Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Influence of sodium bicarbonate ingestion on plasma ammonia accumulation during incremental exercise in man


This investigation evaluated the influence of metabolic alkalosis on plasma ammonia (NH3) accumulation during incremental exercise. On two occasions separated by at least 6 days, six healthy men cycled at 70, 80, and 90%g of maximum oxygen consumption (\(\dot VO_{2\max } \)) for 5 min; each exercise period was followed by 5 min of seated recovery. Exercise was then performed at 100%\(\dot VO_{2\max } \) until exhaustion. Beginning 3 h prior to exercise, subjects ingested 3.6 mmol · kg body mass NaHCO3 (test, T) or 3.0 mmol · kg body mass−1 CaCO3 (placebo, P) (both equivalent to 0.3 g · kg−1) over a 2-h period. Trials were performed after an overnight fast and the order of treatments was randomized. Arterialized venous blood samples for the determination of acid-base status, blood lactate and plasma NH3 concentrations were obtained at rest before treatment, 15 s prior to each exercise bout (Pre 70%, Pre 80%, Pre 90%, and Pre 100%), and at 0, 5 (5′Post), and 10 (10'Post) min after exhaustion. Additional samples for blood lactate and plasma NH3 determination were obtained immediately after each exercise bout (Post 70%, Post 80%, Post 90%) and at 15 min after exercise (15′Post). Time to exhaustion at 100% of\(\dot VO_{2\max } \) was not significantly different between treatments [mean (SE): 173 (42) s and 184 (44) s for T and P respectively]. A significant treatment effect was observed for plasma pH with values being significantly higher on T than on P Pre 70% [7.461 (0.007) vs 7.398 (0.008)], Pre 90% [7.410 (0.010) vs 7.340 (0.016)], and 10'Post [7.317 (0.032) vs 7.242 (0.036)]. The change in plasma pH was significantly greater following the 90%g bout (Pre 100% Pre 90%) for T [−0.09 (0.02)] than for P [−0.06 (0.01)]. Blood base excess and plasma bicarbonate concentrations were significantly higher for T than P before each exercise bout but not at the point of exhaustion. During recovery, base excess was higher for T than P at 5′Post and 10′Post while the bicarbonate concentration was higher for T than P at 10′Post. A significant treatment effect was observed for the blood lactate concentration with T on the average being higher than P [7.0 (1.0) and 6.3 (1.1) mmol · l−1 for T and P averaged across the 12 sampling times]. Plasma NH3 accumulation was not different between treatments at any point in time. In addition, no differences were observed between treatments in blood alanine accumulation. The results suggest that under the conditions of the present investigation metabolic alkalosis does not influence plasma NH3 accumulation or endurance capacity during intense incremental exercise.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Babij P, Matthews SM, Rennie MJ (1983) Changes in blood ammonia, lactate and amino acids in relation to workload during bicycle ergometer exercise in man. Eur J Appl Physiol 50:405–411

  2. Bockman E, McKenzie J (1983) Tissue adenosine content in active soleus and gracilis muscles of cats. Am J Physiol 244:H522-H599

  3. Boobis LH, Williams C, Wootton SA (1983) Influence of sprint training on muscle metabolism during brief maximal exercise in man. J Physiol (Lond) 342:36P-37P

  4. Costill DL, Verstappen F, Kuipers H, Janssen E, Fink W (1984) Acid-base balance during repeated bouts of exercise: influence of HCO3. Int J Sports Med 5:228–231

  5. Dill DB, Costill DL (1974) Calculation of percentage changes in volumes of blood, plasma, and red cells in dehydration. J Appl Physiol 37:247–248

  6. Dudley GA, Staron RS, Murray TF, Hagerman RC, Luginbuhl A (1983) Muscle fiber composition and blood ammonia levels after intense exercise in humans. J Appl Physiol 54:582–586

  7. Essen B, Jansson E, Henriksson J, Taylor AW, Saltin B (1975) Metabolic characteristics of fibre types in human skeletal muscle. Acta Physiol Scand 95:153–165

  8. Forster HV, Dempsey JA, Thomson J, Vidruk E, DoPico GA (1972) Estimation of arterial PO2, PCO2, pH, and lactate from arterialised venous blood. J Appl Physiol 32:134–137

  9. Goldfinch J, McNaughton L, Davies P (1988) Induced metabolic alkalosis and its effects on 400-m racing time. Eur J Appl Physiol 57:45–48

