Bicarb loading studies: Aid in Physical Fitness Barriers

Bicarb Loading

Up-to-the-Minute with Health & Fitness Research

Everyone who lifts weights with any degree of intensity will feel a burning sensation in the exercised muscles. This burn results from the buildup of lactic acid in muscle, which, in turn, is caused by the anaerobic nature of weight training. The lack-of-oxygen characteristic of high-intensity weight training leads to the metabolic dead-end street of lactic acid.

Recent research shows that it's the acid part of lactic acid that causes muscle fatigue. Disassociated lactate, or lactic acid minus the acidic hydrogen ion, recirculates to the liver, where it's converted to glucose. The glucose then returns to the muscle via the blood as a reusable energy source. This system is called the lactate shuttle. Scientists now believe that there are two possible reasons why the hydrogen ions that accrue in muscle from anaerobic exercise cause muscle failure: 1) They interfere with the breakdown of glycogen to glucose in muscle by inhibiting intramuscular enzymes; and 2) they disrupt intramuscular calcium transport, which is necessary for muscular contraction. To counter this acid buildup in muscle, scientists began giving sodium bicarbonate, or common baking soda, to athletes more than 60 years ago.

Bicarb is a natural blood buffer that maintains the slightly alkaline composition of blood. In various studies over the years researchers found that the best conditions for sodium bicarb loading occurred when the subjects were trained; when the study involved repeated short-interval, high-intensity exercise; when the dosage was 300 milligrams of bicarb per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of bodyweight and when the subjects took bicarb 90 minutes to two hours before activity.

Under these circumstances the research showed improved performance from supplemental bicarb loading in sports such as rowing, cycling, running and swimming. Until recently however, there were no studies that specifically looked at the effects of bicarb loading on weight training. To test this, researchers from Auburn University in Alabama examined the effects of a standard loading dose of sodium bicarb on six weight-trained men. The study used a double-blind protocol involving a placebo group that took a similar-appearing but inert substance. This type of study is considered to be the gold standard among reputable researchers.

The men ingested 300 milligrams of sodium bicarb per kilogram of bodyweight 105 minutes before engaging in an exercise session that consisted of four sets of 12 reps, plus a fifth set to failure, on a leg press machine that was loaded to 70 percent of the subjects' one-rep maximums. This level of exercise intensity is comparable to an average bodybuilding workout.

Although the authors of the study concluded that the bicarb group showed no statistically significant improvement over the placebo group, four of the six men in the group increased their performances by an average of three repetitions, a 16 percent improvement. Although it is purely speculative,' the researchers noted, "it is possible that some individuals maybe more responsive than others to sodium bicarb ingestion." Despite this observation, the authors of this study stated that weight training isn't enhanced by bicarb loading.

They suggested that future studies should use a greater number of subjects and look at the effects of bicarb after exercise performed to exhaustion. In another study that examined the effects of bicarb supplementation, researchers from Applachian State University in North Carolina came to a different conclusion, however. In this case the subjects performed sets of 10 reps with 87.5 percent of their one-rep maximums on the leg press, and the results did indicate that bicarb increases the number of reps an athlete can do in a weight-training exercise.

While the results from these two studies appear to be contradictory, recall that the researchers in the first study that some people are more responsive to bicarb than others. To take their point a little further, some people may also be more sensitive to the side effects of a loading dose of bicarb, which can include bloating, abdominal pain, nausea and explosive diarrhea. Drinking a liter of water with the bicarb may help prevent these undesirable effects.

Caveat Emptor: Don't Be Fooled

Most bodybuilding magazines contain a plethora of advertisements offering brand-name food supplements at reduced prices. A few of the mail-order advertisers feature prices that seem almost too good to be true. Unfortunately, this usually turns out to be the case, as such prices often come with a catch.

For example beware of companies offering "two for the price of one" deals. You pay full price for the first item and receive a second identical item free-only it's far from free. These companies inflate the shipping price so much that you pay for the "free" item through those inflated charges. When the shipping price in a catalog is listed as "price to be determined by shipper," that's your signal that you'll pay through the nose for it.

I've investigated a number of mail-order supplement companies over several months, and while most of them are reputable, one stands head and shoulders above the rest. Fox Nutrition of Culver Ciq California, offers by far the best prices and the highest quality supplements available, including all the newest state-of-the-art products like creatine, 0KG and KIC. Because of this, many top bodybuilders and movie industry personnel get their food supplements exclusively from Fox Nutrition.

The Best Protein Supplement

Bodybuilders are still confused about how to choose the best protein supplement. It's no wonder, as they're constantly being bombarded by jargon touting the benefits of the latest super-high-tech product. Here are a few facts to consider before you spend your hard-earned money on certain supplements:

1. If a supplement doesn't offer full disclosure on the label or container, don't buy it. Don't accept excuses such as the manufacturer doesn't want the "secret formula" to be ripped off by copycat companies. Read all statements carefully. For example, in a recent advertisement that was disguised as an "informative article," a supplement manufacturer said that it would be impossible to figure out the exact formula of his powder even if he had it analyzed. Yet in the next paragraph of the same article he stated that he'll never reveal what's really in the stuff for fear that copycats would rip it off. Go figure.

2. Beware of self-appointed consumer advocates who anoint selected supplement companies with their seals of approval. This, too, is hogwash, especially when you consider that these same so-called advocates sell many of the supplements that have received their revered seals of approval, which most sensible people would call a conflict of interest. Just as true scientists never trust the results of a single study, you should never trust an analysis that was performed by a single lab. Labs can also be bought off.

3. Testimonial evidence is no proof of efficacy. Studies show that 40 percent of apparent benefits related to medicine can be chalked up to the placebo, effect. If a product is that special or unique, ask to see published studies in peer-reviewed medical journals. The same holds true for a bodybuilding star or celebrity who endorses the product. As Howard Hughes once said, "Everyone has a price."

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