If you’re serious about your training, you’re always looking to improve your workouts and make gains (which is probably why you’re visiting STACK.com in the first place). Well, there may be an easy way to enhance your training. And it’s sitting in your kitchen cupboard.
Baking soda, technically known as sodium bicarbonate, is a common ingredient in many of your favorite desserts. And a recent study performed at Coventry University in England found that it may have some unexpected performance benefits.
For the study, eight experienced weightlifters performed two workouts of three max rep sets of Squats and Bench Presses using 80 percent of their one-rep max. The researchers found that when the lifters consumed a mixture of baking soda (.3g/kg of body weight) and artificially sweetened water 60 minutes before their workouts, they were able to perform an average of six additional Squat reps over the three sets. They did not find any significant improvements on the Bench Press.
At this point, the mechanism that caused the improvement is unclear. However, it’s apparent that any potential performance benefits taper off after the first exercise.
What does this mean for you? Drinking baking soda and water an hour before your workout may improve your performance on the first exercise, particularly if it’s performed at a high intensity. This is typically one of the most important exercises of your workout, and performing a few additional reps will increase the challenge to your muscles and stimulate strength and size gains.
However, there are some limitations to this strategy. Three of the eight subjects experienced stomach issues, and no one wants to work out with an upset stomach. Also, the study assessed effects only on max rep sets, which if performed too frequently, may lead to overtraining. That’s not to say it won’t improve other types of training, but more research is needed.
Is baking soda a key to maximizing your potential? No. But it might help you get the most out of the most critical exercise in your workout.
Duncan, M., Weldon, A., Price, M. (2003). “The effect of sodium bicarbonate ingestion on back squat and bench press exercise to failure.” The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.