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Sodium bicarbonate ingestion and boxing performance

This post will continue the fight sport theme so far this week by giving an overview of a piece from this month’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that covers the use of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) as an ergogenic aid during boxing performance (full reference below). As an introduction, the reasoning for using NaHCO3 is to improve blood buffering capacity through an increase in the electrochemical intra/extra cellular gradient facilitating the removal of protons that are thought to inhibit the mechanisms of muscle contraction. In essence, it is thought that supplementing NaHCO3 will allow performance of high intensity exercise for longer.

In this reviewed piece by Siegler & Hirscher, participants consisted of 10 national standard boxers that were all in pre-competition training for upcoming bouts.  They were randomly paired and sparred twice separated by the space of a week and completed their usual pre-fight routines. Participants arrived in their pairs 1.5 hours prior to their bouts and were tested for pre-exercise blood acid-base balance and ingested either 0.3g.kg-3 bodyweight of NaHCO3 or 0.045g.kg-3 bodyweight of a sodium chloride placebo. Sparring consisted of 4 3minute rounds each separated by 1 minute seated recovery.

As expected, an elevated blood buffering capacity was seen prior to the bout as a result of NaHCO3 ingestion and this was maintained throughout the four rounds of boxing. The main point of interest flagged was the significantly greater punch efficacy seen in the NaHCO3 group. The conclusion is made that the use of NaHCO3 as an ergogenic aid may improve boxing performance over 4 rounds and that future research into use over longer bouts may have wider implications on boxing perfomance.

Siegler, J.C. & Hirscher, K. (2010). Sodium bicarbonate ingestion and boxing performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24(1) pp. 103-108.

Neil Welch

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