Muscle Burning: Reduce with Baking Soda?

By [,_M.D. Gabe Mirkin, M.D.]

Sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda, is used as a medication to neutralize stomach acid in ulcer patients and as a home remedy for stomach distress. Now researchers in Greece have shown that it may neutralize the acid in muscles during intense exercise and helps athletes to exercise longer (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, October 2006).

If you run or cycle as hard as you can, you start to breathe hard, and suddenly your leg muscles start to burn because your muscles have become acidic. It’s the burning in your muscles that forces you to slow down. Muscles get the energy to move your body from the food that you eat. Carbohydrates are broken down step by step in a chain of reactions to release energy for your muscles. Each step requires oxygen. If you have enough oxygen, the carbohydrates are eventually broken down to carbon dioxide and water that you can blow off from your lungs. However, if you can’t get all the oxygen that you need, the series of reactions stops and lactic acid accumulates in your muscles and spills over into your bloodstream. The acidity in muscles caused by the accumulation of lactic acid is what makes your muscles burn.

When acid is exposed to an alkaline or base, it combines with it to neutralize the acid and form water. What would happen when an athlete takes the base, sodium bicarbonate, before he competes? He would be able to exercise longer if the bicarbonate got into the muscle and neutralized the burning caused by the acid. The authors of this study showed that higher doses of sodium bicarbonate were more effective in preventing burning. This exercise aid is still experimental, so we will have to wait for further research to see if it really works. Subscribe to my FREE weekly newsletter on fitness, health, and nutrition, and get my Fitness & Sports eBook free!

Dr. Gabe Mirkin has been a radio talk show host for 25 years and practicing physician for more than 40 years; he is board certified in four specialties, including sports medicine. Read or listen to hundreds of his fitness and health reports — and the FREE Good Food Book — at

Article Source:,_M.D.

Editor's Note:

I have seen other people on the internet mentioning the use of baking soda to prevent DOMS: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, although Dr. Mirkin doesn't make this connection. One person posting to a discussion forum stated:

After reading about using baking soda post workout for many years, I finally gave it a go. Without getting to crazy about the perfect dose, I just downed 1 teaspoon right after my chest/back workout and another 1.5 teaspoon 3 hours after that (wanted to make sure I didn't get cramps/bloating after the first dose). No cramps, bloating or anything…

The day after, I had much less than the usual soreness. In fact, my back felt soo good that I had to go back to my training journal and check that the training was indeed properly conducted (I had used the same poundages as the prior workout, doing the same number of sets and actually one more rep in 2 of the exercises).

The discussion continued with various people suggesting other things such as aspirin, although it has been stated numerous times on various forums that aspirin and other over-the-counter pain killers can inhibit muscle growth.

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