should I avoid potassium?
Until now I used more potassium than sodium pre-/during my workouts and my days: isn't it better for a healthy sodium/potassium ratio or not? And why potassium could be harmful?

Prof. Dr. Andro said...

sorry, I forgot to answer this question. The thing about potassium is that your body conserves it very well.

Your loss during exercise is (compared to sodium) minimal, you lose no more than 100-200 mg potassium per hour and in view of the fact that the potassium level in your blood will already rise while you work out (potassium is the ion IN the cell) and your sodium level will decrease (sodium is the ion OUTSIDE of the cell) you risk to skew the sodium to potassium ratio and end up in a state of mild or even serious hyperkalemia, which is associated with muscular hyper-excitability and electrical impulse disturbances that may cause irregular heart beat or worse...

that said you are ill-advised focusing solely on potassium bicarbonate, also because sodium bicarbonate is actually used to "drive" potassium back into the cells in states of hyperkalemia. You can combine them if you want, but don't ask me for the optimal ratio... certainly >1 sodium:potassium, though (around workouts)

RickP said...

I'm one of those who noticed nothing from tyrosine, to Dr. Andro's point.

Prof. Dr. Andro said...

probably didn't talk to enough bros about how effective it is to get the placebo effect into the P<0.05 zone ;)

Rachid said...

Thank you for your answer, it is very instructive and I'll try to combine both in a 3:1 ratio (that's what is used into rehydradation solutions I think).
One thing that is very surprising is that on the biggest French bodybuilding websites (and only French ones strangely), they all advice the use of bicarbonate potassium instead of sodium around workout (with doses up to 20g!) and it is even sold into pills to be more convenient to take
I'm really confident in your knowledge and I don't want to troll but I'm confused.

cogrick2 said...

Adel, I might be reading too fast, but can you help me understand the last paragraph and graph with respect to growth hormone levels? In particular, you write that the decreased lactic acid formation is a good thing and then, "Not the least, by virtue of the its ability to trigger the release of growth hormone." How do I interpret the graph given these sentences? It looks like mean lactate went down and yet lactate was infused(huh?), and then growth hormone spiked and dropped precipitously. The drop concerns me. One core problem may be that I do not understand the boxed language in the figure. Thanks!

Prof. Dr. Andro said...

probably an outgrowth of the sodium scare within the BB-world... trust me: Nothing draws more water than not getting enough sodium. And on BB's and potassium I suggest you read this case report before you ever trust a "Bodybuilder's" judgement on anything >

Prof. Dr. Andro said...

you need to be aware of the meaning of the greek letter "delta", which is "change in" when the "delta"-graph goes down this means that lactate is still increasing as long as it's not going into the negative. If you have some basic skills in math telling you that this is "delta lactate / delta time" should answer your question

cogrick2 said...

Why are they suggesting the use of bicarbonate potassium? I am suspicious given the extracellular hyperkalmeia concerns Adel expressed.

Prof. Dr. Andro said...

if you don't have the math skill read it like that: at 20min you got an increase of 5 units per time unit, at 40min you got only 1.3 units increase in lactate per time unit, but this means that the lactate concentration IS STILL RISING

Bomb Jack said...

...didn't know anything about this, very interesting, thank you Doc.! :-)

Tomas said...

Tried this for a few months. I did notice positive benefits from it (be it placebo effect or not, not important really), nothing huge but well worth the money. Couldn't stand it though. I've never had any problem eating boring and tasteless food to get my gains, but 20 g and even 15 g in the end was more than I could take. The taste was too vile. I remember flinching before taking it and more or less whenever I thought about it. GI tract didn't love it, either.

But for all of you with iron stomach and determination, go for it! Certainly worth a try.

Prof. Dr. Andro said...

I don't know why some people can't stand the taste, for me it's not an issue. And in fact, if you mix it with some BCAAs most brands taste actually better. I must say though that I am not adding 20g into a single glass, but rather ~750ml of water and I don't drink it in one gulp

Rachid said...

Sorry to comment an "old" topic but one question is blowing my mind:
For a bodybuilding purpose (hypertrophy), do we know if this muscle alcalinization could be detrimental because it could remove some stress on the myocites (acidity is a stressor that belongs to mechanical growth factors like heat and mechanical load).
Thank you

Prof. Dr. Andro said...

if it was you better avoid all beta-alanine and deplete your carnitine levels to zero, 'cause the H+ buffer in the cell would be even more detrimental ... given the fact that I am not aware of a single bodybuilder who is "undertraining" the chances that a systemic buffer will hamper your gains are about zero

Rachid said...

I'm still not sure but you've just published that: "COX-2 the inflammatory muscle builder?" Is it not just the contrary of what you're saying?
Thank you very much for your answer

Chesteta said...

Could this not be due the concentration of the sodium bicarb solution? Mag-Sulf (and basically any salt taken in a high concentration) will lead to the run's: could the very high osmotic pressure apply here?