Today, we examine a supplement that not many of you would have come across…

Sodium Citrate.

Long story short, it’s very similar to Sodium Bicarbonate (SB) but without the nasty gastrointestinal issues (kinda).

SB is an extracellular buffer (outside of the muscle) that serves as an ‘alkalizing agent’ to improve performance during intermittent type exercise (team sports, martial arts, racket sports etc) that lasts between 1-7 minutes.

Similar to SB, sodium citrate indirectly lowers the acidity (pH levels) within the muscle to produce a more favourable environment for the muscle to contract and produce force.
Sodium citrate essentially lowers the acidity (hydrogen ions) levels of the blood, causing a shift of hydrogen ions from the muscle to blood to create equilibrium (via a concentration gradient). In addition to this, it increases blood bicarbonate levels to have further buffering capacities.

In essence, the idea is to supplement with extracellular buffers to delay fatigue by maintaining neuromuscular capabilities. Superb!

Unlike SB, sodium citrate isn’t very well studied. Some research shows that it’s beneficial in 200m swim performances, anaerobic cycling power, but not so great in 5,000m treadmill running or 60s sprints.

But what about sports that require you to be both physically and technically sharp?

Cunha et al (2019) investigated the impact of sodium citrate on tennis performances. Of which, nationally ranked tennis players consumed either a placebo or 0.5g/kg of sodium bicarbonate 2 hours before a tennis specific skill test, a repeated-sprint test, a 1 hour simulated match, which was then followed by the same skill and running tests.

During these tests, the players supplementing with sodium citrate won more of their simulated matches which were positively correlated with percentage shot consistency. Even better, during the 10 sprints performed, the placebo group saw a 4.76% drop in performance, where the sodium citrate group only saw a 0.1% drop. i.e. they were able to maintain performance when fatigue would have otherwise kicked in.

On top of this, only 3 of the 10 players noticed gut issues, which were described as mild.

Overall, this would be a pretty good supplement for those who partake in sports consisting of high intensity efforts combined with the reliance on a high level of skill and accuracy.

By all means, this in isolation won’t win you matches, but it may give you the edge when appropriate fuelling and hydration strategies are implemented.

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