Depending on the fitness, health, and nutrition circles you run in, you might have heard the term “alkalinity”. Most have a surface knowledge of what it is but have no clue as to why it matters to bodybuilders. Like some of the other articles, we’re going to get a little nerdy here, but by the end, you will be “edumacated” on what it is and why it matters to us, gym rats. So put on your thinking caps and get ready to dive into it.
What is Alkalinity?
pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity. A substance with a pH measurement of less than 7 is defined as being acidic whereas a substance with a pH measurement of greater than 7 is defined as being alkaline.
Why is it so important?
The human body typically maintains a pH level around 7.35-7.45. If the body’s pH level drops below 7.35, this is a condition that is referred to as Acidosis. Acidosis can lead to osteoporosis, body fat gain, and many other issues resulting from a compromised immune system. On the flip side, it is believed that increasing the body’s pH level to around 7.45 can dramatically improve health and wellbeing.
Acidity and Anabolism
Exercise causes the muscles to generate acids: think of “the burn” you feel as lactic acid begins to accumulate. During hard training sessions, many of these acids will be metabolized by the body; however, as the concentration increases in a localized area, the pH level will drop, leading to what is known as “exercise acidosis.”
To maintain a safe pH level, the body may have to extract calcium from bones or begin catabolizing ammonia from the muscles’ amino acids. This process results in diminished muscle glycogen supply. This is a rather extreme example that occurs during intense exercise, but it is quite clear that acidosis is hardly conducive to maintaining an anabolic environment in the body.
Alkalinizing the body can improve recovery times as well as strength and energy levels, so any serious athlete, whether a basketball player or a bodybuilder, should be mindful of his or her body’s pH level.
There are many alkaline foods that are probably a part of your diet already. You can increase the quantity and variety of alkaline foods by adding some of the following to your diet:
- Leafy greens such as chard, kale, lettuce, and spinach
- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage
- Other alkalinizing foods include alfalfa, avocado, carrot, cucumber, garlic, radish, wheat grass, rutabaga, and turnip
Here‘s that same idea on the pH scale… Another incredibly powerful addition to your alkaline arsenal is the humble lemon. As well as being one of the most alkalinizing foods available, lemon juice contains the phytochemical d-limonene which is a liver tonic and digestive detoxifier. D-limonene is also known to neutralize carcinogens.
Remember, by cleansing the liver of toxins and lowering acidity, we are aiding the body in creating a more anabolic, fat-burning environment in the body. The juice of a freshly-squeezed lemon upon waking in the morning will have the greatest effect. Simply cut a whole lemon in half and then squeeze it into an 8-10oz glass of water and drink it up!
There are various other methods of increasing alkalinity in the body. Taking ½ tsp of baking soda in 8oz of water is a simple trick; however, baking soda can increase blood pressure so those with hypertension should consult a physician before trying this. ½ tsp of cream from tartar will also have a similar effect and can work almost instantly to reduce symptoms such as headache and nausea.
Try adding small amounts of apple cider vinegar to your water to sip on between meals. Not only does apple cider vinegar alkalinize and cleanse the body of toxins, but it is also a great digestive aid. These are a couple of easy ways to improve your body’s alkalinity on the cheap.
There are also alkalinizing supplements that can be added to water. In particular, my personal favorite, and the one I take every day, is Athletic Greens. From a sourcing perspective, it doesn’t have any GMO’s, herbicides, pesticides, synthetic chemicals, artificial colors or flavors, preservatives, or sweeteners. It’s also free of allergens: gluten, dairy, corn, lactose, sucrose, dextrose, egg, peanuts, and animal by-products.
This is a fantastic supplement to use when you are cutting and when you are packing on a few pounds of muscle. I can also attest that while many around me picked up the flu this season, I haven’t had so much as a sniffle. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
The modern Western diet consists largely of acid-forming foods such as refined sugars and grains, all washed down with sodas and coffee. As you know, it is important to be mindful of the foods you are putting into your body so here are some acidic foods to watch out for: meat and dairy products, wheat, nuts, corn oil, hydrogenated fats and oils, artificial sweeteners, barley, and chocolate.
Eliminating these foods altogether isn’t realistic for most people, but you can help your system by combining something like beef with an alkaline vegetable such as broccoli, or perhaps a leafy salad. This way, you are getting the best of both worlds by benefiting from the nutrients of both foods while maintaining a healthy overall pH level.
Stress is also a major contributor to acidosis. You may notice that by applying some of the methods we have explored, a more alkaline environment in your body will lend itself to decreased stress levels. We can, however, take things even further by considering other factors:
- Breathe. Take time to get plenty of fresh air. Breathe deep and consider taking some time to pray, meditate and intentionally relax.
- This should go without saying, but drink more water! Are you sitting with some water within arm’s reach? You should be! Practically every process in the body requires water so that should be enough to convince you to drink more.
A healthy ratio to maintain is 70% alkaline foods to 30% acidic foods. This may not be perfect for everyone; however, this is certainly as good a starting point as any. Alkalinizing the body will result in greater performance in and out of the gym and will lead to a longer, healthier life. By applying even a few of the points above, you should begin to see and feel the improvements in no time at all.
Hit me up with questions and comments below…