There are hundreds of sports drinks on the market claiming to increase you athletic performance.  For example, Gatorade tells you that you can be like Mike if you drink their drink.  Most of these claims fall flat, but adding a common kitchen item might not.

Scientists at the National Taiwan College of Physical Education conducted a small study to test whether a tiny amount of sodium bicarbonate — more commonly known as baking soda — helped tennis players do more than just take the smell out of their shoes. The study that was published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that adding sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) helped to prevent fatigue in tennis players.

Another study from Loughborough University gave baking soda to nine swimmers, finding that eight of them reduced their time in a 200 meter race by an average of 1.5 seconds.  “At the last Olympics, the top four swimmers in the men’s 200 meter freestyle were separated by just 1.4 seconds,” lead researcher Jonathan Folland said. “So, in theory, it could be the difference between winning a medal and not.

Are there side effects?

The most common side effects associated with taking baking soda are indigestion and diarrhea, which could really hinder your performance.

How does it work and should you take baking soda before you exercise?

Taking baking soda increases your pH in your body making it more alkaline, this is responsible for the increase in athletic performance that some experience.  Keeping your body at a pH between 7.35 and 7.45 is ideal, but most of us fall much below that making our bodies more acidic.  There are better ways to lower your acidity than taking baking soda.  That being said, if you are an elite athlete competing in an event you may want to consider trying baking soda, but don’t try it on race day for the first time.

For more information about how we treat sports injuries in our office check out our sports injury page.