Bicarbonate Loading Thesis

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Bicarbonate loading is a well-known and much practiced ergogenic aid among the sports fraternity around the world. By neutralizing the H+ ions, bicarbonate loading helps sustain the natural glycolytic energy mechanism a little further. Bicarbonate loading increases the buffer capacity of the athlete enabling him to have sustained high performance for short high intensive workouts. However, the potential side effects cannot be lightly ignored. Continued bicarbonate loading is not advisable as it may trigger new reactions from the body, including halting of the natural synthesis of bicarbonate as a homeostatic response.

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The drive for better performance and competitive advantage motivates athletes to continuously seek performance-enhancing measures. There are countless instances in the past where elite athletes have been penalized for the use of banned performance enhancing substances. The naturally occurring Sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) however, has long been known for its ergogenicity and is not a restricted substance. Intense muscular activity results in huge differences between intracellular and extra cellular chemical balance. A higher level of H+ ions reduces CNS drive to the muscles and thereby affects their contractile performance. Sodium bicarbonate is a natural buffer that helps stabilize the Ph in the human body around the normal range of 7.35. [ASKO] Decades of study have confirmed the ergogenic value of bicarbonate uploading. A brief overview of the physiology of the bicarbonate mediated alkalosis process and a review of literature pertaining to bicarbonate loading and related sporting performance would provide us better insight into the subject.

Physiology of Bicarbonate (acidosis / alkalosis)

Thesis on Bicarbonate Loading Assignment

The energy mechanism of the human body involves a complex network of chemical reactions. The reactions between ATP and Phosphocreatine (PCr), known as the ATP PCr system, is the fastest but short lived energy generating system of the body lasting only for 5 to 6 seconds of maximal activity. The ATP PCr interaction is the basic reaction that triggers muscular contraction and movement. The second and important source of energy is the glycolysis process that converts carbohydrates stored in the muscles and the liver into ATP, a process that can provide for 7 to 10 minutes of maximal activity. However, as a by product this glycolysis process creates lactic acid which increases the concentration of H+ ions in the blood leading to lowering of the muscular and blood Ph., setting in a process called as acidosis. This lactic acid interferes with the ATP-PCr interaction and affects the energy production leading to a condition called as the muscular fatigue. Under normal levels the lactic acid in broken down into pyruvate which is useful in ATP synthesis. However, under high concentrations and consequent low ph values, the rate of lactic acid breakdown is too slow. [ASKO]

Bicarbonate loading triggers the efflux of h+ ion from the muscle cells. By neutralizing the excess of H+ ions that result from intense anaerobic exercises, bicarbonate loading facilitates the continued glycolytic synthesis of ATP. In other words, bicarbonate loading increases the buffer capacity of the athlete enabling him to have sustained high performance for short high intensive workouts. There are two main methods of bicarbonate loading namely the acute and the chronic loading methods. Acute loading involves ingestion of around 300 mg per kg of NaHCo3 60 to 90 minutes before the activity. Chronic loading on the otherhand involves a regular intake of bicarbonate over a period of 5 to 6 days. [WAIS] Bicarbonate can be consumed in the form of food as baking soda or as gelatin capsules, which is the preferred method. Studies on bicarbonate loading date back to several decades. The early studies were mostly mixed in their results but the more recent well controlled studies clearly suggest positive ergogenic value of bicarbonate loading.

Literature Review

A recent study by the 'University of Western Australia' analyzed the effect of sodium bicarbonate ingestion on training adaptations during intense exercise training. This research by edge (2004) included 16 active but not well trained women. The study consisted of an initial testing using a series of exercises to determine the peak flow of oxygen VO2 and Lactate threshold (LT). This was followed 48 hours later by an exercise tolerance test (ET) ('total work completed at pre-training VO2peak intensity'). The researchers also took biopsies of the 'vastus lateralis' muscle both before and after the exercise to analyze changes in the muscle metabolites, anaerobic ATP yield, as well as the muscle buffer capacity. (?mi). From the data garnered from these initial tests the researchers were able to assign matched subjects (in terms of LT and ET) into two test groups. While the experimental group ingested (0.4 g kg-) of NaHCo3, the other group consumed NaCl, 0.2 g kg-1 (the placebo) prior to starting each training exercise. Both the test groups underwent the same amount of exercise intensity

