The more acid we make, the greater our bicarbonate needs. As we will see next, athletes produce much more acid than average, because they consume more protein and contract their muscles intensely, which generates lactic acid.
Likewise, a dieter generates a lot of acid that must be neutralized in order to optimize fat loss.
Although baking soda supplementation is not essential for life, it can help you stay healthier, be stronger and more enduring, build more muscle and lose more fat.
Acidic blood deteriorates physical performance. This acid is felt by a muscle burn induced by the generation of lactic acid during intense muscle contraction. The more intense the effort, the more the muscles produce lactic acid, which suffocates them and therefore causes them to lose strength: this is muscle fatigue.
Our enemy in lactic acid is the acid, not the lactate part. It is the acid which decreases the strength of the muscles while the lactate part provides energy which increases endurance. When bicarbonate meets lactic acid in the blood, it neutralizes it and lactate production increases. The performance improves, because muscle fatigue will be less thanks to a stabilization of the pH.
Research shows that the higher the rise in bicarbonate in the blood following supplementation, the more performance improves (1). Ninety minutes before a set of thighs on a weight machine, men were given 300 mg of baking soda per pound of body weight; their strength increased by 8% and their exertion intensity by 6.5%. Intense performance as well as endurance can be improved with pH regulators.
The more weight you have to lose when you diet, the more weight you have to lose with pH regulation. In fact, the blood of an overweight person is naturally more acidic than that of a person of "normal" weight.
Acidic blood protects fat mass while an alkaline environment promotes fat loss. The problem is that calorie restriction mechanically lowers blood pH. Indeed, the energy deficiency causes a mobilization of fats from adipose tissue in the form of fatty acids which circulate in the blood. But they are not the only ones that make the blood acidic.
During a diet, the blood acidifies due to several upheavals:
• The massive release of (fatty) acids from adipose tissue;
• High protein diets, if they are the most effective, generate acid in the blood;
• Muscle catabolism intensifies, generating the arrival of even more amino acids;
• Reducing carbohydrate intake accentuates these phenomena;
• The level of bicarbonate decreases;
• The practice of cardio or weight training to increase calorie expenditure produces lactic acid.
Through these phenomena of pH drop, we find a mechanism for regulating the regime's self-control. Calorie restriction increases the acidity of the blood, which in turn reduces the effectiveness of the diet.
If our diet tends to be deficient in bicarbonate precursors, it is even worse on a diet, as calorie restriction reduces the level of body bicarbonate as our needs increase. In order to optimize fat loss, it is important to neutralize this excess acid through the regular use of potassium bicarbonate.
The bicarbonate neutralizes the acid and rebalances the blood pH, which produces three effects favorable to the loss of fat:
• It accelerates the mobilization of fats, a more alkaline environment stimulates the production of hormones favorable to fat loss. Oral intake of 2.5 g of bicarbonate three times a day increases the natural secretion of growth hormone (an anabolic hormone that causes fat loss) by 15%.
• It increases the use of fat as a source of energy as well as calorie expenditure. In both men and women, taking 160 mg of baking soda per pound of body weight once increases calorie waste by 10% and fat oxidation by 18% for 3 hours.
• It inhibits muscle and bone catabolism. The simple fact of raising the blood pH induces a redistribution of lean mass to the detriment of fat mass. In people in a fasting period, taking 12 g of bicarbonate saves 1 kg of muscle in 15 days.
For 3 weeks, men and women followed a diet providing only 400 calories per day. In the first week, some received 4 to 6 g of potassium bicarbonate, others a placebo.
On placebo, the blood became acidic; the pH fell from 7.42 to 7.38, the blood level of bicarbonate fell by 8.5%. These alterations were abolished by the bicarbonate. This resulted in less loss of calcium, potassium, and muscle protein.
Muscle wasting was halved. Instead of destroying muscle, the body took more energy from fatty tissue, increasing the effectiveness of the diet while reducing the incidence of side effects.
Prevention of kidney stones
About 15% of men and 8% of women suffer from kidney stones, a number that is constantly increasing. Besides a genetic factor, diet plays an important role in the formation of stones. There are three main risk factors in athletes:
• Protein intake is above average;
• Dehydration: not drinking enough for your needs increases the concentration of kidney stone precursors;
• Acidic urine facilitates crystallization of uric acid, which promotes stone formation.
Medical studies have shown that regular potassium bicarbonate supplementation is a great way to reduce stone formation because this buffering agent dissolves the constituent molecules before they even crystallize (5).
The potassium bicarbonate supplementation must be carried out in proportion to the quantities of proteins absorbed, not only to minimize the impact on the kidneys, but also, and especially to optimize the anabolic action.
Proteins are often accused of destroying the kidneys. What is it really ? The more protein you consume, the more acid your kidneys will need to remove. This additional work of the kidneys will have three consequences:
• The kidneys eliminate acid by increasing their production of ammonia. To make this ammonia, the kidney needs glutamine. Our glutamine reserves will therefore be weakened. And if glutamine is not present in sufficient quantity in the blood, the body will draw it from our muscles by accelerating the catabolism there;
• The increase in the level of ammonia is not without consequence either, because this toxic substance will induce general fatigue by a kind of blood asphyxia;
• The more acidic the blood and therefore the urine, the more likely it is to get kidney stones.
It's not so much the proteins that are involved; our distant ancestors ate much more of it than we do, which over the millennia has shaped our genetics.
The solution therefore does not go through a reduction in our protein intake, but through an increase in nutrients acting as acid neutralizers. The absence of alkaline elements opens the door to the deleterious effects of the acid. The diet is unbalanced due to deficiencies in buffering agents such as bicarbonate.