There’s a significant amount of research spanning five decades that shows the performance and recovery benefits of oral sodium bicarbonate supplementation. Unfortunately, there are also significant downsides, including bloating, stomach cramping, and other GI issues. This is why a product like PR Lotion – which delivers bicarb to your muscles through your skin has become a go-to choice for pro, college, and recreational athletes alike. Supplementing transdermally gives you all of the pluses of oral bicarb without the minuses. Now there’s new research to back this up, which is what this article is all about.
In a recently released paper, Dr. John Halliwill, professor and department head of human physiology at the University of Oregon concluded that transdermal sodium bicarbonate delivered via PR Lotion is effectively absorbed into muscle tissue, where it has a beneficial effect on acid/alkali balance.  Specifically, the study showed that when applied to participants’ skin, PR Lotion keeps pH closer to its baseline level. Halliwill suggested that this effect was achieved by the sodium bicarbonate acting as a buffer.
This isn’t the first trial to examine the pH-modulating impact of sodium bicarbonate – numerous other papers have been published over the past 50 years that came to similar conclusions about the potential performance and recovery benefits of oral sodium bicarbonate supplementation. Halliwill found that PR Lotion increases pH both locally and systemically, indicating that the active ingredient (bicarb) does not lose its potency while passing through the skin and into muscle tissue.
Such an effect doesn’t take place in isolation, but rather enables you to train with greater intensity and/or for a longer duration without muscular fatigue limiting either your power production or endurance as it usually would. This isn’t to say that sodium bicarbonate prevents you from ever tiring – just that it should allow most people to go harder for longer than they might be able to without supplementing with PR Lotion.
“This study shows that transdermal application of PR Lotion effectively delivers sodium bicarbonate to the muscle tissue,” said Patrick Dixon, head of applied sports science at Momentous. “A 28 percent rise in acidity can be a rate limiting factor for performance, so the ability of PR Lotion to buffer this increase can help you keep going harder for longer.”
The Oregon study also found that applying sodium bicarbonate to subjects’ skin elevated the level of sodium in their muscles tissue. This indicates that PR Lotion might help improve fluid retention and muscle performance during exercise and could reduce the potential for muscle cramping. When you sweat during exercise, you lose magnesium, potassium, and other electrolytes, but sodium is typically depleted to the greatest degree. Below a certain threshold, this can start to cause or exacerbate muscle spasms and may even decrease the amount of muscle fibers you can recruit and how quickly you can pull them into action.
In turn, this reduces power and strength output, as well as reducing endurance. Electrolyte depletion can also have a detrimental effect on cognition, presenting as slower reaction times, reduced neuromuscular coordination, impaired proprioception and balance, inhibited emotional regulation, and other adverse effects. The ability to keep intramuscular sodium levels above a threshold at which such decrements in physical and mental performance occur can help improve outcomes and the quality of your training sessions, whether you’re focusing on running, riding, swimming, and other endurance activities or those that favor power and strength, such as weightlifting, plyometrics, and sports like basketball, football, and rugby.
“Most people have felt the effects of what’s commonly known as lactic acid buildup and had to slow down because of it,” Dixon said. “This paper suggests that PR Lotion is one of the things that can help you maintain your desired pace or power output over a longer period of time. The fact that it also increases sodium retention makes it less likely that you’ll experience muscle cramping.”
Here is a brief summary of the Oregon study’s results:
- Intramuscular pH exhibited approximately a 28 percent reduction in acidity throughout the 120-minute application of PR Lotion
- Serum pH exhibited approximately a 9 percent reduction in acidity throughout the 120-minute application of PR Lotion
- Serum [Na+] exhibited an average increase of 10.37 percent across the 120-minute application of PR Lotion
As we noted in a previous blog post, another recent study conducted by Dr. Robert Huggins (who you can hear extrapolate on his team’s findings in this new episode of the Momentous Podcast) at the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute (KSI), found that supplementing with PR Lotion might keep your heart rate lower during exposure to heat and humidity and keep your core body temperature lower by helping you retain fluids. For an athlete weighing 80kg (176 pounds), this study demonstrated that they may retain up to 0.4 liters more water using PR Lotion than not, allowing them to continue functioning at a high level physiologically and neurologically for a greater period of time, even when in an extreme environment where they might not have ready access to water to replenish their fluid levels.
This is significant because even small increases in body temperature can inhibit both cognitive and physical metrics, and preserving more fluid reduces your risk of heat stroke and other adverse conditions related to high temperatures. Previous research by KSI has found that heat stroke is the leading cause of athlete hospitalizations during summer months, with the number of incidents peaking in August. PR Lotion has also been shown to significantly improve recovery and decrease next-day soreness.
The Oregon and UConn studies have broken new ground and demonstrate the efficacy of transdermal sodium bicarbonate supplementation via PR Lotion, which eliminates the GI issues associated with oral bicarb intake. So whether you’re an athlete looking to improve your endurance, a warfighter or first responder needing to stay hydrated when you’re in the field without adequate access to fluids, or a coach or commander looking to safeguard the health and safety of your people, PR Lotion can become an integral part of your high-performance routine.
“Increasing your body’s buffering capacity with a supplement like PR Lotion allows you to get more work done today, to come back feeling better tomorrow, and to stack more high quality efforts together,” Dixon said. “This leads to greater long-term improvements and makes performance breakthroughs more likely.”
 John Halliwill, “Effectiveness of Transcutaneous Delivery by Proprietary Cream for Human Performance,” University of Oregon Department of Human Physiology, 2021.