Dear Mark: Fitness (and Keto) Benefits of Baking Soda

Dear_Mark_Inline_PhotoFor this week’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering a couple questions from the comment section of last week’s Weekend Link Love. First, what’s the effective dose of baking soda used in the autoimmune study? And is it safe for general use in doses of 1 tsp a day? In addition to the dose, I also discuss the many benefits of baking soda shown in the literature. Second, do sodium biocarbonate containing mineral waters offer the same benefits?

Let’s find out:

Mark, I did not catch the daily dose on that baking soda study–any way to find that out? Think there’s any harm in drinking a tsp/day of the aluminum-free stuff?

The human dose was 2 grams of baking soda, or a little under 1/2 teaspoon.

Baking soda is legit. The autoimmune connection is a more recent finding, because up until now the vast majority of scientific literature has focused on baking soda as an ergogenic aid in physical performance.

It can hit your gut pretty hard and clear things out. Some years back, I read a few studies about baking soda as an ergogenic aid for training. A cheap supplement that everyone has in their kitchen that actually works as advertised? Great! I usually just go for these types of things. Little seems to bother me. So I drank a teaspoon in some water about half hour before my workout. It was gross, very salty and bitter, but I got it down okay.

Just as I’m about to start, I feel my gut rumble and realize I’ll need a rain check on the workout. Luckily, I was training at home that day. Needed that home base.

Still, the benefits are numerous and impressive….

Fitness Performance Benefits of Baking Soda

It increases time to exhaustion. In adults doing 6 weeks of 3x weekly HIIT training on a stationary bike, those who took  baking soda (0.2g/kg bodyweight for first three weeks, 0.1g/kg for last three) increased time to exhaustion by 34% compared to 10% in the placebo group. They also increased lean mass and total work output.

It improves maximal running performance during prolonged exercise.

It suppresses endorphin release during exercise. If this sounds negative, hold on. Training raises acidity. It’s the boost to blood acidity that triggers the release of endorphins, which are at least partially responsible for the feeling of “runner’s high.” That runner’s high is a hack your body throws together to get you to keep pushing through the pain and maintain your effort. What baking soda does is suppress the acidosis and obviate the need for endorphins in the first place.

It improves recovery by reducing post-exercise acidosis. After an exhaustive training session, acidosis is high. Suppressing that acidosis with 0.3 g/kg bodyweight of baking soda speeds up recovery and increases performance in a subsequent workout.

It improves high intensity cycling capacity.

It helps you hit more reps when doing high volume resistance training. It improves max reps to failure in the back squat, but not bench press (in this study at least). It didn’t help with leg press, either. My guess is that the more demanding and full-body a movement—all out cycling and back squats as opposed to leg presses and bench press, which are comparatively more isolated—the more likely baking soda will help.

It seems to work for anything physical. Heck, even judokas improve their throwing capacity—they can successfully perform more throws in a given amount of time—after taking 0.3 grams/kg bodyweight of baking soda.

Besides a boost in training capacity, power output, and all the other training-related benefits, does baking soda do anything else that’s helpful?

Baking Soda and Ketone Production

It increases ketone production. In one study, patients who’d fasted overnight and then taken baking soda saw their pH and ketone production increase. Another study found that obese women on a protein sparing modified fast (high protein, low-fat, low-carb, low-calorie) who took a teaspoon of baking soda had increased ketone production and reduced acidosis. It should be said that the increase in ketones didn’t augment fat loss in either study.

Chris Masterjohn has an interesting post from last year describing how he boosted mental and physical performance and energy levels by testing his urine on a daily basis, then supplementing with a little baking soda if his urine was too acidic. Before the urine testing and baking soda supplementing, he was having trouble mustering the will to train. After testing and supplementing, he couldn’t wait to hit the gym. That’s definitely a single case study, but it’s very interesting and I suspect the results would apply to others as well.

Baking soda has great potential and a teaspoon per day should be okay. Many of the studies I detailed above use doses of 1-3 teaspoons per day. You might start smaller because the gastrointestinal issues are real. Many of the studies showing benefits for physical performance admit that the side effects can be a problem.

How To Deal With Side Effects

Take it in smaller doses throughout the day, rather than all at once. Big doses have a bigger chance of causing gastrointestinal distress. Smaller doses taken more frequently are better tolerated and, according to the literature, about as effective.

Take it away from meals. Reducing acidity can impair digestion.

