Sodium bicarbonate/alkalinization may reduce muscle mitochondrial damage caused by reactive oxygen species during intense exercise. Such damage can induce post-exercise inflammation and pain, which may be linked to delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. However gastrointestinal side effects limit the use of oral sodium bicarbonate.
PURPOSE: This study evaluated the efficacy of a commercially available, topical transdermal sodium bicarbonate (TSB) lotion (Topical EdgeTM), which is claimed to be delivered through the skin using a novel patent-pending transdermal delivery system for impacting DOMS.
METHODS: 20 trained cyclists (Category 1-3) and professional triathletes participated in this randomized, cross-over, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study. After application of TSB or a placebo, subjects completed a variety of exercise and performance tests varying in duration. On one day subjects completed a series of high-intensity exercises which included a ramped protocol to a rating of perceived exertion (RPE) of 17 out of 20, a 30-sec sprint performance test, and a 5-min time trial with 5 minutes of recovery between tests. On a separate day subjects completed a 1-hr time trial. Subjects completed DOMS questionnaires 24- and 48-hours after exercise sessions. Muscle soreness was rated on a scale of 0-100 where 0 = “no soreness”, 25 = “mild pain”, 50 = “moderate pain”, 75 = “severe pain” and 100 = “the worst pain you can imagine”.
RESULTS: DOMS was reduced following the high-intensity series with TSB compared to placebo. Similar effects were not observed following the 1-hr exercise bout. From the first to second day following the high-intensity exercise series, subjects using TSB experienced a 54% reduction in DOMS versus an increase in DOMS of 34% with placebo (p=0.007).
CONCLUSIONS: Findings from this study suggest that TSB can significantly shorten recovery from DOMS following high-intensity exercise. Findings also support the effectiveness of the transdermal system in delivering sodium bicarbonate topically and may allow athletes to achieve these results while avoiding the side-effects of oral bicarbonate. Furthermore, we believe this study is the first to provide a direct link between sodium bicarbonate use and DOMS in athletes. Additional research is underway to further substantiate these findings.