Dissecting the Science Behind Sodium Bicarbonate with Adam Mills of Source Endurance

We recently sat down with Adam Mills of Source Endurance to dissect the science behind sodium bicarbonate and how Topical Edge works to buffer lactic acid. Source Endurance coaching offers performance testing and utilizes cutting edge research for endurance sports including all cycling disciplines, multi-sport and more.

Can you describe the basic process of lactic acid production in the muscles during vigorous activity (cycling, running, etc.)?

Muscle acidosis, along with nervous fatigue combine to provide a very powerful negative feedback loop which hinders muscle contractibility. The “burn” you feel in a muscle is the result of elevated acidity, which hinders fiber contraction and impairs metabolic enzymes. Many studies support the theory that buffering the acid with specific training and something simple like sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) diminishes the negative feedback loop and increases performance. It makes sense that if you can buffer the acid with specific training and something simple like sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), that negative feedback loop diminishes and performance will increase. Actually, there’s lots of studies out there to support this theory.

Do you believe sodium bicarbonate delivered in a topical form can be effective? Why?

Historically… absolutely not! The skin does a fantastic job of keeping things out of the body by forming a protective barrier and is probably why we’ve come to evolve such a great organ! The key innovation of Topical EDGE is it’s unique ability to cross this barrier. They’ve found a way around the gastro-intestinal system and can deliver sodium bicarbonate directly to the blood and affected muscle via the skin. Previously, studies with sodium bicarbonate have involved consuming it. Sounds great and all, except ingesting an effective dose usually results in a horribly upset stomach and frequent trips to the bathroom.

Why do think this delivery method hasn't been tried before?

it’s incredibly difficult to transport anything across the skin. For the first time, Topical Edge has refined an effective delivery system.

Have any of your clients had an experience with Topical Edge that could be relatable to the consumer?

Of course! We’ve had a few clients that have taken advantage of the free sample and they all, anecdotally, report having better rides and better recovery.  

How do you normally use Topical Edge?

I’ve had the luxury of working directly with the people behind Topical Edge so I haven’t really had to experiment too much. It’s easy. Put it on 30-45 minutes before you hit it. Then HIT IT!

How can athletes get the most out of Topical Edge?

The two best practical applications for Topical Edge are hard workouts and recovery. First, think about how it works. It’s an acid buffer. That means it’ll help the most when you’re training the hardest. An athlete really needs to produce muscle acidosis (lactic acid) at an unsustainable intensity before something like this will be at its best. Do some high intensity racing like cyclocross, criterium or short track events and you’ll know it’s there. Also, any of workouts with repeated efforts above 100% of anaerobic threshold (LT2) are extreme enough too.

For reference, you see a blood lactate curve image with respect to exercise workload. Generally speaking, anything with Lactate Threshold (LT) of <2.0 (LT1) and you’re not really generating any more acidosis than at rest. Certainly not enough to cause fatigue. Once you’re above 2.0mmol/L, that’s when fatigue starts, but you’re still not in the realm where fatigue rapidly accumulates. That comes at the 4.0mmol/L and above. At that level you’re generating lots of lactic acid, it’s very intense and it’s not really a sustainable output. That’s where you use Topical Edge.

As a caveat here…if you don’t know where these numbers are for you, or their corresponding training zones, consult a professional coach with formal training in exercise physiology. LT1 and LT2 track differently and uniquely among athletes. What you think is “hard” may not be from a metabolic standpoint.

The other practical application is to use Topical Edge for recovery purposes. That’s as simple as reapplying it after you've cleaned up following your workout. It helps to reduce soreness from that brutally intense workout you just did and get you back on the road for another round the next day.

Learn more about Adam and Source Endurance

More to discover...