Biochemistry of Buffering Capacity and Ingestion of Buffers in Exercise and Athletic Performance

Saunders, Bryan and Artioli, Guilherme G. and Dolan, Eimear and Jones, Rebecca and Matthews, Joseph J. and Sale, Craig (2020) Biochemistry of Buffering Capacity and Ingestion of Buffers in Exercise and Athletic Performance. In: The Routledge Handbook on Biochemistry of Exercise. Routledge. ISBN 9780367223830


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Muscle fatigue is defined as the loss in force of power production in response to a muscle contraction and, during exercise, this results in the inability to sustain exercise at a given intensity. Although exercise-induced muscle fatigue is a complex and multifactorial phenomenon, it is accepted that hydrogen cation (H+) accumulation in skeletal muscle during intense exercise, which causes a reduction in the intramuscular pH, disrupts muscle energetics and muscle contraction and is a major cause of peripheral fatigue. The resultant increase in H+ within the skeletal muscle can negatively impact performance, particularly in those high-intensity events lasting between 1 and 10 min. The body has several intracellular and extracellular buffering systems that maintain pH homeostasis, although these may be exceeded during exercise. Nutritional interventions that might increase intracellular or extracellular buffering capacity could delay H+ accumulation and ultimately fatigue. Beta-alanine, sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate and calcium and sodium lactate are all buffering supplements with the capacity to increase intracellular or extracellular buffering capacity. Each of these supplements has been shown to improved exercise capacity and performance on numerous occasions, although several factors may modify their efficacy. The most promising of these are chronic supplementation with beta-alanine (to increase intramuscular buffering via an increase in muscle carnosine content) and acute supplementation with sodium bicarbonate (to increase extracellular buffering via an increase in circulating bicarbonate), which have been shown to be particularly effective for high-intensity exercise lasting 1-10 min in duration.

Item Type: Book Section
28 December 2020Published
Subjects: CAH03 - biological and sport sciences > CAH03-02 - sport and exercise sciences > CAH03-02-01 - sport and exercise sciences
Divisions: Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences > Centre for Life and Sport Sciences (C-LASS)
Depositing User: Joseph Matthews
Date Deposited: 15 Apr 2021 14:39
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 11:36

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