The “milkshake” has enjoyed some popularity as a performance-enhancer for racehorses, although it is banned in all racing jurisdictions. This “milkshake” doesn’t involve milk and syrup; the primary ingredient is sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda.


This metabolic milkshake is proposed to work on high school chemistry principles of acid/base neutralization. With high-intensity exercise, there is a build-up of lactic acid in muscles, leading to fatigue. The theory is that high doses of bicarbonate make blood and muscle tissue less acidic, providing buffering capacity to offset the build-up of lactic acid, enabling the horse to go farther, faster, with less fatigue. It is given via a nasogastric tube.


The practice of milkshaking is believed to have originated in Australia in Standardbreds. In the United States, it is also more commonly employed in Standardbreds, but has been tried in Thoroughbreds. One racetrack practitioner says there was a time prior to milkshakes being illegal when veterinarians would give electrolytes with or without bicarbonate to racehorses prior to a race, especially during hot, humid summers. But they abandoned the practice even before it was banned because of the appearance of tubing a horse on race day and the perception that the concoction was performance-enhancing.


A milkshake consists of several ounces of sodium bicarbonate dissolved in a gallon of water. Other ingredients might include confectionery sugar, electrolytes, or nutritional substances such as creatine (thought to increase endurance). The theory is that milkshakes must be given four to eight hours prior to a race to have the desired effect at post time.


A racetrack practitioner says the contents of the milkshake are not harmful, but an occasional horse might have diarrhea as a side effect. One beneficial effect noticed by trainers was that their horses seemed to recover from the