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Could Baking Soda Help With Weight Loss?

The most important factor in successful weight loss is creating a calorie deficit – to eat less calories than you burn off each day. That way your fat cells will give up their stored energy to make up the difference.

But there are also a number of nutrients that will help you along the way too.

If you’re wanting to lose inches, tone up your abs or develop a healthier physique that boosts your confidence then planning an effective diet should be your number one priority.

Could baking soda be one of these key nutrients? And should it be your go-to weight loss supplement?

In this article, we take a look. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What is baking soda?
  • Does it improve exercise performance?
  • Sodium bicarbonate and weight loss – the research
  • Are there any side effects?

What is Baking Soda?

Baking soda is otherwise know as sodium bicarbonate and has the chemical formula NaHCO3.

It’s a fine, white powder that is a highly alkaline compound made up of both sodium and bicarbonate ions.

Otherwise know as sodium bicarb, bicarbonate of soda or just bicarb, baking soda is used in everything from baking to cleaning. It is used most commonly as a base in recipes requiring leavening – a foaming reaction that causes rising.

It is a household, cupboard favorite, cheap and readily available.

Many use it to treat heartburn, relieve insect bites and reduce symptoms of skin irritation too. It is a component part of some toothpastes and some use it as a deodorant as well.


A wooden spoon full of baking soda on a wooden board. A slice of lemon in the background

Could Baking Soda Improve Exercise Performance?

One of the limiting factors in high-intensity exercise is acidosis.

What’s that?

You’re 30 seconds into a bike sprint and your legs feel heavy. They’re burning and you feel like you’re going to throw up from the acidity. That’s acidosis.

And it comes from the build up of hydrogen ions in your blood during intense physical activity. As hydrogen accumulates, it inhibits your muscles from contracting. Your force output goes down, as does your strength, speed and workload.

As an athlete, it’s your worst enemy.

Baking soda might reduce acidoisis

Sodium bicarbonate has been found to grab hydrogen by the collar and throw it straight into your liver – much like the naught kid getting put in detention.

That way, your muscles can continue to contract without acidity build up and fatigue. This process is called buffering and ultimately stops you feeling ‘the burn’ of intense training.

And there a few studies that back this up to. For example, a study published in PLoS [1] found that when a group of cyclists were given 0.3 g per kilogram of body weight sodium bicarbonate, their endurance improved during a 30 minute bike test plus exhaustion protocol.

And although the increase wasn’t drastic, it did have a positive effect.

Not all studies see benefits though

Combining glucose and baking soda before 15 10 second bike sprints didn’t improve exercise performance in a group of 9 trained men [2], and similar results were reported during running to exhaustion in a group of 7 male runners too [3].

It seems that whilst baking soda has the potential to improve performance, it doesn’t always deliver.


Blonde-haired young female athlete cycling on a sprint bike

Does Baking Soda Boost Weight Loss?

The volume of research linking baking soda to weight loss is far lower than exercise performance. And for that reason there aren’t as many studies to draw upon.

Here are the main ones you need to know about:

Study #1: [4]

In this study from world renowned nutrition specialist Asker Jeukendrup and his team of colleagues, 8 volunteers completed two metabolism tests under strict lab conditions – each one was 7 days apart.

Before each test, the volunteers were given either a drink containing baking soda (17 mg per kilogram) or a placebo that also contained sodium salts.

After analysis, both supplements increased energy expenditure by 9.9% which isn’t that bad an increase. However, when energy expenditure was measured over a more practical 24-hour period, fat oxidation had only increased by 0.5%

The Result: Baking soda did increase metabolism, but only by 0.5% over a 24-hour period.

Study #2: [5]

In this study, published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Science, 7 men who regularly participated in endurance training were given a dose (0.3 g per kilogram of body weight) of sodium bicarbonate 2 hours before taking part in a 30-minute cycling test.

Blood levels of HCO3 were higher and levels of hydrogen were lower, however it didn’t improve exercise performance. 

But what happened to their metabolism and fat burning?

In short, nothing. There was no change in fat oxidation at all, showing that in this case, baking soda did not help with fat loss. 

The Result: Baking soda didn’t increase exercise performance or fat burning.

Study #3: [6]

In the aptly named Metabolism, supplementing 5 g per day in a group of 10 obese females failed to help with weight loss.

And that was over a 4-week period too.

The Result: Even in obese participants, 5 g of baking soda failed to cause weight loss.


A lady wearing red sportswear doing press-ups on the grass outside

Key Point: There are no studies showing baking soda will boost fat loss or increase metabolism.


Are There Any Side Effects?

Small or moderate doses of baking soda should be pretty well tolerated. After all, it’s a common household baking ingredient.

Here are some of the side effects you might suffer from though. And if you do, it’s important that you stop using it right away and consult your health professional.

  • Nausea, vomiting and stomach upset
  • Changes to your appetite
  • Going to the toilet more than usual
  • Irritability, mood changes or nervousness

High doses could cause metabolic alkalosis

The problems start though when you take doses that are too large for your kidneys to remove any excess amounts from your blood.

If you take high doses you could invoke metabolic alkalosis which is when your blood pH turns too alkaline. This can be especially dangerous and can lead to hypo-ventilation, low blood calcium levels and even lead to death.


Summary

Baking soda is the salt-like product of sodium and bicarbonate ions. It is used in everything from baking to cleaning and everything in-between.

Over the last few years, it has been used more and more by endurance athletes who want to limit the effects of muscle acidosis so they can work harder, for longer.

And whilst the research might not be conclusive, it may help in certain situations, and for certain individuals when it comes to exercise performance.

There is no evidence though that baking soda will help with weight loss. Not one clinical trial has shown any positive effects.


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References

  1. Egger, F et al. Effects of Sodium Bicarbonate on High-Intensity Endurance Performance in Cyclists: A Double-Blind, Randomized Cross-Over Trial. PLoS ONE. 2014; 9(12): e114729
  2. Price, MJ et al. The effects of combined glucose-electrolyte and sodium bicarbonate ingestion on prolonged intermittent exercise performance. J Sports Sci. 2012; 30(10): 975-83
  3. Potteiger, JA et al. The effects of buffer ingestion on metabolic factors related to distance running performance. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1996;72(4):365-71
  4. Smith, GI et al. Sodium acetate induces a metabolic alkalosis but not the increase in fatty acid oxidation observed following bicarbonate ingestion in humans. J Nutr. 2007; 137(7):  1750-6
  5. Stephens, TJ et al. Effect of sodium bicarbonate on muscle metabolism during intense endurance cycling. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002; 34(4): 614-21
  6. Gougeon-Reyburn, R et al. Effects of sodium bicarbonate on nitrogen metabolism and ketone bodies during very low energy protein diets in obese subjects. Metabolism. 1989; 38(12): 1222-30


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