The actual training session involved 6 to 12, 2 min high intensity exercises ((140-180% LT; 1 min rest), 3 times a week, for a total of 8 weeks. Statistical analysis of the data revealed that the bicarbonate-loaded group did significantly better in terms of the total work ((160% v 126%; P<.05) and LT (26% v 15%; P<.05).). Also, there was significant change in the muscle lactate levels in the NaHCo3 group and greater anaerobic yield ATP (ES = 1.2) compared to the sodium choride group. The researchers also noted significant difference in post training high intensity exercise tolerance between the two groups with the bicarbonate group showing greater tolerance levels. This study clearly shows that voluntary alkalosis and the consequent induced afflux of h+ ions in untrained subjects may affect cellular adaptations to high intensity training. [Edge, (2004)]

Price (2003) is another study that assessed the ergogenic effects of ingested bicarbonate on prolonged intermittent exercises. For the study the researchers recruited 80 healthy males with an average age of 25 years. The subjects participated in two 30-minute sessions of cycling trials ('repeated 3-min blocks; 90 s at 40% V-O2max, 60 s at 60% V-O2max, 14-s maximal sprint, 16-s rest ') after consuming either NaHCo3 0.3 g kg-1) or NaCl (0 .045 g kg-1). The Blood lactate level, bicarbonate level, and the Blood Ph were documented for all the subjects at rest, at 20, 40 and 60 min after intake. It was noticed that the PH increased after intake: 7.46 ± 0.03 and 7.40 ± 0.01 and decreased to 7.30 ± 0.07 and 7.21 ± 0.06 after 15 minutes of exercise for NaHCo3 and NaCl respectively. Peak power measurements also showed a comparative increase in bicarbonate subjects (11.5 ± 5% and 1.8 ± 9.5% for NaHCo3 and NaCl respectively) . This clearly indicates that bicarbonate ingestion has a noted positive effect for prolonged intermittent cycling. [Price (2003) ]

A more recent study by Guilherme (2006) focused on the ergogenic effects of bicarbonate ingestion on high intensity sports such as judo which requires brief but intense bouts. The researchers hypothesized that the delayed on set of fatigue due to bicarbonate intake would considerably improve performance in judo. This double blind placebo study involved nine judokas. The subjects performed three series of special judo tests on two different days after either bicarbonate (0.3 g kg-1 ) or placebo ingestion in the form of gelatinous capsules 2 hours prior to the bouts. A 5-minute recovery time was allowed between the series of tests and during this period blood samples were taken from the subjects for lactate analysis. Construction of an ANOVA table revealed considerable performance boost and changes in lactate levels lactate (p< 0,05). The higher level of blood lactate following the intake of bicarbonate clearly indicates an increase in glycolytic pathway activity in the test subjects compared to the placebo subjects. The authors of this research therefore conclude that sodium bicarbonate ingestion has a clear positive effect on performance for the short but high intense judo workouts.

Another recent joint study by the 'English Institute of Sport' and the 'Australian institute of Sport' assessed the effects of bicarbonate use among elite male swimmers. This research by Michael (2007) is a randomized; double blinded, and counterbalanced study involving nine elite swimmers. The swimmers participated in an effort intense 200m freestyle race on three different occasions as control, experimental or placebo subjects. The subjects ingested 300 or CaCO3, 200 body mass as placebo in the form of gelatin capsules 60 to 90 minutes prior to the trials. The average performance times for the control, placebo and the bicarbonate trials were 1:53.7 ± 3.8 s, 1:54.0 ± 3.6 s and 1:52.2 ± 4.7s in that order. It was also observed that the PH and bicarbonate levels were significantly higher among bicarbonate-ingested subjects in the pre-race tests in comparison to the placebo and the control groups (P<.05). Similarly, the post race blood lactate levels were significantly higher in the bicarbonate group compared to the other two groups (17.5 ± 2.6 vs. 15.1 ± 2.0 and 13.8 ± 2.7 respectively; P<.05). This study also suggests greater glicolytic activity among the bicarbonate subjects. Thus it is clear that bicarbonate ingested elite… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Bicarbonate Loading.  (2009, April 3).  Retrieved October 29, 2020, from

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"Bicarbonate Loading."  3 April 2009.  Web.  29 October 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Bicarbonate Loading."  April 3, 2009.  Accessed October 29, 2020.