Buffers – passing the acid test!

When we exercise at a high intensity, our body starts to respire anaerobically i.e. without oxygen. Our bodies need to fuel the Krebs cycle by breaking down the high-octane fuel that is carbohydrate. However, the excess fuel is burnt without oxygen in a way that causes the build up of lactic acid.

Buffers like bicarb can essentially “mop up” excess acid, helping us avoid the accumulation that limits performance.

Previous studies have shown that ingesting 0.3g per Kg (so 21g for a 70Kg athlete) before exercise can help improve performance in tests of muscular endurance. A study published in the latest issue of the European journal of Physiology, however, has cast some doubt over how far reaching the effects of bicarb are. A study on highly trained male swimmers showed that performance, and also blood-lactate concentration, were not improved after a 200-m swim trial.

Bicarb can be quite a difficult supplement to take. It’s not the most pleasant-tasting supplement, and the large volumes needed to be ingested for adequate buffering effects make it unpalatable for many athletes. We’d recommend our own beta-alanine buffer – as used by some of the country’s leading athletes!


Ren J, Zhao M, Wang H, Cui C, You L. (2011) “Effects of supplementation with grass carp protein versus peptide on swimming endurance in mice”; Nutrition. Jul-Aug;27(7-8):789-95. Epub 2010 Dec

About Matt Lovell

A sports nutritionist and brand ambassador for Kinetica Sports. Matt also runs his own elite performance based company called Perform and Function.

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