To test the hypothesis that sodium citrate administered two hours before exercise improves performance in a 5 km running time trial. A total of 17 male well trained college runners (mean (SD) O(2)MAX 61.3 (4.9) ml/kg/min) performed a 5 km treadmill run with and without sodium citrate ingestion in a random, double blind, crossover design. In the citrate trial, subjects consumed 1 litre of solution containing 0.5 g of sodium citrate/kg body mass two hours before the run. In the placebo trial, the same amount of flavoured mineral water was consumed. The time required to complete the run was faster in the citrate trial than the placebo trial (1153.2 (74.1) and 1183.8 (91.4) seconds respectively; p = 0.01). Lower packed cell volume and haemoglobin levels were found in venous blood samples taken before and after the run in the citrate compared with the placebo trial. Lactate concentration in the blood sample taken after the run was higher in the citrate than the placebo trial (11.9 (3.0) v 9.8 (2.8) mmol/l; p<0.001), and glucose concentration was lower (8.3 (1.9) v 8.8 (1.7) mmol/l; p = 0.02). The ingestion of 0.5 g of sodium citrate/kg body mass shortly before a 5 km running time trial improves performance in well trained college runners.