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Tadej Pogačar’s coach quashes Jumbo-Visma’s claims about bicarbonate’s performance benefits

Iñigo San Millán says there’s no science behind the claims

Tadej Pogačar’s coach, Iñigo San Millán has debunked bicarbonate’s performance benefits, saying that the science simply doesn’t add up.

Team Jumbo-Visma has been having a good spring, and many of their rides claim that part of the reason is bicarbonate, essentially baking soda.

“It’s a big step. We’ve taken something that people have struggled to consume for decades and removed all the possible negatives from it,” Joshua Rowe, who is a scientist for Maurten, a sports nutrition company said to VeloNews. “I think that’s a game changer, and it looks like athletes do too.”

The claims about bicarbonate

Jumbo-Visma coach Mathieu Heijboer said that using the product has helped many of the riders on the team.

“This system is opening a new world for some of our riders who weren’t able to use bicarb before. I think it’s really a big change and a big advantage for riders who weren’t able to use it before,” Jumbo-Visma coach Mathieu Heijboer said. “We’ve seen the power outputs for 20 or 30-second sprints is higher with bicarb. The riders cope better with the lactic acid which is produced in those hard efforts.”

The claims don’t make sense to San Millán

However, Tadej Pogačar’s coach doesn’t believe there is any basis to believe this.He tweeted about the bicarbonate claims.

“A thread on how IMHO bicarbonate doesn’t work to “decrease” lactate from muscles. First of all, bicarbonate is one of the oldest supplements out there. It has been used for decades for this purpose. Like many supplements that don’t work, they tend to resurface 20-30 years later,” San Millán began. “Blood pH is 7.35-7.45 and one of the most sacred homeostatic states for human body. Three main elements ‘threaten’ blood pH: CO2, electrolyte concentrations and weak acid concentrations. During high intensity exercise and pathological stress, these elements are threats to blood pH.”

He continues to break down the concept, saying that “our body possess a large pool of bicarb to constantly defend the physiological and sacred pH of 7.35-7.45. This is key as if your blood pH or over those ranges you could simply die. Hence, exogenous bicarb will normally be neutralized as blood pH cannot homeostatic levels.

Bicarb can’t reach skeletal muscle

San Millán goes on to say that the reason that is doesn’t check out is that it’s not plausible the product could even reach skeletal muscles.

“The pH in skeletal muscle during high intensity exercise can be ~6.4-6.8 mainly from hydrogen ions (H+) associated to lactate and ATP hydrolysis. However, the chances of bicarb to get to skeletal muscle are extremely small to efficiently neutralize muscle acidosis.”

Pog’s coach then cites cancer cells as an example. They can have a pH ~6-7 (similar to exercising muscles). Therefore, the more aggressive the cancer is, the lower the ph, he says. This,he says is mainly caused by lactate which is key to the very famous nowadays ‘tumor microenvironment’ which is key to carcinogenesis and metastasis.

“If bicarb could get that easily to muscles, it would also get to cancer cells to neutralize the acidosis of the tumor microenvironment and probably be the most effective treatment for cancer ever. Obviously, bicarb supplementation doesn’t get to cancer cells and doesn’t cure cancer,” he concludes.