Ask the Expert: Does baking soda boost cycling performance - or just cause explosive diarrhoea?

It makes cakes rise, but will it do the same for your sustainable power? We asked Dr Andy Sparks

Jumbo-Visma riders passing a bottle
(Image credit: Getty)

There are certain nagging questions in cycling that have a tendency to generate conflicting opinions and a confusing array of different views. In this ASK THE EXPERT series from Cycling Weekly’s print edition, we seek to clear up confusion by seeking out the experts best qualified to provide, if not the final word, then at least authoritative advice supported by verified expertise. 

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate (often abbreviated to bicarb), has been investigated for its potential to improve exercise performance since 1930. The early pioneering work at Harvard University observed improved exercise tolerance when ingested orally. In the 1980s, research focused on cycling performance, leading to bicarb’s widespread use in road and track racing. Given that the performance benefits have been widely known for decades, why is there renewed research and media interest in this supplement? 

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