Sodium bicarbonate supplementation is gaining a lot of attention lately. In this interview the nutritionist of Israel – Premier Tech tells us all about how the team uses this supplement and what he thinks are the benefits and points of attention when using sodium bicarbonate supplements.
Gabriel Martins (MSc) is a Portuguese nutritionist at Israel – Premier Tech cycling team. His passion for cycling and endurance sports has led him to create the podcast Fuel the Pedal where he interviews researchers in the field of sports nutrition. During the last 3 seasons at Israel – Premier Tech, he has been supporting riders achieve their body composition goals, design effective fuelling strategies and implement supplementation programs to ensure the rider’s health and optimal recovery.
1. For whom is sodium bicarbonate interesting to use?
“Most cyclists, regardless of their specialty can benefit from sodium bicarbonate supplementation. Sodium bicarbonate becomes important during short, high-intensity bursts which release protons (H+) which cause acidification in the muscles. Time-trial specialists and puncheurs who are often more involved in such efforts are the ones who might benefit the most from sodium bicarbonate supplementation.”
2. For which type of races can sodium bicarbonate be used?
“I would say that the length of the race is not a decisive factor since both shorter and longer races can have decisive high intensity moments or shorter explosive climbs towards the end. Therefore, the race profile and the team objectives might be a more important factor when considering sodium bicarbonate supplementation. However, when using sodium bicarbonate during multi-day events, its use needs to be carefully considered and periodized due to the associated fluid retention post sodium bicarbonate supplementation due to the very high sodium ingested when taking sodium bicarbonate.”
“For the dose we usually aim for 0.3 mg/kg of body weight. In terms of number of capsules, if we’re supplementing a 60kg cyclists we would have to use 18g of sodium bicarbonate which would require 15 capsules.” – Gabriel Martin, nutritionist of Israel – Premier Tech
3. How do you take sodium bicarbonate?
“In an acute protocol we will often take it 90 to 120 minutes before the event, along with a high carbohydrate meal to minimize gastrointestinal problems. If we’re aiming to supplementing it during a race, we would split this into 3 or 4 doses each hour in order to peak in the key moment where we’re expecting the rider to attack.
For the dose we usually aim for 0.3 mg/kg of body weight. In terms of number of capsules, if we’re supplementing a 60kg cyclists we would have to use 18g of sodium bicarbonate which would require 15 capsules. Heavier cyclists would require higher doses.”
4. How do the riders take the capsules with them during a training or race?
“The capsules are often prepared in advance and wrapped in individual packages containing the split doses calculated for their body weight. Riders will then have instruction about at which timepoints they should take the capsules. Each respective split dose of sodium bicarbonate is taken with a lot of fluid all at once during the ride.”
5. Does Sodium bicarbonate have side effects?
“Sodium bicarbonate supplementation can be accompanied by gastrointestinal complaints, due to the excessive intake of salt (sodium). These complaints can be reduced by spreading the sodium bicarbonate consumption over a longer period before the training or competition.
It might also be helpful to try it in training beforehand to at least familiarize the cyclist with that feeling. The symptoms usually wear off quickly after one hour.”
“The researched effects of sodium bicarbonate in cycling performance appear to be clear. The convenience of the forms available and the gastro-intestinal side-effects associated with it still constitute barriers to its delivery.” – Gabriel Martin, nutritionist of Israel – Premier Tech
6. Do you think sodium bicarbonate can really make a difference?
“The total body of evidence accumulated of the last decades show that oral consumption of sodium bicarbonate in high doses can improve performance in short, high-intensity exercise lasting 30 seconds to 5 minutes. Furthermore, oral consumption of sodium bicarbonate after a short, high-intensity effort has also been shown to speed up restoration of the acid balance in the body. This, in turn, can improve performance during the next high-intensity effort, which is of extreme relevance in cycling.
The researched effects of sodium bicarbonate in cycling performance appear to be clear. The convenience of the forms available and the gastro-intestinal side-effects associated with it still constitute barriers to its delivery.”