Sometimes this steroid madness gets carried away...not by us of course. A report from the London Times discusses sodium bicarbonate (Arm and Hammer, no less), the kind found in your kitchen.
Bicarb is a basic (as opposed to acid) substance that can neutralize lactic acid in the body. Lactic acid is though to produce the muscle fatigue of exercise. This article looks at new studies documenting the effectiveness of bicarb on exercise and recovery. Reducing the lactic acid load should improve exercise recovery. (I looked at this years ago for kids on the track team, but thought there would be no way kids would actually consume bicarb.)
Performance-enhancing drugs usually bring to mind designer steroids and human growth hormones. Yet some athletes rely on more rudimentary - and legal - means to boost their race times, including using a substance usually tucked away in a kitchen cupboard.
For years, keen runners have sworn that taking a spoonful of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) helps them to keep going for longer. For years, experts doubted that there was anything other than a placebo effect to these claims until they subjected the substance to rigorous examination. Most exercise scientists investigating the trend for “soda-doping” among athletes and gym-goers have shown that it offers significant benefits for endurance and speed.
Like Michael Phelps's tunes, bicarb is not an illegal performance enhancer. Bicarb counts as a dietary supplement. Like pasta.
At Loughborough University, for instance, physiologists reporting in the June issue of the International Journal of Sports Medicine showed that swimmers who took baking soda about one hour before a 200m event were able to shave a significant time off their usual performances. Dr Jonathan Folland, who led the study, says that it is not uncommon for top swimmers to take sodium bicarbonate (another name for the substance) before a competition to give them an edge. Indeed, he showed that of nine swimmers tested, eight recorded their fastest times after ingesting a supplement of the common baking ingredient.
More after the jump
Bicarb can be helpful for a number of sports.
Current research suggests that it is particu-larly helpful in speed-based events, including sprints, football and other fast-moving games, and middle-distance (up to 10km) running, swimming and cycling. “Essentially, sodium bicarbonate is an alkali substance that increases the pH of the blood,” Dr Folland says. “This seems to reduce and offset the acidity produced in the muscles during intense, anaerobic exercise that produces lactic acid most quickly, such as fast running or swimming.”
In Dr Folland's study, swimmers who took the sodium bicarbonate knocked 1.5 seconds off their time for 200m, a difference that may seem insignificant to recreational swimmers but which is substantial at elite level.
Some want bicarb banned? Why? Bicarb is not a controlled substance.
...some experts, including Dr Deitrick, claim that its effects are so powerful that it shouldn't have a place in competitive sport. “It comes down to whether or not the athlete has a competitive advantage by taking an aid,” he says. “And in the case of sodium bicarbonate, I believe the answer is yes. It violates the spirit of fair play by artificially enhancing performance.”
Dr Folland, however, says that baking soda is unlikely to be listed on banned lists. “There are always going to be ethical arguments, but if sports drinks and carbohydrate loading, both of which can enhance performance, are allowed, there should be no issue with sodium bicarbonate,” he says. “If you are serious about exercise and can stomach it, it may help.”
We don't see where a supplement, available to all competitors is an illicit PED. Let's inject some sanity in all this.