You might take Chris Masterjohn’s advice and test your urine pH before taking a bunch of baking soda. Make sure you’re acidic enough to actually benefit from it.

Our bodies have ways of suppressing acidosis using the endogenous tools at their disposal, and baking soda is a helpful exogenous tool to take the load off the body.

I wonder if drinking sparkling mineral water would have the same effect as the sodium bicarbonate. Does anyone know?

Mineral water can be a good source of sodium bicarbonate, but it’s less concentrated than taking a half teaspoon or teaspoon of baking soda. One of my favorites—Gerolsteiner—has 1.8 grams of sodium bicarbonate per liter. That’s about a third of a teaspoon if you drink an entire liter bottle.

Definitely helpful. And there are other goodies in mineral water, like the minerals.

The fizzier the water, the more sodium bicarbonate it has.

Thanks for reading and writing, folks. Take care, and be sure to follow up with any additional questions, comments, or input down below!


About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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40 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Fitness (and Keto) Benefits of Baking Soda”

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    1. Yeah, I’m surprised this wasn’t noted in Mark’s response. DO NOT try this with baking POWDER, only baking SODA. Baking powder contains both an alkali (baking SODA, aka sodium bicarbonate aka NaHCO3) and an acid, which neutralize each other to create CO2 gas. You want the alkalizing effect of the NaHCO3. Taking baking powder is pointless since it is self-neutralizing.

  1. Sounds like baking soda taken internally could be much more helpful than externally. My external experiments with baking soda have not been that great. In deodorant it really irritates my skin. Year ago I tried that no-poo thing with my hair where you wash with baking soda in water and then rinse with diluted ACV…that was an even worse experience. But I’m thinking I might just stick to mineral water. Really do enjoy Gerolsteiner when I can find it.

    1. I once “conditioned” my hair with mayo on the advice of a magazine article. Bad idea. I had to rewash it about a dozen times to get rid of the greasiness and residue, besides which it made me smell like tuna salad sandwich. As for baking soda, I’ve used it for years for digestive upsets, but only about a quarter teaspoon in a cup or so of water. I often brush my teeth with it because I can never find toothpaste I’m 100 percent happy with.

      1. Shary, think I tried the mayo thing on my hair back in the 70s. Was horrible!!!! And I would never waste my precious PK mayo on my hair anyway. And yes to brushing your teeth with it…I have done that many times, although now I’m on an activated charcoal kick since it gets my teeth really white.

  2. Towards the end of Dr. Mercola’s interview with with James DiNicolantonio, Dr. DiNicolantonio talked about taking a salt solution 20 minutes prior to workout (1/2 tsp Real Salt, 4 oz water with lemon juice). If my memory is right, the benefits he described sounds remarkably similar to those mentioned in the study regarding baking soda. So is it a case of using either baking soda solution or sodium solution to improve exercise performance, which ever is effective and tolerated?

    1. There was an interview with the author of the recent study from the University of Augusta about baking soda and inflammation on superhumanradio . net, and apparently they used sodium chloride (or some non-baking soda sodium) as their control and only found the affect from baking soda, so apparently it’s not just the sodium. However I’ve also heard multiple interviews with Dr. D and he sites other reasons to take salt prior to a workout, so personally, I take some of both with good results as far as I can tell. Suppversity also has a good write-up on this.

    2. Salt has many important functions. From what I understand your body converts it to sodium bicarbonate to control PH.

  3. What about another side effect? Question : Does taking this amount of sodium bicarbonate cause a rise in blood pressure? From all my reading of the analysis, it isn’t the same as sodium chloride in that respect, but I would like your take on it, Mark. Thanks for the enlightening info as always.

  4. What about another side effect? Question: Does sodium bicarbonate cause a rise in blood pressure? From my reading of the analysis, it isn’t the same as sodium chloride in that respect, but I would still like your take on it, Mark. Thanks for the enlightening info as always.

  5. So, this is my third attempt at getting this printed here, wondering Mark, whether any information has shown that sodium bicarbonate raises blood pressure? Not supposed to, but what do you think? Thanks

  6. How does this work in association with the recommendation to consume Apple Cider Vinegar? Should you use one or the other but not both? Maybe separate consumption of them a specific amount of time, other?

  7. I usually take a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in water in the morning. Would mixing some baking soda in with this provide the same benefits as ACV and BS separately, or would they neutralize each other, rendering one or both ineffective?

