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Potential strategy could help prevent fatigue and lower perceived exertion when exercising in the heat

Rockville, Md. (December 22, 2021)—Researchers find in a new study that drinking a solution of sodium bicarbonate and water prior to exercising in heat improved outcomes. The study is published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, and was chosen as an APSselect article for December.

Exercising in the heat can lead to hyperventilation, decreased performance and risk of heatstroke. In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers from the Prefectural University of Hiroshima, Japan, investigated whether drinking a sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) beverage could mitigate the effects of exercising in the heat.

The team recruited 11 healthy men for a crossover-style study. Participants each completed two experimental sessions consisting of one trial and one control. Each session was separated by at least three days and conducted in an environmental chamber set to 95 degrees F.

The sodium bicarbonate solution was 300 mg per kilogram body weight mixed with 4.5 mL of mineral water per kilogram body weight. The control solution was a comparable amount of saline (salt water). Both beverages included grape syrup and aspartame to blind participants to their contents. Participants consumed the beverages 90 minutes before beginning to exercise.

The sodium bicarbonate trials showed a number of improved metrics. Participants showed reduced measures of hyperventilation, improved ratios of carbon dioxide in the blood and greater blood flow in the brain. Perhaps most telling, the participants reported lower perceived exertion.

“Sodium bicarbonate ingestion may be a beneficial strategy to mitigate the risk of heatstroke and decreased exercise performance in the heat,” researchers wrote.

Read the full article, “Sodium bicarbonate ingestion mitigates the heat-induced hyperventilation and reduction in cerebral blood velocity during exercise in the heat,” published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. It is highlighted as one of this month’s “best of the best” as part of the American Physiological Society’s APSselect program. Read all of this month’s selected research articles.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To schedule an interview with a member of the research team, please contact APS Media Relations or call 301.634.7314. Find more research highlights in our Newsroom.

Physiology is a broad area of scientific inquiry that focuses on how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. The American Physiological Society connects a global, multidisciplinary community of more than 10,000 biomedical scientists and educators as part of its mission to advance scientific discovery, understand life and improve health. The Society drives collaboration and spotlights scientific discoveries through its 16 scholarly journals and programming that support researchers and educators in their work.

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