  10. Gollnick PD, Armstrong RB, Saubert CW, Piehl K, Saltin B (1972) Enzyme activity and fiber composition in skeletal muscle of untrained and trained men. J Appl Physiol 33:312–319

  11. Greenhaff PL, Gleeson M, Maughan RJ (1988) The effects of diet on muscle pH and metabolism during high intensity exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol 57:531–539

  12. Greenhaff PL, Harris RC, Snow DH, Sewell DA, Dunnett M (1991) The influence of metabolic alkalosis upon exercise metabolism in the thoroughbred horse. Eur J Appl Physiol 63:129–134

  13. Harris RC, Essen B, Hultman E (1976) Glycogen phosphorylase activity in biopsy samples and single muscle fibres of musculus quadriceps femoris of man at rest. Scand J Clin Lab Invest 36:521–526

  14. Harris RC, Sahlin K, Hultman E (1977) Phosphagen and lactate contents of m. quadriceps femoris of man after exercise. J Appl Physiol 43:852–857

  15. Hirche HJ, Hombach V, Langohr HD, Wacker U, Busse J (1975) Lactic acid permeation rate in working gastrocnemii of dogs during metabolic alkalosis and acidosis. Pflügers Arch 356:209–222

  16. Hultman E, Sahlin K (1980) Acid-base balance during exercise. In: Hutton RS, Miller D (eds) Exercise and sports science reviews, vol 8. Franklin Institute Press, Philadelphia, pp 41–128

  17. Katz A, Sahlin K, Henriksson J (1986) Muscle ammonia metabolism during isometric contraction in humans. Am J Physiol 250:C834-C840

  18. Kindermann W, Keul J, Huber G (1977) Physical exercise after induced alkalosis (bicarbonate or tris-buffer). Eur J Appl Physiol 37:197–204

  19. Mainwood GW, Worsley-Brown P (1975) The effects of extracellular pH and buffer concentration on the efflux of lactate from frog sartorius muscle. J Physiol (Lond) 250:1–22

  20. Maughan RJ (1982) A simple rapid method for the determination of glucose, lactate, pyruvate, alanine, 3-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate on a single 20-μl blood sample. Clin Chim Acta 122:231–240

  21. McCartney N, Spriet LL, Heigenhauser GJF, Kowalchuk JM, Sutton JR, Jones NL (1986) Muscle power and metabolism in maximal intermittent exercise. J Appl Physiol 60:1164–1169

  22. Sahlin K (1978) Intracellular pH and energy metabolism in skeletal muscle of man. With special reference to exercise. Acta Physiol Scand [Suppl] 455:1–56

  23. Sahlin K, Broberg S, Ren JM (1989) Formation of inosine monophosphate (IMP) in human skeletal muscle during incremental dynamic exercise. Acta Physiol Scand 136:193–198

  24. Schultz V, Lowenstein JM (1976) Purine nucleotide cycle. Evidence for occurrence of the cycle in the brain. J Biol Chem 251:485–492

  25. Setlow B, Lowenstein JM (1967) Adenylate deaminase. Purification and some regulatory properties of the enzyme in calf brain. J Biol Chem 242:607–615

  26. Siggaard-Andersen O (1963) Blood acid-base alignment nomogram. Scand J Clin Lab Invest 15:211–217

  27. Snow DH (1983) Skeletal muscle adaptations: a review. In: Snow DH, Persson SGB, Rose RJ (eds) Equine exercise physiology. Grarita Editions Cambridge, UK, pp 160–183

  28. Spriet LL, Lindinger MI, McKelvie RS, Heigenhauser GFJ, Jones NL (1989) Muscle glycogenolysis and H+ concentration during maximal intermittent cycling. J Appl Physiol 66:8–13

  29. Sutton JR, Jones NL, Toews CJ (1981) Effect of pH on muscle glycolysis during exercise. Clin Sci 61:331–338

  30. Winder WW, Terjung RL, Baldwin KM, Holloszy JO (1974) Effect of exercise on AMP deaminase and adenylosuccinate in rat skeletal muscle. Am J Physiol 227:1411–1414

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to R. J. Maughan.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Lambert, C.P., Greenhaff, P.L., Ball, D. et al. Influence of sodium bicarbonate ingestion on plasma ammonia accumulation during incremental exercise in man. Europ. J. Appl. Physiol. 66, 49–54 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00863399

Download citation

Key words

  • High-intensity exercise
  • Metabolic alkalosis
  • Ammonia
  • Adenine nucleotide metabolism