    1. The latter. It will also produce a lot of CO2 gas which will probably make you feel bloated and terrible, like can happen after drinking a carbonated beverage too fast.

    2. Probably not a good idea to combine ACV & baking soda… baking soda, followed by vinegar is a tried and true method to unclog drains!

  8. Mark, you forgot one study that showed that women taking sodium bicarbonate during labour can help prevent csections. I’ll link to the article once I find it. Don’t forget about the women folk , Mark.

  9. Man, some of the doses in the studies cited are really high. 0.2-0.3 g/kg works out to 5-7 teaspoons for someone who weighs 150 lbs. Mark said he had pretty severe gastric side effects from ONE teaspoon.

    I wonder how hypocapnia from Wim Hof-style hyperventilation would compare to baking soda in a side-by-side study. At least you wouldn’t have to worry about sh*tting your pants!

  10. Might be of interest –

    FTL: The shifting landscape, he says, is likely due to increased conversion of some of the proinflammatory cells to anti-inflammatory ones coupled with actual production of more anti-inflammatory macrophages. The scientists also saw a shift in other immune cell types, like more regulatory T cells, which generally drive down the immune response and help keep the immune system from attacking our own tissues. That anti-inflammatory shift was sustained for at least four hours in humans and three days in rats.

  11. Gerolsteiner gave me stomach problems. Is there a reason why? I do have IBS.

    1. Just a small sprinkle in a bottle of water helps stomach problems don’t use 1 teaspoon drink plenty of water.

  12. I’ve lost access to Mark’s private Facebook group. Not sure if this was done intentionally (maybe they didn’t like my posts?) or if it was by mistake. I’ve tried to get back on but no luck. Anyone had experience with this?

    1. James, thanks for writing. It appears to have been a mistake. One of the moderators just reinstated you, and you should have normal access again. Best – M

  13. Mark, thanks for a thorough (no surprise there) response and for the Masterjohn link–interesting! Happen to have some pH strips from Orawellness, so I might give it a try.

  14. One simple hack is Alkaseltzer Gold. This has both sodium and potassium bicarbonate in the formulation. I get enough sodium but not enough potassuim so this is my go to alkalizer. Make sure it’s Gold like the metal and not Cold for the flu.

  15. Taste is a great indicator of need, and can indicate when you have had enough bi-carb.
    Everybody is different-experimentation is required to fit your specific needs. Try 1/8 tsp in 8 oz clean water. Hows it taste? Slippery clean or flat? try taste testing often-it changes throughout the day according to needs. Cheers!

  16. For those tracking their sodium intake, be aware that 1 tsp baking soda contains 1,200mg of sodium, which is about half the “recommended” daily intake.

    Eating a semi-keto diet I often have trouble getting anywhere near that target so it wouldn’t bother me, in fact it would help, but some might not want to have such a large addition.

    Mark: the recent website speed increase has been very welcome, but could you have your developer make the text in this comment input box darker? The light text makes the user experience horrible.

  17. Hi, as a child if we overate, my mother would mix about 1/2 tsp of baking sofa in a glass of water. We were told to take small sips over a period of time… 30 minutes? I think. Still use this to help with tummy upset.

  18. Toothpaste you can swallow! So much fluoride ingested as a kid…

  19. I’ve used baking soda mixed with water numerous times to cure a UTI. It reduces the acidity of your urine and seems to clear it up straight away. I also brush my teeth with it every day, have done for 35 years, never had a cavity.

  20. Thanks for discussing what’s the effective dose of baking soda should be used to autoimmune study. It also loves to read the various benefits of baking soda and about the sodium bicarbonate contains mineral waters have the same benefit.

  21. Great article. Did your initial gut rumbling reaction persist? or was it a one time thing?

  22. I take 1 teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate in sparkling water (more palatable) to stop night leg cramps and it works a treat.

  23. Thank you so much for this article. I just knew that Baking Soda increases time to exhaustion. I will surely add this to my intake.

  24. I never thought baking soda can play a role in ketogenic diet. This article is an eye-opener. It’s very informative and comprehensively written. Thank you sharing this with us.

  25. My husband has gout and kidney stones. Sodium bicarbonate (a teaspoon a day) lowers his blood acidity and has been useful in preventing the precipitation of uric acid.

  26. Iron deficiency, excessive acid and even dehydration in the body can cause the growth of kidney stones. The baking soda water helps alkalise the urine to dissolve the uric acid, which in turn helps to remove kidney stones, further restoring the pH levels of the body.